While most people in Oregon were still asleep, Rachel Yurkovich made a bit
of history in Berlin, Germany.
Only once in the 26-year history of the World Championships has an
American woman made the finals of the javelin throw - Karin Smith did it
in the inaugural Championships in 1983 in Helsinki. In the preliminary
qualifying on Sunday morning at Olympic Stadium in Berlin, Newberg High
School and UO grad Rachel Yurkovich became the second one to make finals
with a throw of 59.57 meters (195 feet, 5 inches).
Yurkovich had to overcome some long odds to achieve her goal of making
Her youth and her lack of international experience were working against
her. Her very long competitive season, which started in March, didn't help
either. Nor did knowing the history of Americans failing to make the
But, when the competition started at 12:15 pm local time, none of that
mattered. Yurkovich came out strong and composed, uncorking a near-PR on
her very first throw. After a sub-par second throw, she delivered another
good one on her third attempt - 59.55 - just two centimeters (one inch)
less than her first throw.
At that point in the competition she was in 11th place, with the top 12
making the finals. She had to sweat it out, as 10 more throwers in her
group tried to get a longer throw and move ahead of her. None did, and
afterwards, the normally low-key Yurkovich said she was "ecstatic" to make
"I feel so good," she said after getting the final results. "You know I
was looking it up to see how long it has been (since an American made the
finals) and I saw that, and that has been a goal of mine all year - well my
whole life obviously - but just seeing that and knowing it was possible .
. . I knew I had to make the final. It's just so cool. I am really
She managed to do it by just staying calm and relaxed in the
pressure-filled setting of a big meet on the world stage in a 70,000 seat
stadium far from home.
"I just focus on me," Yurkovich said. "I can't focus on the things around
me. I let that fuel me to some extent. I know how to keep myself calm and
collected and focus on the things I need to do. You know, I don't have a
lot of international experience but I've learned over the years how to
stay composed and keep my mind on the right track."
With the finals coming up at 7:30 pm on Tuesday night (10:30 am PDT),
likely in front of a packed house, Yurkovich still seemed calm, cool and
collected in talking about it.
"(I'll) rest tonight, work out a little bit tomorrow and get loose and come
in (Tuesday) and make top 8 (in finals)."
Medaling may not be a realistic prospect for her yet, but Yurkovich knows
that her consistency at throwing 195-196 feet all year may point to a much
bigger throw in the near future, one that would put her at the same level
as the best javelin throwers in the world. She believes it is just a
matter of time.
"I know that big throw is in there. It has to happen sometime so this is
the perfect time. Everybody says the same thing - you're gonna jump,
you're gonna jump. I know there is a huge throw in me and it may not come
this year, it may come the year after that but I know it's there and that
is enough motivation for me to keep throwing."
No matter how she does on Tuesday night, Yurkovich can be relaxed, knowing
that she has already accomplished one major goal. It doesn't hurt to know,
either, that delivering that "huge throw" is just a matter of time.
Stay tuned for more.