Mondo assistance puts Jena javelin throwers in a Festival mood

Thomas Rohler
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Thomas Rohler won Germany's second gold medal of the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships in the javelin

The JenJavelin Festival has quickly cemented its place on the international calendar since it was inaugurated in 2016 and the latest edition of the meeting – dedicated to just the specialist exponents of this discipline – takes place in the German city of Jena this coming Friday and Saturday (7-8).

This year’s Festival entry list again features the reigning Olympic and European champion Thomas Rohler, very much a local star and one of the driving forces behind the Festival – which has gained the nickname The Place Where Javelins Fly – ever since its inception in 2016.

“I was born and raised in the beautiful city of Jena, surrounded by the Kernberge Mountains; went to a local sports school and then to the University of Jena,” said Rohler explaining an affinity with his hometown.

Rohler regularly returns to his roots regardless of his extensive globetrotting which saw him compete in 17 meetings in eight different countries in 2018 as well as several warm-weather training camps overseas. He has also become the one of the organisers and public faces for the meeting, which takes place in the Jena Javelin Centre and which since 2018 has Mondotrack WS surfaces.

Rohler was instrumental in approaching Mondo for assistance after experiencing the surface at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and IAAF World Championships London 2017. Subsequently, the Italian company finalised the installation of two 100-metre strips in April last year.

The JenJavelin team worked together with Mondo taking note of the fact that Javelin throwers use longer spikes than runners and field event competitors and the surface of the track undergoes considerable stress around the area where the runners release.

In addition, the intense braking exerted by top class throwers places means that the track surface also need to provide considerable support for athletes.

After winning in 2016 and 2017, It wasn’t to be Rohler’s day 12 months ago as he had to concede victory to his friend and rival Andreas Hofmann, the latter producing a massive opening throw of 88.48m which was to prove untouchable, and Rohler finally had to settle for second with 85.17m

However, the prodigious distances produced by the two men and plenty of other excellent performances more-than-justified the wisdom in opting for a Mondo surface and Rohler got his revenge for being upstaged in front of his family and friends two months later at the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships.

This year there is no Hofmann to beat on Saturday but once again Czech Republic's 2013 world champion Vítězslav Veselý, will be in attendance and looking to improve on his third place last year and there will be another four other 80-metre plus throwers in the men’s field.

Germany’s Christin Hussong will return to Jena to defend the title she won last year, meaning that this year’s Festival can boast both reigning European champions. Also, in the field is Hussong’s continental predecessor, Belarus thrower Tatsiana Khaladovich.

The Mondo run-ups are flanked either side during the Festival by avid fans, from top coaches to casually interested members of the general public, as the city has several strong connections to the javelin that precede Rohler taking up the event: “Somewhere around my fifth grade in school although I had started athletics in the second grade,” he said.

The men’s world record of 98.48m by the Czech legend Jan Zelezny was achieved in 1996 in the nearby Ernst Abbe Stadium – which also had a Mondo surface – which is just a couple of good efforts by Rohler away from where the Festival which takes place in the Jenaer Oberaue.

Germany’s 1988 Olympic women’s champion and four-time world record breaker Petra Felke also hails from Jena and is now a very respected coach in the city. A number of Team Felke throwers will be in action across the two day of action and 11 competitions, which cover all age-groups, at the JenJavelin Festival.