Courtesy photo by Kelley Fuqua|
Jim Fuqua continues to master the sport of javelin throwing. He won the Birmingham Track Classic championships in early June with a toss of 175 feet, 6 inches.
Learning on the fly
At 54, Hartselle javelin thrower hits his mark
By Ashley Hargrove
HARTSELLE — When Hartselle native Jim Fuqua signed a scholarship to play baseball at Northwest-Shoals Community College in 1972, he had no idea that he would take up the sport of javelin throwing while he was there.
Now, 35 years and a few injuries later, the 54-year-old has decided to take up javelin throwing again, only this time as a competitive hobby.
“I just kind of got an itch to start throwing again,” Fuqua said. “I’ve stayed in shape over the years, and I figured I would give it a shot.”
As a collegian, Fuqua said, he was practicing baseball when the school’s track and field coach approached him about throwing the javelin.
Fuqua said he told him he didn’t know anything about it but he would give it a try.
“I had no advice when I started out,” Fuqua said. “I literally learned on the fly.”
Even though he may not have touched a javelin before then, to many it may have seemed otherwise. Fuqua advanced to the national championship level his sophomore year as well as won all-American honors. That success has carried over, and now Fuqua is ranked No. 2 in the country according to Masters, an organization for competitive athletes ages 40 and older.
“The love for the sport is what keeps me going,” Fuqua said. “There are hundreds across the country that compete competitively just like I do. It’s not like it was in college. We all help each other out. We critique each other, but when someone has a good throw, we cheer for them.”
Fuqua wasn’t exactly sure how he would do after a long break from the sport, but after a second-place finish in the Tennessee state championships in April, he knew that he could be competitive.
“After I did so well, I saw that I could be competitive,” Fuqua said. “I’ve participated in quite a few since then and have been pleased with the results.”
As with any sport, if you want to be good at it, you have to work at it. For Fuqua, being a good thrower requires extensive workouts and throwing at least four days a week.
“I work my legs out real hard,” Fuqua said. “I spend a lot of time doing stadium work, lunges and sprints to help build up the muscles in my legs. As far as working on the upper body, I usually spend some time working out my back and triceps. The rest of the time I spend throwing. I usually average anywhere from 400 to 500 throws a week.”
He says his personal best toss in competition is 175 feet, 6 inches. “I’ve thrown it about 200 feet in practice, but in competition I am a little more aware of the scratch line and sometimes at a meet we throw in flights and it might be 10 to 12 minutes between throws,” said Fuqua, a retired insurance agent. “I usually try to make the first throw my best.”
Any athlete will tell you that with any sport there is always a chance of injury, and Fuqua has had his share. He says he has had nine knee surgeries and seven arm surgeries, and soon he will need surgery on torn cartilage in his knee.
“I’ve been putting it off for some time,” Fuqua said. “The doctor told me that I could continue to compete as long as I could stand the pain. It’s getting real close to needing surgery.”
Fuqua will be competing at Marietta High School in Georgia this weekend as part of the Georgia Games Championship. Although this will be his last competition for the year, Fuqua said he plans working on javelin drills this winter.
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