I am a native of Thuringia from Jena.
The great throw
By the age of 24, Thomas Röhler was already an Olympic champion, and in August 2018 he became a European Champion. For the javelin thrower, these achievements serve now more than ever as a motivation to work on his next major goal: the perfect throw over the magic 100 metre mark.
The man is moving weights. Tirelessly. Then sweat-inducing press-ups. And then at the double to the next stop in the circuit training. It is always the same units of strength and endurance that Thomas Röhler performs in a sports hall in Jena. Round after round. The lonely training routine of a champion. Only his trainer Harro Schwuchow stands on the sidelines watching how his protégé completes this task: a hand-stand on the moving pads of an e-board. The whole thing looks quite acrobatic. And it is part of the special training of a javelin thrower to compensate for the enormous physical stresses at the end of a long season.
A historical victory – made in Thuringia
While the model athlete is breathing more easily, he adds: "The stress involved in throwing a javelin is rather one-sided: "The right arm does the throwing, the left leg the pressing." Forces of up to one ton in weight can be released in the moment of throwing. This is how it was on 20th August 2016, when Thomas Röhler catapulted the javelin 90.30 metres through the evening air of Rio. That throw resulted in the first gold medal for Germany in the Olympic javelin discipline since Klaus Wolfermann in Munich in 1972. And it was a historical victory – made in Thuringia.
A quiet person by nature – with a great impact
"In the instant I let go of the javelin, I knew it was going to be a good throw because my fourth attempt had already been a good one", as Thomas Röhler recalls the event in Rio, "it was really very emotional." Particularly since the victory came as a big surprise. Just six weeks before the Olympic finals, the athlete from Jena suffered the worst injury of his career – a nasty tear in his back. For four weeks, he was unable to train at all: "I had to regain my body, get back into direct competition fitness." This would only have been possible with a "certain fighting performance", Köhler remarks very factually.
Typical for the sports star from the Saale: he speaks rather quietly, cultivates the understatement and possesses a relaxed, subtle sense of humour. His sporting figure, now stretched out on the hall floor, also fits in with this. For sweating it out. 90 kilograms in weight, 1.91 metre in height, tall and muscular – but without that brawny presence that characterises so many javelin throwers.
In the first year following the Olympic Games, Thomas Röhler and his trainer started particularly early with intensive winter training. After the greatest triumph possible for an athlete, it represents a special challenge to keep up the motivation. It is for this reason that the man, who wants to defend his title in Tokyo in 2020, punishes himself at his home sports centre, the Oberaue Sports Complex, situated not far from the stadium of the local football matadors of FC Carl Zeiss Jena. The individual muscles have to be accordingly prepared for the impending energy flows.
Ideal conditions at the Friedrich Schiller University
A sober analysis, physical principles, strict training plans: throwing the javelin is a high-performance discipline. Now more than ever. And when Thomas Röhler talks about it, then he gives the impression of fitting in well at the Jena science location – with all its research facilities and the high-tech industry that characterises the atmosphere in the city.
After completing his abitur (general qualification for university entrance) at the Jena Sports Academy, Röhler – now 26 years-old – had registered for the Technical Physics study course at the University of Applied Sciences. A study course with particular practical relevance. "I found the content exciting", states Röhler, and then adds in way of explanation: "I could only stand it for three weeks," laughing. He was feeling far too restricted by the syllabus. And first and foremost: he wanted to pursue his beloved sport, which he had practiced in an ever more professional manner, at all costs. This seemed to him to be more possible with a Bachelor study course. Röhler therefore transferred to the Friedrich Schiller University for the purpose of dovetailing his Sport and Economic Sciences study with his training plans.
How it all began: Throwing stones with Daddy
Thomas Röhler has been fascinated by athletics since his early childhood. He tried out everything, only to find out at some point: "Long runs were never my thing." With his strengths in high-speed strength and coordination, he favoured the jumping and throwing disciplines in combined event competitions. Röhler is fond of remembering his first holidays at the Baltic Sea, where he discovered pebbles made good objects for throwing. "A contest against Daddy – that was always the best."
When he was 13, his showpiece discipline was the triple jump, that demanding balancing act between power and jumping technique. In those days, he also enjoyed heaving the javelin. During puberty, however, the pupil Röhler initially slipped through the net cast by talent scouts: too lanky for the throwing discipline, in which even the ancient Olympians tested their strengths. It was only when he was 18 – namely rather late – that he got into javelin throwing.
Jena – City of knowledge and sport
Even today, the Olympic champion is of surprisingly slender stature in comparison to most of his fellow competitors. His success is based less on mass than on the dynamism and efficiency, with which Röhler succeeds in giving his javelin the optimal trajectory. His long experience in the triple jump has undoubtedly benefited his flexible footwork.
What for him is a perfect javelin throw? "One that feels very light, as if I only have to use a little power." For further optimisation, the athlete and trainer have recently also been working together with project-related movement scientists from Jena University.Success followed shortly: At the Athletics EC 2018 in Berlin, he threw his javelin an impressive 89,47 metres. Not his personal best, but far enough to win the title. The new European Champion considers a distance of over 100 metres – the current world record of 98.48 metres was set by the Czech Jan Zelezny – a possibility in the foreseeable future.
The nature around Jena provides Röhler with the opportunity to free his mind.
His sky-rocketing ascent into the world elite of sport has enabled Köhler to benefit both from the pinpointed funding he receives at the Sport Academy and the infrastructure of the city of Jena, which as an Olympic base looks back on a mature sporting tradition: "You need certain conditions to perform athletics at a high level. The sports family operates well in Jena."
In the year of his Olympic triumph, Röhler also obtained his Bachelor degree in Sport and Economic Sciences. He would like to continue with the Master study course. The switching between top-class sport and university life seems to have developed an extra impetus in him: "When studying, I was also forced to invest my time differently. This gave me, in turn, freedom for the sport.
End of the training unit in the sport centre. Taking a deep breath: "After such a circuit session, you need to clear your head a bit again. And I am, after all, a child of nature." Sometimes he then goes fishing. Or alternatively, the enthusiastic amateur photographer goes hunting for new shots; sometimes he also goes for a stroll through the city centre and relaxes in a café. What he likes about Jena is the "mixture of the nature outside the city and the dynamic, innovative core inside".
Author: WeltN24 / BrandStation