Double reigning world javelin champion aiming for three titles in a row in Budapest
Kelsey-Lee Barber wants to make history at the World Championships.
The 31-year-old Australian goes into Budapest as the reigning double world javelin champion.
She also claimed the Commonwealth title in Birmingham last summer and has an Olympic bronze medal from Tokyo to her name as well.
Before the World Championships, AW caught up with the ASICS athlete on all things medals and motivation.
It's the smallest of q's, but it matters not now 🚀
Back-to-back world champion Kelsey-Lee Barber is through to the Women's Javelin Final as the last qualifier in the field of 12, throwing 59.66m.
— Athletics Australia (@AthsAust) August 23, 2023
How are you feeling ahead of Budapest, being a double reigning world javelin champion?
It’s been a known factor since I won in Eugene last year that I was in a really unique position coming into the World Championships in Budapest. I’ve really tried to take ownership of that, embrace it and realise the position that I’m in is a real privilege. There is pressure and it’s very unique, it doesn’t feel unfamiliar in a lot of ways.
The last few years has prepared me quite well for that top tier repeat success. No one else has been in this position in the women’s javelin coming into the Worlds before so I want to grab the bull with the horns and fighting for that third world title.
You are a championship performer and thrive for the occasion. How do you get into that state of mind?
I think each year, coming into a major, has had a unique story. This year has been no different. I’ve had a few hiccups along the way which has meant I haven’t put my best distance on the board but I always find the final preparation ahead of a major championships, settling into that process, great. I love the pressure and live for those moments.
There is a sense of professionalism at those championships for the athletes that are striving to be the best in the world. I guess I thrive in that environment. I always ask the best of myself but in that space I can express what that looks and feels like. I can genuinely tap into this energy that wants me to shine to the world.
When you are lining up for the javelin, is there anything that goes through your head specifically?
At this point I’m really trying to make sure I’m going to be the athlete that I know I can be. I’ve got to work heard to almost let go of the control elements. There is a lot of technical work and pieces that come together but by that point I need to accept where I am and allow that to come through in my throw. They are skills I’ve tried to work on in the past few years and it’s shown.
You’ve got a love for cooking and reading which can be quite therapeutic away from the competition. How does that help?
Definitely. It’s about balancing that time on and off the field. You burn yourself out if you spend those hours outside of training thinking about it so I guess for me reading and cooking is a real step back and an escape from that environment. It’s a mental and emotional refresh and I can then be focused in training. It’s about where I channel my energy.
What do you make of women’s javelin this season? How do you view the scene?
It’s been an interesting year for javelin this season. Hands down to Haruka [Kitaguchi] because she’s been so consistent and quite honestly her personal best [67.04m] was coming. She’s certainly put herself out there for sure and the one to beat this year.
In terms of our Aussie cohort going in, we’ve always been very strong in this event and it’s absolutely coming to the fore again this year. It shows how much javelin means in Australia. The championships environment is very different and you can’t predict the medals which is the beauty of it.
I love there’s the element that someone can just come out and do something really special with the javelin. That final is going to be full of possibilities you can’t predict and I love that. You can’t rule out anyone in the top 12.
What about the men’s javelin and the impact that someone like Neeraj Chopra has had for the sport?
I think what is really wonderful is that I think javelin has shifted away from being a European dominated sport. It is worldwide. I know Anderson Peters who is from Grenada and then you’ve got Chopra.
I mean, who, what, where?! This is phenomenal for our sport and it’s really wonderful to see. It means that coming into these championships there might be one or two countries on the start list that haven’t been there before.
What inspired you to get into the sport?
I think Sydney 2000 was that moment of realisation but it wasn’t until Beijing 2008 that I probably started to pay more attention to the events and realised which ones I was more drawn to. During that period we had the period of some of the all-time great javelin throwers and it was European dominated.
I think a little bit later I saw Kim [Mickle] come through. She was one of those ones who had success and was competitive away from the European women. That was really relatable and inspiring. She paved the way.
So why the javelin?
Javelin for me was this combination of speed and power. There was also an element of finesse that I fell in love with. I loved that you had to run, jump and throw. From a physical point of view I fitted the javelin better than the discus, which I did growing up.
I always felt watching the javelin there was something beautiful about the event. I loved the technical side as well. It fitted so many things I loved about being an athlete and then the event itself.
What did an Olympic bronze medal in Tokyo do for you?
That Olympic medal, now having been a few years since that, I really treasure that moment and memory. I had some really challenging times coming into that Olympics and it was a wonderful moment of self-belief that came to fruition that year.
I made a promise to a younger version of myself back to Rio 2016 that I was going to be in the mix for the medals when it came to Tokyo. I held onto that quite tightly and that was an element of relief. In reflection, it was a huge thing and I was proud of that.
Can you believe what you’ve done in the sport so far?
You sit and write down your dreams in the sport. I labelled those as Olympic, Commonwealth and world gold medals. Then as I progressed through the sport some of those dreams became solid golds for me.
I’ve found myself in a position that my goals now are genuine ones that I’m striving for and I can’t imagine there are too many people who have ticked off those little girl dreams.
How important have ASICS been to you?
I’ve always felt such a connection to ASICS and that mantra “A sound body in a sound mind” in particular. I want to encourage people to lead active lifestyles but also realise the impact that the mental side can play as well as the physical side. Look at your own reflection and it plays into my stories year on year where the mental side is huge ahead of championships.