Scott Russell has been Canada's top javelin thrower for most of the decade, but it hasn't quite been enough to earn him a spot on the Olympic team. That changed in 2008, when Russell hit the Canadian Olympic A+ standard to qualify for the Beijing Games.
Russell, a 6-foot-9, 270-pound native of Windsor, Ontario, had a qualifying throw of 83.20 meters (about 273 feet) in June, despite a surgically repaired knee leaving him at less than 100 percent. Before heading to China, he spoke with Active.com about life as an elite track-and-field athlete.
How did you get started throwing?
I grew up in a basketball family and I played basketball from the time I was 4. Same with baseball. I started doing track and field in fourth grade. I decided I wanted to try shot put when I was allowed to do it in seventh grade. I was OK at it.
Ninth grade was the first time I picked up the javelin. I was terrible. I got beat by all the guys in the class--and all the girls. I think I threw 32 meters. I considered quitting, but the coach said "You can't give up after one year." The next year I threw 52 meters. Every year after that until 2001 (when he had shoulder surgery), I set a personal best.
What part of the body is the most important when throwing the javelin?
Everything. It's kind of like a pitcher in baseball. You ask them what helps them throw, they'll say legs, hips and torso. It's the same thing with us. I saw something on TV recently where a thrower was saying that you need to be as fast as a sprinter, almost as strong as a shot putter and you need to also be as flexible as a gymnast.
It makes total sense. Think about it: You have to run at full speed and basically stop on a dime.
Take us through a typical week of training.
I train about three or four hours a day, six days a week. I lift three times a week. One day is a heavy day, my second weight workout is more of a speed day where I lighten up the weights. The third is a volume day.
There are two days of running. One day is general where I'll be doing anywhere between 30- and 60-meter sprints, eight to 12 max. My other day is specific running where I'm working specific training like approaches, transitions, crossover running.
I also have two days where I'm working with the medicine ball, doing general work. Then there are two days where I'm throwing the javelin.
How do you prepare for a meet?
I go through the same routine. If I have a night competition, I go about six hours before the competition and I'll go through my regular warm-up routine.
I'll then head back to the hotel and take a nap and wake up about three or four hours before competition. Usually when I get a nap, I know I'll be all right. If I don't get a nap, I don't feel like I'm completely rested.
Explain how javelin is only a part-time job for you.
I'm currently working on my masters in physical education (at the University of Kansas). Being back in school has helped me focus more on my training. I tried one year to just train and I had nothing to do when I wasn't training. So to have school fill that gap has really helped me.
What kind of sacrifice does an Olympic athlete make?
This year has been so boring. I like to do a snowboarding trip in the winter. Couldn't do that. My fiancee's family planned a trip to Table Rock Lake (in Missouri). Couldn't do that.
But I told myself at the beginning of the year, I'll do what it takes to get to the Olympics. No matter what the cost is, I'll do what it takes.
Is 2008 your last shot at the Olympics?
I'm 29. I think I'll be pushing it to make it to the next one (2012 in London). I'm not going to say I'm not going to. It definitely depends on how my body holds up.