Uwe Hohn’s great expectations

The javelin legend feels that Neeraj Chopra can clinch a medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

Uwe Hohn and Neeraj Chopra at the Ekamra Sports Literary Festival in Bhubaneswar last week.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

Uwe Hohn was 14 when he decided that he would one day throw the javelin, clearing the distance of 100m. Nobody had done it ever; he wanted to be the first to achieve that feat.

Some eight years later, he did that – and more, in fact. At the Olympic Day of Athletics meet in Berlin on July 24, 1984, he recorded distance of 104.80m, breaking Tom Petranoff's World record of 99.72 – set a year earlier.

Nobody else has crossed the 100m since. In 1986, a new javelin design was introduced, and all the previous records were erased.

But, Hohn’s throw remains one of the most talked-about feats in the history of track-and-field. Some 34 years later, he recalls the events leading up to his epic throw. “When I was 14, I had watched a documentary on the 1972 Olympic champion Klaus Wolfermann and it was then that I first thought about the 100m throw,” Hohn told Sportstar at Bhubaneswar during the recent Ekamra Sports Literary Festival organised by the Government of Odisha and Emerging Sports. “Then at the 1976 Olympics, Wolfermann's record was broken by Miklos Nemeth.”

The new record stood at 94.58m. When Hohn reached Berlin for the Olympic Day meet, the record was in the name of Tom Petranoff at 99.72m.

“Before that, in May that year, I had a throw of 99.52m, but that wasn't a perfect one, so I knew that 100m was not far away,” the gentle giant recalled. “I didn't think I could cross 104m, though I was confident of breaking the 100m barrier.”

It was also the year of the Olympics, but sadly, Hohn couldn't compete at Los Angeles, because his country, East Germany, boycotted the Games. “That was a huge disappoint for me,” he said. “I had to miss out on the Olympics for no fault of mine.”

The gold should have been his. The eventual winner's best throw was 86.76m. The gold at the 1985 World championship in Athens was small consolation.

He has since moved on to coaching. He came to India a year ago and is happy with the way the throwers have progressed.

He is particularly excited about Neeraj Chopra, the country’s brightest hope. “He is already one of the best in the world,” he said. “A medal at the Tokyo Olympics is not beyond him. He has natural talent and am impressed by his dedication and enthusiasm to train.”

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