Why javelin star can emerge as next golden girl
THE public profile of Kelsey-Lee Barber is currently a fraction of that enjoyed by global track superstar Sally Pearson, but that could well change in the next couple of weeks.
The javelin star shapes as Australia's best medal prospect as the sport moves into the post-Pearson era at the world championships, which begin in Doha on Friday.
The 60-strong Australian squad will be the fifth biggest in the Qatari capital, but there are few clear-cut medal contenders following the retirement of hurdles queen Pearson and the absence through injury of Dani Stevens, the discus silver medallist at the 2017 world titles.
Brandon Starc will fancy his chances in a wide-open men's high jump field, Dane Bird-Smith heads up a strong walking contingent, Brooke Stratton is a world-class long jumper and Catriona Bisset has shown staggering improvement in the 800m this year.
But it is South African-born Barber who is best placed to challenge for gold, a result thst would have huge ramifications for her and the sport in general just 10 months out from the Tokyo Olympics.
The 28-year-old, who is coached by her husband Mike Barber, enters the world titles in second spot on the 2019 rankings, behind only China's Lyu Huihui.
She has smashed her personal best on several occasions this year, most recently in Lucerne in July with a super throw of 67.70m, which moved her to 12th spot on the all-time list.
"My goal right from the start of the year has been to stand on the podium in Doha and that hasn't changed," Barber said.
"If I can reproduce the best throws I've had this season that would make me exceptionally happy.
"I've always had the belief I could get to the elite level, although it's probably taken a couple of years to really assert myself and be a presence in the biggest competitions such as the Diamond League.
"Without that self-belief you're just not going to get there."
While making her way through the ranks, Barber benefited from strong domestic competition provided by the now-retired Kim Mickle, the 2013 world championships silver medallist, and Kathryn Mitchell, who won gold at last year's Commonwealth Games.
"It definitely helps having those ladies before me being role models and showing that women's javelin is an event that Australia can be successful in," she said.
"You want to follow in their footsteps in a sense.
"It just shows that we're very much capable of achieving great things.
"So why not put myself out there and say that I want to be on the podium and win medals as much as anyone else."
That's the sort of thing Pearson would have said.
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