BERLIN - The IAAF World Track & Field Championships, held every other year, isn't
the Olympics. But it sure feels like the Olympics, with the television
cameras up close and personal, the medal ceremonies, the huge crowds, and
the intense pressure to perform.
Newberg High and University of Oregon grad Rachel Yurkovich got a taste of
all of that and more on Tuesday evening in Berlin, Germany, when she
competed in the finals of the women's javelin throw in the World
Unfortunately, Yurkovich, normally one of the most consistent and
unflappable performers around, experienced a rare off-night of throwing
and finished in 12th place with a best throw of 167 feet 9 inches. That
mark is nearly thirty feet less than her personal best throw of 195-07.
The gold medal was won by Germany's Steffi Nerius, who, at the age of 37,
recently announced her retirement after the championships. Throwing
immediately after Yurkovich in the first round, Nerius sailed the javelin
220 feet 9 inches, and that throw was good enough to hold up through all
the rest of the competition. The boisterous, mostly German crowd kept the
celebration going outside the stadium long after the meet ended.
An obviously upset Yurkovich tried afterwards to talk through what
happened to her. "I felt pretty good in warm-ups but a little tired," she said after
leaving the field. "Getting warmed up tonight I thought 'I feel good,' but
I don't know (what happened). I tried different mindsets throughout.
Everybody keeps telling me 'oh you have this big throw coming' so that
made it a little hard. There were a lot (of distractions). It's a little hard to get in the
groove, I guess, when you have to stop for ceremonies, races and stuff
like that. But it's no excuse."
The feeling had been much different on Sunday after the qualifying round,
when Yurkovich had thrown twice over 195 feet and qualified for the
finals. No American woman had been able to qualify for the javelin finals
in a world championship meet since the inaugural event in 1983 in
Helsinki. Her best mark on Sunday of 195 feet 7 inches placed her 11th out
of 31 competitors from 23 different countries.
Yurkovich not only distinguished herself by making the finals of the
event, but, at the youthful age of 22, she was also the third youngest
competitor in the field. Five of the top seven placers were in their late
20's or 30's. Obviously experience matters.
The bottom line for Yurkovich, though, is that she made history in her
event and got the opportunity to compete against the best in the world.
And that is what she will carry home with her when she leaves Berlin.
"I was just thrilled to have made it this far," she said. "I am happy to