2018 Youth Olympics: Challenging Circumstances

by Jim Spier

Day 3 in Buenos Aires

Photos by Joy Kamani

No excuses, but... a different sort of event

I hate to sound like a chronic complainer, but certain things can be very annoying.

Today the U.S. had only one competitor, Skylar Ciccolini, a member of the NSAF’s Project Javelin Gold.  Skylar had a great junior year this past spring and summer, making the high school javelin top 10 all-time list with her throws, and she is now a senior at Mifflin County HS (Lewistown, PA).

Her competition was scheduled for 2:35pm.  Given the half hour bus ride, leaving the hotel by 12:45pm would guarantee that there would be plenty of time to watch Skylar perform.

We arrived at the bus stop at 1:05pm.  The bus schedule has the arrivals a half hour apart.  This one did not arrive until 1:45pm.  What normally is a half-hour trip turned into 40 minutes because of heavy traffic, and we arrived at 2:25pm.  We had 10 minutes to spare.  It is a half-mile walk from the entrance of the complex to the track, not to mention the time it takes to get through security.

We arrived exactly as the competition was beginning.  There were some big early throws with the 500-gram implement, with Elina Tzengko of Greece ultimately winning with a big 207-10 throw.

Skylar looked tense with her first throw, managing only 144-4.  On her second attempt, she relaxed more, throwing 163-8.  She fouled her final two throws, but the last one was well over 165 feet.  She finished 8th overall in a field of 15.  She will compete again on Tuesday.

Skylar was not especially happy with her performance, but we assured her that it was a very solid performance given it was her first appearance on the international stage.

We are not about to make excuses for someone with the talent of Skylar.  And we are certain she would not make excuses for herself, nor would she want us to.  But there are certain things to consider.

One would assume that throwing the 500-gram youth javelin vs. the 600-gram high school javelin that Skylar has thrown for the past 3 years would be easier, thus allowing longer throws.  That is not necessarily the case.  The lighter javelin requires a different technique and takes a while to get used to.  We supplied 500-gram javelins for Skylar to work with prior to this competition.  She probably had about a month to master its use.

During the competition there were dozens of coaches encouraging their athletes just behind the javelin runway.  We did not see the U.S. coach or any of the other six U.S. athletes anywhere nearby.  They may have been there, but we did not see nor hear them.  In essence she was totally alone. 

Finally, as with some of the other athletes, October is not the ideal time to compete given the fact that they all peaked in the summer.  So her performance, finishing almost in the top half of the competition given those circumstances, was certainly commendable.

As we understand it, there is one total staff member for the seven U.S. athletes here.  Just one.  Skylar’s mother and sister came to watch her and visited with her the day before the competition.  Apparently athletes can come and go as they please as long as they sign out of their dormitory.  We’re not sure that’s the greatest situation.

We are having ongoing issues with the treatment of the press here.  The only areas allowed for the press are the mixed zone (about a 5x10 feet box) and a section of the grandstands.  That area has no power or tables, just normal seats.  And the giant speakers are directly in front of that section, making verbal communication difficult.  At every other international meet I’ve been to, the press are allowed to wander throughout the stands so as to get closer to whatever field event they wish to observe.  Not here.  You have two choices: the mixed zone or the media grandstand sound chamber.


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