RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Alister McQueen set a Canadian record with his second javelin throw of the night, but was still a long way from the podium.
He then stepped up to the throwing area, the crowd waiting to see what the Canuck could do, and McQueen delivered on the biggest stage of his life in a way he had never done before.
As that record-setting javelin was launched towards what turned out to be a silver medal, McQueen was actually unaware of just how far the throw actually was, he said, despite the appreciation of the crowd.
“Honestly, I knew it was a good throw,” said McQueen, bearing a huge grin. “I had no idea how far I’d thrown it, and [my coach] had missed it too, so none of us really knew what was going on until about 30 seconds later.
“They announced the distance over the speakers. I didn’t even hear the centimetres, but second place, wow. Just awesome.”
After recording a distance of 53.86m with the first throw, the Calgary, AB native dialed it up and improved to 55.56m on his second-last attempt, almost a full two metres farther than he had ever thrown before.
The 25-year old credits his coach for his development over the last few years – after his seventh place finish at the London Games in 2012, he worked to revamp his throwing style.
“The help of my coach, Kim Cousins, has made me a complete javelin thrower,” McQueen said. “Before this, I’d try and muscle everything out there, and she’s changed that. Without her, there’s no way that this would be possible.”
With previous results in the back of his mind, McQueen knows the margin between first and last is small when the world’s best athletes are in the field.
“It’s such a bigger stage, the competition is so close,” said the javelin thrower. “From eighth to second, you’re looking at two to three metres difference. I threw for 49m [in London], and that wouldn’t have even gotten me in the top eight this year.”
With silver secured, McQueen took a moment to reflect on his journey back to the Paralympics.
“I couldn’t be happier, or more thankful,” said McQueen, the Canadian flag draped over his shoulders. “It’s just amazing, with everyone I have around me.
“It feels unbelievable.”