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'I freaking love this sport': Kelsey-Lee Barber's gutsy return from 'yips' to Olympic podium

(Photo by Getty Images)
Editor
6th August, 2021
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Kelsey-Lee Barber, the world javelin champion probably better known to the majority of Australians for wanting the last piece of beef ahead of her dorky dancing ‘brother’ in the ad played on high rotation this Olympics, overcame a case of the ‘yips’ to claim a bronze medal in Tokyo on Friday night.

Barber won the world title in Doha in 2019 but changes in technique made in conjunction with her husband and coach Mike Barber blew up in her face and she suffered through a long period of self doubt.

She made the final with her final qualifying throw and then got into the bronze position with her second throw. Her final attempt was just five centimetres behind the silver medallist.

“I freaking love this sport and I love my event I can’t tell you how much fun I was having,” Barber said. “I love being out here.

“This year has challenged me in so many ways. There were moments when I was crying and not sure I was going to make it here let alone medal.

“I didn’t want to give it up and didn’t want to stop fighting for it. We found a way.”

Australia had three throwers in the eight athlete final, the first time that’s happened in a men’s or women’s Olympic field final. Mackenzie Little was eighth, Kathryn Mitchell sixth and Barber, 29, completed a superb comeback.

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“She was done, you wondered whether she could do it again and she got on the podium,” said David Culbert, a former Olympic long jumper, on Channel 7.

“It’s an easy looking event that can be very hard. She won the world title with her final throw in doha in 2019 and she went back to Canberra and made a couple of small technical changes, as you do, ‘how can we improve?’.

“The pandemic started and all of a sudden she was trying to throw further and further and she was throwing shorter and shorter. The harder she tried, the shorter she threw.

“They couldn’t work it out. They tried everything.”

Barber has acknowledged it was a mental issue rather than physical.

“It’s probably like a free throw in basketball when they’re going in you feel you can’t miss and then all of a sudden you can make one,” said Culbert.

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“Same with a three foot putt – you make all of them then all of a sudden you can’t make one and you overthink it and then instead of two technical thoughts you have 63.

“When that happens you’re cooked, and that’s the yips.”

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