New Zealand javelin record holder Tori Peeters has enjoyed an impressive 2015. Steve Landells spoke with the rising Southland talent ahead of her quest for a podium place at the World University Games in Gwangju.
It was in PE class aged 15 when Tori Peeters first picked up a javelin. A promising representative netballer with a sister, Stacey, who, had already established a reputation as a champion javelinist the younger sibling by two years suspected she may have a talent for the discipline. Her intuition proved correct.
“I thought, it can't be too hard, I'll give it a wee throw,” she recalls. “I thought I'd done well avoiding hitting myself on the back of the head and it went quite far.”
Just how far, Tori cannot recall, but it was far enough to convince her and others she had the hardware to excel. Within months she was winning provincial titles and excelling in national age-group competition. A new career was born.
Raised on a dairy farm in the small Southland town of Riversdale, the family – her grandparents on her father's side were Dutch - were steeped in sport. Her father was a representative rugby and soccer player her mother a former New Zealand rifle shooter.
Her eldest sibling, Stacey, (Tori is the middle of three children and she also has a younger brother) had “started the javelin trend” and Tori followed. In 2009 the sister act pulled off an eye-catching double at the 2009 New Zealand Secondary Schools' Championships in Timaru with Stacey winning the senior title and Tori the junior crown.
Yet Stacey, who today plays for ANZ Championship team Southern Steel, was to soon end her javelin career to focus on her burgeoning netball career. Tori, however, herself an under-19 netball representative for Otago, was to take the opposite sporting path.
“I enjoyed the team atmosphere of playing netball,” explains Tori, “but I love the individual sports and the fact that performances are solely dependent on you. I love the challenge of javelin. It is such a technical sport with so many different aspects to it.”
Initially coached by Murray Spedden at Athletics Gore, when Tori moved to Dunedin to study PE at the University of Otago at the beginning of 2013 she switched coaches to join the vastly experienced and respected Raylene Bates. It proved a wise choice in her career development.
“She's been great,” adds Tori of Raylene. “I knew she had great knowledge and it is a bonus for me she's based in Dunedin. I'm pretty lucky to have her. She's worked with so many high performance athletes and because her knowledge is so good of competing overseas it can sometimes give me an edge on those that don't had access to that knowledge. Competing as I am in South Korea (at World University Games) with this background puts my mind at ease.”
Training under Raylene and benefiting from not only her technical expertise but an organised strength and conditioning programme for the first time, started to bear fruit in 2014. She made a near four-metre improvement within the course of the year hurling the spear out to 54.45m to take the New Zealand title add 0.31 to Kirsten Hellier's national record mark.
Yet if 2014 was good, the 2015 campaign has proved even better as the Southlander has added both distance and consistency to her throwing. In March she retained her national title in Wellington and later that month in a world-class competition at the Melbourne World Challenge she launched the javelin out to a new national mark of 55.14m to place sixth behind such names as world silver medallist and Commonwealth champion Kim Mickle of Australia and South Africa's 2011 world bronze medallist and two-time former Commonwealth champion Sunette Viljoen.
“I'm very happy that I've consistently been throwing over 50m,” explains Tori, who trains alongside leading Para-Athlete and IPC World silver medallist Holly Robinson. “I know with the amount of training I've done lately there is a big one in me. Competing at the Melbourne World Challenge was one of my most amazing competitive experiences. It is real bonus to know I can get this level of competition throwing with those girls in Australia, it is amazing to learn so much from watching them.”
Tori believes her power has been enhanced by developing the Olympic lifts and that Raylene's process-driven approach to training has markedly improved her technique.
However, her preparation for Gwangju and the World University Games has been far from ideal. She has had to cope with her coach being away at the Oceania Championships and the re-laying of her local track at the Caledonian Ground meant she had to take a month out from throwing in May.
“It's been tricky,” admits Tori, 21. “Raylene is always in hot demand with Athletics New Zealand she was away at the Oceania Championships in Cairns. We've also has some crazy weather in Dunedin with the snow and we were without a track for a month. But I don't see this as a huge disadvantage. We can still work on many of the technical elements, even if we are not throwing. I'm not too worried. Hopefully, this will allow me to go into the competition feeling fresher.”
Studying part-time this year in an effort to focus more efforts on her World University Games in Korea, she triumphed in her most recent outing with a solid 51.86m effort in the Gold Coast and now steps into the cauldron of her biggest competition to date.
So what are her aims and expectations for Gwangju?
“I'm definitely hoping for a podium finish and to come back with a medal,” she says. “It will be exciting to throw against the European athletes and girls of a similar age, but I'm going into this pretty blind and I don't know too much about the opposition. To be honest, I'm more concerned about myself and what I can throw. If I can come away with a medal, I'll be over the moon and if I can set a new PB and a New Zealand record - that would be the icing on the cake.”
Longer term she has half-an-eye on qualifying for the 2017 World Championships in London and the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast.
Yet the down-to-earth Taieri Athletics thrower refuses to get ahead of herself and she knows what she needs to do to step up and become a 60m thrower – the benchmark of an world-class javelinist.
“I feel like I lack the power transfer into the throw,” she admits. If I get that right with the right technique to suit my shape then I can make improvements.”