Javelin ace Alex Pascal is only 18 but he is already achieving distances of seasoned pros.
Thanks to track chief Dalton Watler, Pascal now has a full-time coach from Cuba and when he competes in the next few months dramatic improvement is expected from the youngster. That was immediately evident in the few weeks since Roberto Diaz arrived in the Cayman Islands.
Pascal threw past his own national record on Saturday at the Cayman National Championship with 71.18 metres. Frustratingly though, the record will not stand.
Track official Ventisha Conolly stated that the throw was valid, but it cannot be considered as a national record because it was measured with a synthetic tape and the IAAF rule book recommends a metal type.
Nevertheless, it shows Pascal’s potential and barring injury or illness he is likely extend it this summer.
The big throw happened at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex with Pascal’s first attempt using his new Nordic carbon javelin. His old record of 69.17m is clearly in danger of being shattered.
Pascal is preparing for the Central America and Caribbean Senior Championship Games in Mexico from 5 to 7 July, Island Games in Bermuda from 13 to 17 July and the Pan-Am Juniors in Columbia from 23 to 25 August.
He is training twice a day, six times a week and openly admits he would like sponsorship to help with his enormous food bill, which is not the best. With the right nutrition coupled with Diaz’s guidance, Pascal believes he can be a world beater very quickly.
“I felt really good because it was my first throw and the first time I’d competed since CARIFTA in April,” Pascal said.
“I know I’m capable of throwing 75m and hope to win the Pan Am Games. I’m 100 per cent sure I can medal at the Pan Ams and 90 per cent sure it can be gold.
“My competitors are throwing at the moment 69m and 70m which is about the same as me, so it’s all going to be competitive.”
Pascal used to suffer from nerves in competition but as his confidence and experience increases, that is no longer a serious issue.
“Nerves do not affect me anymore because I’ve been to meets with people like Keshorn Walcott, the Olympic gold medallist, and I don’t feel the pressure so much now. I just go to do my best and don’t make anything affect me.”
Pascal is inspired by Walcott’s success. The Trinidadian went to the London Olympics last year and took gold when still only 19. Pascal has competed against Walcott for years and because he is two years younger always finished behind him. Now he expects to close the gap.
Pascal has just graduated from military school in Florida and hopes to get a full scholarship at the University of Missouri in September for four years to study business.
What makes the youngster so confident is that up till now he was throwing impressive distances with little or no coaching, relying on occasional trips to Cuba to get master classes from their top coaches. Now he has Diaz over here for daily sessions until September.
“With a coach for three months I don’t feel I can get any worse and it has to get better for me,” said Pascal.
“After only two weeks training I threw 71m so everything must get better from here.
“Roberto identified all my flaws in the first couple of days, so he is working on it little by little, going back to the basics just to work on my bad habits and change them.”
One new discipline Pascal has learnt is to have a set number of steps and rhythm in his run up instead of just relying on instinct every time.
“That has made a big difference for me. A run up with rhythm can increase your throw by five metres.
“He also noticed that I was leaning forward with my throw instead of leaning back and that could make a five metre difference too.”
Diaz speaks virtually no English and Pascal’s Spanish is limited but he can understand most of what the coach conveys.
Diaz, 45, was a world class javelin competitor in his time, reaching 76m at his peak. Still in great shape, Pascal is frustrated that his mentor is stronger and faster than him when they work out in the gym. At least it keeps him motivated and striving to improve.
“Alex has definitely got a lot of talent,” Diaz said through an interpreter. “But because he was training mostly by himself he has developed some bad habits.
“His results on Saturday were good but not as good as they could have been. He needs a lot of work to improve his technique.”