Now at her third Olympic Games, Kara Winger says she's already feeling better than she did in London in 2012. She'll compete in the javelin qualifying round on Tuesday
Kara Winger has yet to begin javelin competition this week, but her third Olympic Games experience is already off to a better start than the 2012 Olympics in London.
Because this time around, even though Winger, 30, is four years older, and had a truncated training season due to injury rehab that limited her to only two competitive opportunities before the Olympics, she is also much healthier than she was in London in 2012.
“Four years ago, in the (Olympic trials) javelin final, I tore my ACL,” Winger said in an interview with the Seattle Times in Eugene, Ore. during trials. “I went to the Olympics anyway because we didn’t have an alternate.”
Despite being hampered by her torn ACL, Winger ultimately finished 31st in the qualifying round at the 2012 Olympics. She made her first Olympic team in 2008 and finished 41st in the Beijing Olympics that year.
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The Seattle-born, Vancouver (Wash.)-bred Winger still holds the American record in her event – a 218-foot-9-inch throw from US Outdoor Nationals in 2010.
Last week, she joined The Seattle Times in a phone interview from Rio to talk about how she’s prepared for her third Olympics. Winger will compete in the javelin qualifying round on Tuesday.
ST: What would constitute a successful Olympic Games for you?
KW: At least making the final. I want to be an Olympic finalist at the very least and I want to build on the momentum from World Championships last year.
Editorial note: Winger finished eighth at the 2015 World Championships, and also won a silver medal in the Pan-American Games. She would have finish in the top 12 in Tuesday’s qualifying round to make the javelin finals.
ST: You posted on Instagram that you had chosen not to be at the Olympic opening ceremony. Why was that?
KW: I went to see my coach in Austin (Texas) at the end of July for a week. I did that because he’s not going to be here, and I also wanted to go home (to Colorado Springs) for a couple of days. If I had done the opening ceremony, I would only have been home for 24 hours.
ST: At Olympic Trials in Eugene, you said that was only the second time you’ve competed in the javelin this year because it took you some time to come back from shoulder surgery last fall. Have you competed since? What else have you done in the last month to prep for the Olympics?
KW: I have not competed again since trials. The most important thing to me was to see my coach, Ty Sevin. So I spent about a week with him in Texas. My legs got moving better, and I got moving my upper body. I instantly feel like myself again when I see Ty. We’ve been working together since 2009.
ST: Is it tough to live so far away from your coach and to not have him be at the Olympics with you?
KW: No, because I’ve always been competing by myself. Part of my whole career has been a little bit of just trusting myself in competition. Even in college ( at Purdue) my coach was the pole vault coach also. They were always there for practice, but when it came to competition, I was always by myself because the pole vault is more dangerous and takes longer, so it’s more essential for the coach to be there with them than with me.
ST: How frequently did you manage to go to Texas to train with your coach this year?
KW: I’d hope to go more often, but I only got to go twice, same as last year.
ST: You arrived in Rio on August 8. What’s the experience been like so far, and how does this compare to your other two Olympic experiences in London and Beijing?
KW: They’ve all been very different. It’s really fun to be in a comparable time zone. That’s my favorite part so far. It’s really normal and I feel great being here. The Olympic Village is always different but just as overwhelming as other years. I went to practice yesterday and we’re at a naval school here for practice, and it’s neat to use locations for venues that are surrounded by local people. I think that’s different, just being welcomed into a place like that. In London and Beijing it seemed like the places were a little bit deserted. Here, we’re at a naval school, so it’s right next to the water and the javelin runway looks down to the water. I love that.
ST: Finally, do you have any pre-competition rituals that you abide by?
KW: In every real successful season I’ve had, I’ve had a special bracelet. In 2010, I had one my friend Alicia (Lamb) gave me. She’s a massage therapist for the U.S. rowing team here. In 2012, my maid of honor (U.S. hammer thrower and Spokane native Britney Henry) for my wedding made me one. This year Britney also sent me a bracelet. It’s this little gold thing with ‘badass’ on it. I wore it in Portland (at the Concordia meet), and at trials in Eugene. I’ll wear it on my left wrist.