Maharashtra javelin thrower Shivam Lokhare, 18, outwitted the more seasoned athletes at the senior State Meet on Thursday to bag a gold. His effort of 71.65m puts him in the 7th spot in the U-20 Asia season best list. The teenager’s gold-winning effort was more than five metres better than the silver medallist Akshay Ghong’e 66.76m.
This was the first senior-level meet for the teenager who has won several national-level titles at the junior level with a 700 gms spear. His 70-plus throw with the standard 800 gms javelin proved that Lokhare had made the transition successfully. The talented thrower was first spotted by seasoned army coach Kashnath Naik, who has worked with top throwers like Annu Rani and Neeraj Chopra, at a domestic meet just three months back.
“Back then he had a 62 plus throw with an 800m javelin. His distance was not that impressive but he had the qualities of a good thrower,” says coach Kashinath who also trains Manu DP of Karnataka, the India season leader behind Neeraj Chopra.
It was a tough time for Kashinath to convince his commandant and selection panel at the Army Sports Institute to enroll young Lokhare. “They were not impressed with a 62 m throw. I asked them to trust me and see the results three months later. Today, Lokhare’s performance has proved what I had said,” says Kashinath who won the javelin bronze at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
After taking in Manu, coach Kashinath was eagerly looking for another young talent to train. Despite Lokhare’s shortcoming in technique and power, Kashinath chose Lokhare because he ticked three main boxes: height, flexibility and explosiveness. “The rest you can add with training,” says Kashinath who has been coaching since 2013.
Kashinath insists Lokhare is still very raw and needs a lot of refinement to compete at the global level. When Kashinath first saw him throw he found Lokhare committing a common error that most junior athletes do. “He was bending his elbow too early. We call it throwing with the elbow and that puts a lot of stress on the joints. It reduces the range of the throw and can cause injuries too,” he explained.
“Ideally the throwing arm needs to remain extended and delayed as long as possible. But your arm can’t remain straight throughout the motion as bowlers do. It’s a mix in javelin throwing. The arm should bend only at the later stage of the throw,” he added.
It may be a little difficult for lay people to grasp the nuance of javelin throw but Lokhare was quick to grasp. He was just eight years old when he first picked up the spear. “I always wanted to be a javelin thrower. I learnt the basics from throwers who used to train at the college grounds of an Arts college in Pune,” he says.
Kashinath may have trained the best talents in the country but he finds guiding Lokhare the most difficult since he has not worked with a left-hander before. “It’s very difficult for me. I get confused all the time. I have actually told him that ‘whenever I say right, I mean left in your case.’ It took a while to adjust. I have to switch sides all the time during training. It’s like in cricket you have to constantly switch sides if you are facing a left-right combination,” he jokes.