Ben Langton Burnell is currently New Zealand’s javelin number one. Here the 2017 World Championship and 2018 Commonwealth Games athlete answers our Five Minutes With posers.
What is your best athletics quality?
My best quality would be my fast arm, which is very handy for my event.
Why would you encourage anyone to try athletics?
Athletics is awesome because the events cover such a wide range of talents, so people can choose which event they enjoy. Unlike most team sports it is also very easy to see how much you're improving because it can be quantitatively shown.
Who was your first coach and how did they influence your career?
My first coach was Noah Samuels, who sadly passed away a few months after I started javelin. He taught me the basics and told me from the beginning that one day he could see me making an Olympic/Commonwealth team, which inspired me. After Noah, I was coached by Richard Drabczynski who helped me hugely understand the basics of javelin throwing. He helped me become a 70-metre thrower.
What are your athletics weaknesses?
In comparison to other 80m plus javelin throwers my overall strength levels are quite a way off the pace. It takes time to develop. I used to flat and train with sprinters Andy Kruy and Zac Topping when I lived in the Palmerston North, so had a basic grasp on how to sprint which was helpful.
What is the funniest things you’ve seen on an athletics track?
That's a hard question. Cam French (New Zealand Commonwealth Games 400m hurdles athlete) made me laugh when be baled over the hurdles doing drills one day as well as Stu Farquhar attempting to change event to the 110m hurdles.
I've seen one of the remote control cars that the officials use at major competitions to bring back the javelins take out one of the in-field officials.
In London at the 2017 World Championships the mascot decided to zip line from one end of the stadium to the other and didn't quite get it right. He ended up crashing into the long jump pit which was pretty funny.
What is the greatest thing you’ve witnessed in an athletics stadium?
I was 40 metres away from Usain Bolt’s last professional race in London. Even though he injured himself it was awesome to be there for his last race. The final of the World University Games last year was epic with two javelin throwers going over 91 metres in the same competition - the first time in history two throwers have thrown over 91 metres at the same event.
Who has been your toughest rival?
Stu Farquhar was always a great rival and training partner. We trained together and had some fantastic competitions together. I was always trying to chase and beat him as he was my idol coming through the youth and junior programs. I now have a great rivalry in the gym with World, Olympic, and Commonwealth champion cyclist Eddie Dawkins and also my strength & conditioner, Angus Ross.
If you could star in another sport which sport would it be?
Formula One racing would be my choice. It is dangerous but would be a lot of fun. I used to follow Ferrari as a kid.
When travelling to a meeting what is the most important item in your suitcase?
As long as I have my javelin boots (particularly the left blocking one), throwing belt, and passport then I am fine.
What is your greatest regret?
That's a hard one. I don't actually have anything I regret so far in my athletic career.
Who is the person you most admire?
There are a few. My parents inspire me because they are very hard workers and that has rubbed off on me over the years. My coach, Debbie Strange, because she is so passionate about javelin and I would not be the thrower I am today without her. Stu Farquhar (four-time Olympian) as I started the event watching him on TV as a teenager and ended up training full time with him from 2014 to 2016 and Johannes Vetter (2017 World Champion) because his commitment to every throw is insane.
What are you most scared of?
Probably my coach when I annoy her. The silent treatment is not nice.
What is your favourite movie and why?
Taladega Nights and Step Brothers because that's my sort of humour.
When was the last time you looked at your athletics medals?
To be fair most of my medals are back home at my parents’ house in Levin, so I don't get to see them much.