MEDAL hopeful and captain of Ghana’s Olympic team, John Ampomah, will go into action today in the preliminary rounds of the men’s javelin throw competition at the Olympic stadium, here in Rio.
The US-based athlete is expected to throw the 2.6-metre-long metal-tipped implement around 8.30pm local time (11.30pm GMT) with the finale taking place on Saturday at 8.55pm local time.
As skipper of Ghana’s team, there must be an appreciable level of pressure on him to lead by example. That means, putting up a remarkable performance, good enough for a medal.
The Olympic record holder in the event has an incredible 90.57 metre throw to his name – a record he set at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. He is Norway’s Andreas Thorkildsen, who became the first male javelin thrower in history to become European, World and Olympic champion.
But the Norwegian legend was toppled by a Trinidadian javelin thrower Keshorn “Keshie” Walcott, in the 2012 Olympic Games in London with a throw of 84.58m. He is the first black male athlete to win the gold medal in a throwing event in the history of the Olympics.
Some of the accomplished names that Ampomah will be facing are Kenya’s javelin prodigy Julius Yego (gold medalist, 2015 world championship), Keshorn Walcott (London 2012 Olympics) and Finland’s 2014 European champion Antti Ruuskanen, among many others.
Of course, Ampomah is aware he does not match the clout and quality of these athletes and would only be driven by sheer determination, valour and a doughty character to spring a surprise. The young energetic Ghanaian acknowledges this challenge, but hopes to put his best foot forward.
“It’s going to be as exciting as interesting. A lot is going to be expected of me. I’m going to try and do the best I can and leave it at that because it is nationals. This is it. I like this kind of pressure,” he asserted.
A hugely consistent performer, doubtless, Ampomah set a new national javelin record after throwing 76.50m to comfortably win his third outdoor competition in Auburn-Alabama, USA.
That throw replaced the previous record of 75.99m, which he set at the CAA African Championships in August, 2015 where he placed 5th overall. It was very remarkable that all of Ampomah’s six throws on the day would have won the competition.
The 2012 African Championship silver medalist opened with 67.18m, before improving to 73.15m, 74.28m and 74.89m on his second, third and fourth attempts. The Konongo-born athlete dug deep into his reserves to fling off a 76.50m throw with his 15th attempt before closing with 73.58m.
Ampomah broke onto the scene in 2012, wiping out the 19-year old national record with a throw of 69.00m in March 2012 in Tamale, before improving the record two more times at the African Championship, where he won silver, and at the 2012 rlg Grand Prix where he threw 73.69m.
The big-hearted Ghanaian, currently ranked 29th by the IAAF, set a new national javelin record after throwing 74.42m on his way to winning the javelin championship at the 2014 US NAIA National Championships.
Ampomah smashed the previous mark of 74.35m which he set in his first competition at the Jim Mize Invitational in March, 2014.
Back from a frustrating campaign at the 2016 CAA African Championships in Durban, South Africa, where he had gone in search of Olympics qualification, Ampomah set yet another new national record with a stunning throw of 83.09m at the Soga-Nana Memorial meet at the Cape Coast Sports Stadium early last month.
Perhaps, in view of his increasingly expanding form, the 2015 All Africa Games silver medalist can only be given the benefit of the doubt. After all, javelin has thrown up some big upsets in the Olympics.