A look back at Julius Yego: The Kenyan gold medalist who self-taught javelin throwing using YouTube

By Mark Kawalya

Not many sports stories showcase the sheer determination exhibited by Julius Yego, a Kenyan athlete who competed in the javelin throw competition in the 2014 Commonwealth Games and took the gold medal home. While winning gold in sports events is a common occurrence, what was uncommon in Yego’s case is the fact that he self-taught himself the sport of throwing javelin solely using YouTube.

Kenya is famous for its hundreds of medals from the country’s long distance racing prowess in various global events. However, a host of other sports receive no support in the form of facilities and coaches that can nurture young talent. Sports like cycling, water polo, and gymnastics are almost unheard of, and this scenario is replicated in many African countries. This is why stories of people like Julius Yego, who choose to swim against the current and pursue their dreams at all costs, are a breath of fresh air.

Yego’s throw of 92.72 meters set an African record and easily overran that of Ihab Abedelrahman El Sayed of Egypt and Tero Pitkamaki of Finland.

“I do not have a coach; my motivation comes from within. Training without a coach is not an easy thing,” he told CNN shortly after finishing a surprising 12th at the 2012 London Olympics as the first Kenyan to reach an Olympic final in a field event. “I watched YouTube and it really paid off for me, to see the training techniques and skills they were using.” “My coach is me, and my YouTube videos,” he said.

Yego took an interest in Andreas Thorkildsen a Dutch javelin athlete that took part in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. He made it a point to binge watch videos of Andreas in action, studying his training methods and technique.

The former gold medalist’s star, however, seems to be fading as he failed to register a legal throw in his two attempts during the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo, consequently exhausting this third attempt that failed to meet the 83.50-meter mark after registering 77.34m.

“I’m happy I competed at all today because I have a biceps injury which has really been disturbing me and yesterday, I didn’t know I would compete at all,” said Yego, the 2015 world champion.

The athlete had a season marred by injuries and frustration that led him to resign as the Kenyan javelin team’s overall captain, a few weeks before the Tokyo games.

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