Kathryn Mitchell was emotional as she paid tribute to the impact of her coach Uwe Hohn. (AAP: Dan Peled)
Kathryn Mitchell did not expect to have tears in her eyes when releasing her last throw in the women’s Commonwealth Games javelin final.
Having made the event her personal playground on her opening throw of 68.92m — which broke her own national record on the first attempt like it was no big deal — Mitchell was enjoying a romp through the final en route to gold.
But the emotions took hold on the last attempt as the scale of her achievement — only six female athletes have thrown further in history — began to set in.
“[The tears] were unplanned and obviously as the competition drew to a close and I realised [what I’d done], the reality started to set in, the emotion came out and I just let it come out. That was a special moment,” Mitchell said.
Compatriot and competitor Kelsey Lee-Roberts, who clinched silver alongside Mitchell with her very last throw of the night, said one could not help but be emotional, witnessing Mitchell’s incredible distances.
“That is definitely the most emotional I’ve been after a throw, after a comp, seeing Kathryn throw as well,” Lee-Roberts said.
“We all know how hard we have to work to get to that level. That is an incredible distance for her to throw in the stadium at a major championship.
“I think the whole stadium was in it with her, and being a fellow competitor beside her and see her do that, you can’t help and be emotional. It’s just the culmination of such excellent work.”
Kathryn Mitchell made the sixth best throw in history to win gold at Carrara. (AAP: Dean Lewins)
Mitchell owes late career resurgence to her coach
The 35-year-old has enjoyed an Indian summer in her thirties, having steadily progressed from sixth at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games, to fifth in Delhi 2010, fourth in Glasgow 2014, and now a big shiny gold medal at the Gold Coast.
But it could all have been over for Mitchell by the London Olympics if it had not been for her coach and partner, Uwe Hohn.
Former East German thrower Hohn, the holder of the sport’s eternal record of 104.8m prior to javelin’s re-design, took Mitchell under his wing in 2010 and sparked a career renaissance for the Australian.
“At that time I had had a real plateau and hadn’t really improved in the event for a number of years, and when I met him in 2010 I gave myself until London Olympics to get qualified and step up,” Mitchell said.
“If I didn’t do that, that would have been the end, 2012 ended up being my breakthrough year and came just in time, I made the Olympic final and improved from then on.
“I suppose meeting him has really turned my career upside down, in a great way. I’ve just continued from there.
“I really feel like I’m having the career in my thirties that I probably expected to have in my twenties, and as long as I can keep going now I will, and make the most of it.”
Kathryn Mitchell (C) and Kelsey-Lee Roberts (L) went 1-2 for Australia in the women’s javelin, ahead of South Africa’s Sunette Viljoen. (AP: Mark Schiefelbein)
Time apart meant a difficult few months for Mitchell
Hohn now does coaching work in India, meaning some difficult time apart from Mitchell over the past few months, but he was in the Carrara stands watching on as Mitchell struck gold.
Mitchell said she would not be on the podium if it were not for Hohn.
“He was just immensely proud,” Mitchell said, welling up.
“It’s been a tough six months with his being away working in India, and I haven’t seen him much. [I’ve] been doing most of my work with a sports psychologist.
Javelin thrower Kathryn Mitchell with German coach Uwe Hohn at the 2012 Olympics. (Robyn Winch)
“They were both there and they were in tears, and I was in tears, it was really special moment for all of us.”
That celebration came at the end of what has been a lonely road of late for Mitchell, who has had to battle an Achilles tendon injury at the same time.
“It’s not easy, and I do most of my training by myself. The circumstances aren’t as easy as everyone thinks,” she said.
“But we make it work and I send him videos and he gives me feedback, and I feel like we’ve put together a really good support team for the next couple of years to stabilise things. I think we’ll keep going in a really good direction.”
For now, though, Mitchell wants nothing but a holiday before heading overseas for the tail-end of the European athletics season.
“I just physically, mentally, emotionally need a bit of time, I’ll do a little bit of the European season and maybe pick up the back end of it and just enjoy the year,” she said.
“[The holiday] will be here, probably just in my house, in my garden. Just a nice break.”