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Javelin Thrower Seeks To Bring Back The Widely-Banned Sport To High School


Throwing the javelin, chucking an eight-foot long pointed spear, which is, by the way, an Olympic sporting event, has been banned as a high school sport in many parts of the country for decades. Only 20 states allow it. A high school athlete in Charleston is trying to add South Carolina to that list. Liam Christensen is a rising senior at Academic Magnet High School. Mr. Christensen, thanks for being with us.

LIAM CHRISTENSEN: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: How long have you been throwing the javelin?

CHRISTENSEN: I started throwing when I was 13 years old.

SIMON: When you were 13 years old...


SIMON: ...So four or five years?


SIMON: The Post and Courier, which is the newspaper there in Charleston, they got an article that between 1982 and 2011 there have been 25 high school track-related deaths either to the discus, the shot put or the javelin.


SIMON: And some, I mean, you know, some pretty gruesome descriptions of javelin injuries. You're not intimidated by that?

CHRISTENSEN: So actually - so there have been many deaths from throwing events in track and field, but the javelin does not take up quite as many of those as the shot and disc do. Yeah, there are some pretty gruesome scenes when talking about the javelin injuries. And obviously, you know, getting impaled by a spear is not that good (laughter). But it's far less common than you might think.

SIMON: So you're writing this paper which you hope will lead to getting the javelin reinstated as a sport. How do you think that'll work? What's going to be in your paper?

CHRISTENSEN: Well, there's a lot of things. You know, I think the biggest concerns that coaches have with implementing the event have to do with the injuries due to the javelin hitting somebody. You know, so I'll have to address that and the actual statistics behind it.

But really it's going to be more of a guide on how to implement the javelin and why it's better that it's included as an event in high school track here than not because, you know, I feel like it's just a great opportunity that everybody should have because I was lucky enough to find it through club track. And, you know, my life would be a lot different if I hadn't.

SIMON: Now what makes you so interested in this? Because you will - if the javelin's reinstated as a sport, you'll be gone from your high school, right?

CHRISTENSEN: So the sport itself has given me countless opportunities. And for me, the reason why I'm so interested in doing this, it's sort of like my way of giving back, in a sense. You know, I'm going places with the javelin and it's helping me out and probably going to get me into a nice school. So why not give back? And I feel like if I have to do this research project at my school, why not do it on something that I like?

SIMON: Yeah. I'm just going to guess you've heard from some people that know somebody who was injured by a javelin who've said there's no need for this sport?

CHRISTENSEN: Honestly, I haven't. I mean, I know there are some people that have gotten injured and there are people that are against the implementation of the event. But personally, I do not know anybody that has been injured.

SIMON: You know, Mr. Christensen, there are people listening around the country I'm sure might point out that it seems easier to buy a gun in South Carolina than to throw a javelin in high school.

CHRISTENSEN: Yeah (laughter). I mean, yeah, anybody can buy a javelin, really. But, you know, I think there's a big difference between (laughter) a javelin and a gun. You know, you can conceal a gun and put it in your pocket whereas a javelin you have to lug around, you know, an eight-foot spear. It doesn't even fit in my car all the time (laughter).

SIMON: Liam Christensen, a South Carolina high school student and club javelin thrower. Good luck and be careful out there.

CHRISTENSEN: All right, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.