Olympics 1992 Saturday 8 August: Hi-tech: Steve Backley - Javelin: Final at 5.55pm

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The Independent Online
Javelins are changing more than the people who propel them. Throughout the past three seasons leading performers have changed positions through designs being disallowed and performances discounted. Olympic competitors will be obliged to use only the models validated to date.

That could be to Steve Backley's advantage. Two years ago he stuck doggedly to the legal models when rivals were getting ahead with a proscribed rough-tailed version. He finally took it up, quite casually in mid-competition, and made a point by throwing further than anyone.

The Czech whose mark he overtook, Jan Zelezny, recently repeated his feat of two years ago by beating Backley and setting new world figures. This javelin was legal, but it has not been approved for the Games.

In 1990 Backley came back to beat Zelezny at the European Championship, referring to his earlier defeat as 'a kick up the bum'. But history may not repeat itself so neatly in Barcelona, as traditional Finnish dominance was reasserted in last year's world championship.

Neither Backley nor Zelezny qualified for that final. 'Don't ask me why,' said a baffled Backley a few minutes afterwards. 'I was missing 10 metres.' Kimmo Kinunen went on to win from his compatriot Seppo Raty. The third Finn for Barcelona, Juha Laukkanen, beat both of them to win the Finnish trial and set a Finnish record.

It later transpired that Backley had been carrying an injury in Tokyo. 'It was far worse than he was prepared to admit,' says his coach, John Trower.

Backley started afresh this year with a world record in New Zealand. He looked ready to regain pole position for the Olympics when he threw an untroubled 88 metres at the British trial. 'I believe 90 metres will win the Games,' he says, 'and I am on course for that.'

'Steve is a very accomplished athlete,' Trower says. 'He needs special situations to get himself up to compete at his best.' His first Olympics should be special enough.

(Photograph omitted)