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Kenston graduate heads to Olympics in London
Kenston graduate heads to Olympics in London
By TONY LANGE
Justin Rodhe, a 2003 Kenston High School graduate, holds two passports, but he will carry his Canadian credentials when he travels to London for the 2012 Olympic Games later this month.
Like many of the world's best athletes, he lives where his training takes him, he said.
"When I moved here in 2008, I didn't do it with the intention of becoming an Olympic athlete for Canada," Rodhe said. "I moved here to learn from a coach, and I really didn't know how long I was going to be able to stay here. I think I only had $3,000 in my bank account and no way to earn money. So I wasn't planning on staying much longer than six months to a year."
As a permanent resident of Kamloops, British Columbia, Rodhe clinched his Olympic berth June 30 at the Canadian trials in Calgary, Alberta, where he threw the shot put 20.30 meters and finished second. That mark converts to about 66 feet, 7 inches.
"20.30 is a really average mark for me this season," Rodhe said about hurling the 16-pound dense metal ball. "I've had a number of marks in the upper 20 range with my best so far at 21.11."
He threw his personal best of 21.11 meters in April, which earned him the Olympic A qualifying standard and meant all he needed was a top-three finish at the track and field trials in Calgary.
Each country may enter up to three athletes per event if all three athletes meet the A standard, which is 20.50 meters in the men's shot put, or one athlete if he meets the B standard, which is 20.00 meters.
The qualification period was from May, 11, 2011, through July 8, 2012. As of June 30, there were 28 athletes with A standards and 14 Olympic-bound athletes with B standards.
Before becoming a Canadian citizen, Rodhe went through the process of becoming a permanent resident, which took about 20 months, he said.
"Once I was a permanent resident, then it was possible to file for special consideration based on athletic talent to get my citizenship expedited," he said. "None of it was very easy. It was a lot of litigation."
Rodhe acquired his Canadian citizenship on Nov. 1, 2011, but, according to International Association of Athletics Federations rules, athletes must hold citizenship for two years before becoming eligible for international competitions. The regulation is intended to prohibit countries from "buying" athletes.
Athletics Canada appealed to the IAAF on Rodhe's behalf, however, and he was cleared May 4 to compete for an Olympic berth.
The Canadian trials are quite a bit smaller than the U.S. trials, Rodhe said.
"It was really more of a formality for me in terms of placing in the top three, which was a fairly easy accomplishment, though the conditions were less than adequate," Rodhe said. "We had a really slippery surface in the circle, so it wasn't exactly a walk in the park to get a good mark."
Rodhe and his training partner, Dylan Armstrong, who threw 21.29 meters for first place at the trials, threw well under their personal-best performances.
In the U.S. Olympic trials, Reese Hoffa threw the shot put 22.0 meters, Ryan Whiting threw 21.66 meters, and Christian Cantwell threw 21.28 meters to make up the American team.
"The American guys, because the competition is so strong, they all have to have a really big peak condition at the trials," Rodhe said. "We didn't have to have a big peak condition for our trials, because there really isn't much depth. Dylan and I are trying to be in our best condition for the Olympics themselves."
Rodhe and Armstrong train together with coach Anatoliy Bondarchuk, a gold medalist in hammer throw for the former Soviet Union at the 1972 Olympics.
"The reason I moved to Canada was to be with the coach, Dr. Bondarchuk," Rodhe said. "His training system is different than anybody else's in the world, and how we get into peak condition is we have a system of stimulus that we use in our body, which is just simply exercises, but we don't really rest our bodies. We start a specific program at a specified date before a peak competition, and then we wait for like a chemical, physical reaction in the body."
One section of peak conditioning can last anywhere from 10 days to six weeks, depending on what system is used, Rodhe said.
Training is a full-time job that consists of 30 to 35 hours of practice a week plus therapy, diet and rest, he said.
On top of that, Rodhe worked a part-time job until quitting this past November to concentrate on his last spurt of training.
"All my family is still in Ohio. I haven't really seen them much. It's been really hard on them, I think. I've changed a lot, and there hasn't been much of an opportunity to see them the past couple years," Rodhe said. "High-level training would be really hard to do in your own hometown and around family, because it's such a special lifestyle. You have to be more selfish than you would in regular life. So, in some ways, it's easier to be away from family, but, from a family perspective, it's always hard to be away."
While in high school, Rodhe was more of a discus thrower, and he still holds the all-time Kenston record with his toss of 170 feet, 4 inches in 2003.
He started to make the transition to become a shot putter during the latter half of his college career at the University of Mount Union, where he holds the Purple Raiders' all-time shot put record with a toss of 59 feet, 3 1/2 inches in 2007.
"When you start throwing at a really high level, the event kind of picks you," Rodhe said. "Shot putters, we're bulkier, and I would say maybe a just a little bit less flexible. At 6-foot, 280 pounds, shot put was my avenue for success, so my coach and I went with it."
International discus throwers are typically 6-foot-5 or taller, Rodhe said.
"It was never really my goal to be an Olympic athlete," he said. "I always thought it would be nice one day to do that but never thought I really had the talent for it.
"Since this is my first Olympics and first international championship meet, I really just want to make the finals. I think there's about five or six favorites who are really strong competitors, and I'd like to beat, I think, two of them. I think that would be a very successful Olympic story."
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