By David Gold

nathan stephens_19-10-11October 20 - Paralympic world champion javelin thrower Nathan Stephens is aiming for gold at London 2012, after experiencing what he said was a "phenomenal year", during which he broke a world record.


Stephens' year got off to a flier in January at the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World Championships in New Zealand, where he won gold in the javelin and also set a championship record in the process.

He then broke the F57 javelin world record with a throw of 41.37 metres at the Czech Athletics Open in August.

Reflecting on his achievements in 2011, Stephens told insideworldparasport: "It's been a fantastic year and if I can have a similar 2012 I'll be laughing so I'm hoping everything goes to plan."

He says that his sights are firmly set on the gold medal at London 2012, and insists that "the only person who can beat me now is myself.

"I have some great competitors, but I can't control what they do so I have to go out there and throw what I know I can throw and use the support services that we have for the team to make sure I'm in tiptop condition for London."

Stephens has Paralympic Games experience, having competed in Beijing in 2008, where he came fourth.

He also took part in the 2006 Turin Winter Paralympic Games, when he was on the British sledge hockey team.

Nathan Stephens_playing_sledge_hockey_Turin_2006Stephens (pictured right) gave up sledge hockey as he saw more potential to reach the top in athletics, and revealed it was a comment from a coach, which has spurred him on to his world title winning feats.

"I couldn't see myself progressing to the standard I wanted [in sledge hockey] as we had a great squad but couldn't commit the time needed," he said.

"Athletics being lottery funded and with the facilities in Britain being a lot better and me being good at it, one of my coaches said to me one day I was going to be a Paralympic champion and that moment gave me that drive and fire in my stomach to try and get as far as I can in it."

Stephens has put the shot put to one side to concentrate on javelin in 2012, and he is yet to decide whether to compete in the discus next year.

"I'm going to wait and see how training goes over winter, how the javelin is going, and if we can fit in more training then we will.

"If it starts to be detrimental to the javelin training we'll put it on the back seat, but we will see.

"If it happens it happens if it doesn't it doesn't."

The Welshman says that the prospect of competing in front of a home crowd is spurring him on as he prepares for the Paralympics.

"It's one of those opportunities you don't want to mess up," Stephens said.

"You are going out in front of a home crowd, and not many athletes can say they have competed in a home Games let alone win a medal there so we want to stay one step ahead."

One of those things that Stephens is using are the blades made famous by Oscar Pistorius, to give him an extra push during the javelin contest.

The 23-year-old, who has put his study of sports coaching to one side as he trains for the Paralympics, also used to play rugby and football before an accident at the age of nine when he tried unsuccessfully to jump on a freight train saw him lose both legs.

He admits that watching Wales come so close to reaching their first ever Rugby World Cup final in New Zealand this weekend, before losing 9-8 to France in a closely fought semi-final, was heart breaking.

"They have performed so well and proved to everyone that they are one of the best teams in the world," he said.

"They have gone four places up in the rankings, and even with their captain out they went out there and almost beat France even with one less man.

"They were only six inches away from that final place.

"They will be a force next year in the Six Nations, especially with such a young side and they did the nation proud."

Stephens was present with fellow Welsh Paralympic stars Natalie Povey and Rhys Davies for the latest leg of a UK wide National Lottery hot air balloon tour in Wrexham.

Windy conditions meant the hot air balloon stayed grounded, but Stephens, national Paralympic dressage champion Povey and canoeing bronze world medallist Davies praised the National Lottery funding they receive to help their chances of success in London next year.

The tour thanks lottery players for their investment in the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, which will likely come to more than £2 billion ($3.2 billion/€2.3 billion).

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]eworldparasport.biz


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August 2011: Stephens breaks world javelin record
March 2011: Nathan Stephens - Year out with injury helped me to improve my game
January 2011: Stephens makes up for Beijing heartache with World Championship gold