Rivers hoping for happy ending to Cinderella Story’
An Achilles injury has forced Grant Rivers to switch from decathlon to javelin as he bids to keep his dream alive of competing at the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year.
Rivers was forced to withdraw from the World University Games in Naples, Italy, because of severe foot pain, with a subsequent MRI scan revealing he had been competing with a partially torn Achilles for more than a year.
Despite being told by doctors that the injury may never fully heal, he refused to admit defeat and after a period of soul-searching decided on a “back-up plan” which will involve him committing to the javelin, one of the ten decathlon events.
“It was absolutely devastating news,” Rivers said of the injury which he sustained at the Atlantic Coast Conference Track and Field Championships in Miami in May 2018.
“I had to think about what my back-up plan might be; however, I actually don’t think [switching to the javelin] is really a back-up plan. I feel it could be a blessing in disguise.
“I’m doing a lot of leg work and band work at the gym to get my leg back to where it should be. Now I’m going to be able to bump 50-60 hours a week into one discipline versus ten, I think it could potentially turn out to be for the better.”
A self-confessed late bloomer in athletics, Rivers won the heptathlon at the ACC Indoor Championships in February, competing for North Carolina State, and also owns the national decathlon record with 5,177 points. He has now set his sights on the national javelin record of 201ft.
“The javelin is also something I excel at; I truly do believe I can hit the Olympic standard [85 metres, 278.9ft],” said the 24-year-old, whose personal best is 177ft.
“I’ve been throwing 177ft off a four-step approach in the decathlon, which is pretty much a hop skip. I haven’t even come off a full approach yet. As soon as I get my full approach implemented that will be national record right there.”
Although Rivers has not ruled out returning to the decathlon in the future, injury permitting, the javelin was always his favourite of the ten disciplines, an event which he believes he has all of the natural attributes.
“With the javelin, there’s a lot less pounding on my body,” said Rivers, who grew up in West Pembroke before moving to the United States when he was ten years old. “I’ve been looking at a lot of the top javelin guys, their build, what they weigh; I just think it’s a perfect fit for me.
“I have the wingspan for it and I’m a big technique guy and I’m all about tweaking things until it’s almost perfect.”
Rivers, who hopes to return to competition by early March, has always considered himself somewhat of an underdog, someone who delights by proving the perceived doubters wrong.
And there is no doubt in his mind that he can achieve his ultimate ambition of becoming the first Bermudian to compete in the javelin at the Olympics.
“It would mean so much to me,” said the Bermuda-based athlete. “I already feel my story has been a Cinderella one in a lot of ways; the guy who wasn’t supposed to go to the Division 1 level, the guy who wasn’t supposed to earn a scholarship.
“I was the guy who became the first at my university to win an ACC championship in the second-hardest conference in the United States.
“The fairytale story has just continued with me breaking the national [decathlon] record a couple of months ago. At this point, I think the doubters are kind of getting tired. Hopefully they’re on board now.”
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