Feature | Athletics

World champ Anderson Peters: The possibility is what motivates me

The Grenadian’s childhood dream was to be a sprinter like Usain Bolt. But he struggled with injuries and switched to javelin. A year after his surprise win at the Worlds, Peters shares his plans with the Olympic Channel, “to retire as a three-time world champion and three-time Olympic champion.”

By Evelyn Watta ·

Anderson Peters is a man who doesn’t want to put a label or a limit on himself.

One of the biggest surprise winners at the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha, the Grenadian javelin thrower was already very confident in his ability to shine.

He now wants to “become the Olympic champion,” and “break the world record” in a sport that he seems well suited for.

But in an interview with Olympic Channel, Peters explains why his heart originally desired differently, and why watching Usain Bolt helped inspire an athletics career that has already involved a number of transitions.

World champion Anderson Peters of Grenada.

From track to field

The first person from the Caribbean nation to win a World Champs medal in the field events, Peters had already announced himself by clinching a global podium finish as a junior.

Third place at the 2016 World U20 Championships was followed by 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze, and victory at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima.

But it could have been so different.

Peters also tried shot put and discus, but his first dream of athletics glory was as a runner, and it was all down to a sprinter from another Caribbean island.

Inspired by Bolt

Usain Bolt helped motivate a generation of runners worldwide, especially in the region surrounding his native Jamaica, where many youngsters took up sprinting. One such kid was a young Grenadian who believed he had what it takes to win medals for the ‘spice island’ famed for its nutmeg production.

“At a young age, I saw Usain Bolt had just broken the world record at the 2008 Olympics, so I decided to try to become a sprinter." Peters shared.

“I kept getting injured and I didn’t think I was running fast enough, that just made me change my mind on running the a 100m."

Then aged 16, Peters had the height and power to match his Jamaican sprinting idol, but he struggled to better his 10.5 second personal best.

Weighed down by injuries as a sprinter, he turned to his good arm strength, and return to a sport he had toyed with in primary school

“I decided to go back and see what I could become as a javelin thrower. I am not sure what really attracted me to javelin when I was younger, I saw the other kids doing it and I thought I could throw it further than they were doing.”

“Coming from a pelting nation, we tend to have, like, a throwing arm, throwing rocks, throwing cricket balls, so it was really easy to transition into the javelin throwing.” The 23-year-old revealed.

It was the success of another Caribbean star at London 2012 that sealed his decision to make the switch permanent.

“When Keshorn Walcott won the gold at the Olympics, I felt I had to decide which part I was better at. I chose javelin and it seems like I chose right so far.”

Trinidad and Tobago star Walcott, then 19, made history becoming the youngest javelin throw champion at the Olympics, and was the Caribbean’s first ever gold medallist in a field event at the Games.

“Around the time Keshorn Walcott won the world title [2011] and gold at the Olympics, I started winning medals at the CARIFTA games, he was also winning medals at the Caribbean championships,” said reigning Pan American champion Peters.

“I was kind of following in his footsteps and I thought I could be an Olympic champion just like he did.”

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‘Living in the moment’

Peters' win in Doha made him the second IAAF World Champion from his nation, after sprinter Kirani James, and it's been life changing.

“I have been living in the moment ever since [Doha],” he said of his 86.89m throw that also ensured he finished the 2019 season undefeated.

“I’m still getting used to people referring to me as a world champion.” - Anderson Peters to Olympic Channel

"We live in a small island and everyone knows everyone. They knew me before then, but becoming the world champion has opened their eyes. Javelin is becoming a more serious event as every athlete thinks that they can throw.

"Young kids in my nation are drifting away from the idea that they can become sprinters and are now more into javelin throwing because I won the World Championships,” he said of an event that is fast growing in popularity on the islands of 900,000 people.

“Kirani was able to win the World Championships and then he went on to win Olympic gold, so many people are questioning now if I am about to do the same thing.”

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Doha gave Peters the impetus he sought in his barely decade old career.

“When I think of that day, I tell myself it’s never over until it’s done. Don’t go into a competition thinking that the best guy on the paper is going to win, it’s about on that day and the guy who is prepared the best on the day will become the champion,” said the double NCAA champion.

The man from Grenada likes the unpredictable nature of the javelin thrown.

Out of the 17 editions of the World Championships, only Jan Zelezny, was able to win the title more than once. The Czech three-time Olympic champion also won the world title three times.

The 23-year-old wants to match Zelezny’s success at the world and Olympic stage.

“I have been thinking about it. What can I do to possibly increase my throw 5-10m so that I can become the Olympic champion?

My short-term dream is to win the 2021 Olympics,” said Peters, who has been stuck in his home town since March and only managed to compete at a small development meet at the Kirani James National stadium throwing 80m in August.

“My longtime dream is to retire as a three-time world champion and three-time Olympic champion the same way as Zelezny did.”

The javelin can go over 100m

Peters missed competing in the delayed 2020 track and field circuit, but Johannes Vetter’s second best Javelin throw in history, 97.76m last month, particularly excited him.

“The world record of 98.48m set by Zelezny, for many years athletes thought it was impossible, but Johannes’ performances this season has shown athletes that it is more possible than we think. He personally made me feel that I would have to throw 100m next year to break the world record.

“For Johannes’ to get so close to the world record it has served as a light bulb for us javelin throwers.”

Peters has the motivation and the passion to match his dreams.

“The thought of wonder and thought of how far the javelin can go. I think it’s mainly the possibility that the javelin can even go past the World record or over 100m. That motivates every javelin thrower, we practice and train every day to see how far you can throw this thing

“The possibility is what motivates someone to become a champion. When the javelin is in the air you start thinking about the possibilities, I wonder how far this one is going to go.”

While also studying for a Business Administration major Degree at the Mississippi State University knows the sporting fixes that are needed to make further history, but believes other athletes may have an advantage.

“I think the gap is more on the country level. They have facilities and more equipment specific to javelin throwing. Some of the equipment I see the other guys training with I have never even seen them in Grenada. They also have javelin workshops that they do with the great throwers like Zelenzy that expose the difference in our throwing abilities as nations.”

“I am working on my technique to give me the kind of improvements that I am looking for. The strong throwing arm also helps, but I think I’m still at a disadvantage there. I am not as strong as the other javelin throwers’ but I am pretty sure I'm faster and more explosive than they are.”