Sun, Jul 18, 2004 - Page 24 News List

Javelin thrower is served with strong will, powerful arm

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA

Breaux Greer is breezy and fun loving, the type of person who could be egged on at a bar to see how fast he can throw a baseball or how far he can throw a football.

Hint: Do not challenge him. Greer has thrown a baseball 98mph. He has thrown a football 94 yards. He has thrown a golf ball from Lane 1 at one end of a running track to Lane 1 at the other end, close to 400 feet. He has thrown a javelin 233 feet without a run-up.

At 27, Greer is the world's second-ranking javelin thrower this year, and he seems to be a strong candidate to win a medal next month at the Olympic Games in Athens. Making the US team should not be difficult, assuming his left knee, which he says has an injured anterior cruciate ligament, holds up.

In the qualifying round of the US Olympic trials on Thursday, Greer protected his knee with a cumbersome brace and barely tested it. On his first throw, with only a two-step run-up, he threw 259 feet 10 inches. That led the 12 throwers who advanced to the final on Saturday afternoon.

To get to the Olympics, Greer must also survive the complex qualifying system used by the US. He is the only American who has met the Olympic A qualifying standard of 268-4. If Greer loses, he will not go to the Olympics if the winner fails to reach the A standard by Aug. 9. But if the winner reaches the A standard, he and Greer will go.

That situation is remote because Greer is so good. His attitude helps.

"I don't take it seriously," he said. "I throw straight, and a lot of people haven't figured out how to do that. A lot of things come easy to me. My philosophy is that you run and you throw it. But the technique? I may never figure it out."

Over the years, most of the javelin throwers who have figured it out have come from Finland, Germany, Hungary and Russia. The only American to win an Olympic javelin medal was Cy Young (not the legendary baseball player) in 1952.

Greer is 6 feet 2 inches and 225 pounds. He trains in Athens, Ga. In his spare time, he has written about 30 alternative rock songs, but, he said, "I try not to listen to them."

He started throwing the javelin as a high school senior in Monroe, Louisiana, and in 1999 earned a degree in exercise physiology from Northeast Louisiana (now the University of Louisiana, Monroe).

He has won the last four national championships, and like many other javelin throwers he has worked through shoulder problems. He fell two centimeters short of making the Olympic qualifying mark in 1996 and finished 12th in the Olympics in 2000.

The javelin throw looks easy. Actually, the thrower needs strong legs and a strong arm and must master a complex throwing technique.

"There are a million guys who can throw 80m," Greer said, "but they just throw it wrong."

Eighty meters equals 262-5. Five weeks ago, in the Bislett Games in Bergen, Norway, Greer set an American record of 87.39 meters, or 286 feet 8 inches. That was a mixed blessing, because on that throw he hurt his knee.

"It didn't hurt, but something felt wrong," he said Thursday. "It doesn't affect my throwing. I've just got to suck up the pain for the Olympics."

The world record is 323-1 by Jan Zelezny of the Czech Republic in 1996. Greer has his eye on that and more, specifically 100m, or 328-1.

"I want to be the first guy to throw 100m," he said. "It's my time.

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