Athletics: Backley aims at unique treble

European Athletics Championships: Britain's hope generously helped by World and Olympic champion

AS STEVE BACKLEY seeks to win a third successive European javelin title in Budapest this week, his mind may stray back to the circumstances of his last victory in this event, at Helsinki.

Defeating a field which contained every top thrower - including Jan Zelezny, the Olympic champion, and Finland's local hero Seppo Raty - prompted Backley to develop a spontaneous new technique.

It did not involve throwing, but celebrating. After Raty's last throw of the competition fell short of Backley's effort the Briton's first reaction was relatively sedate.

He smiled, blew out his cheeks and shook the hand of his training partner, Terry McHugh. But the manic appearance on the boundary wall of John Trower, the man who had coached, cajoled and occasionally conned Backley into a succession of champion performances suddenly seemed to define the moment for him.

Javelin throwers are not usually able or accustomed to doing laps of honour - too much else is usually occurring around them. But Backley, his enthusiasm overflowing, started to progress down the infield, side- stepping and waving in a movement that was half-way between jubilation and aerobics. It was ungainly. And glorious.

Perhaps Backley will devise a new victory salute in the Nep stadium on Sunday. Certainly his form this year makes it highly likely that he might need to.

Backley has already recorded 89.89 metres this summer, his best for six years and a distance which takes him to Friday's qualifying round as the European with the second furthest throw so far this season.

The only man who stands above him in the rankings is Aki Parviainen, a 23-year-old Finn who has thrown 90.88.

Backley, who will be 30 next February, could be forgiven a certain nervousness about this relatively newcomer given his experience at last year's world championships in Athens.

Approaching that event unencumbered by injury - a relatively rare state of affairs for him in the last six years - the Olympic and world silver medallist appeared to have within his reach the first global title he so desperately craved.

Then Marius Corbett, a 21-year-old South African, intervened with an unexpected African record of 88.40 which forced Backley to accept second place again.

Parviainen clearly has the potential to do the same this time, although his championship record at senior level has been as yet unremarkable.

Backley, however, will also be keeping a wary eye on Germany's Boris Henry, only half a metre behind him this year, and Konstantinos Gatsioudis, of Greece, whom the Briton identified as a potential danger before last year's championships in Athens. On that occasion, however, Backley backed the wrong dark horse.

But he has more reason to be confident this year given the consistency of his form. Part of the reason for his current buoyancy lies in the groundwork he has laid during the winter in tandem with the man who has been the event's predominant figure in recent years - Zelezny.

Earlier this year, the Czech athlete, now 32, injured his right shoulder so badly that fears were expressed over his career, and he was forced to rule himself out of competition for at least 12 months. However, the former army colonel and his coach, Jan Pospisil, have left open their invitation for Backley and Trower to visit their training group near Prague, an offer which has been readily taken up.

This week both men have been out to Prague again, accompanied by fellow countryman Mark Roberson and Mick Hill, as part of their final preparations.

This is just the latest manifestation of the approach Backley has been obliged to develop over the years as he has picked up the injuries which are the lot of every exponent in this wrenchingly demanding event, namely: adapt and survive.

Since 1992 he has had injuries to his shoulder, groin, elbow and feet. He has fought back with the help of a number of people, including the South African, Dr Ron Holder, who corrected a damaging imbalance in his posture by building up the insole of one of his shoes with minutely calculated layers of Yellow Pages. It sounded bizarre. It was bizzare. But it got Backley moving in the right direction again.

His ultimate defence, however, has been his own courage and mental toughness which he demonstrated to staggering effect when he won the Olympic silver medal two years ago just a month after he had been on crutches following an operation on a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Thus Backley goes into his third European Championships with the world and Olympic champion effectively in his corner. Success would set him up for a unique achievement, that of being both European and Commonwealth champion three times running.

Victory in Budapest this Sunday, and subsequent triumph in Kuala Lumpur next month - when Corbett is due to compete - would establish Backley's credentials as the world's leading thrower in the continued absence of Zelezny. It would be a highly acceptable way for him to move towards what he still regards as his ultimate goal - the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Nick Clegg on the campaign trail in Glasgow on Wednesday; he says education is his top priority
peopleNick Clegg remains optimistic despite dismal Lib Dem poll ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing boutique prac...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?