Simpler approach paying off for Tunks

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 12:06 PM ET

Canadian Olympian Jason Tunks will be hurling the discus today in quest of his record 11th consecutive Canadian championship in Winnipeg, but he might be hurling epithets while doing so.

After his best European season in years, Tunks was convinced a national record is well within his grasp, so he asked if the discus ring could be relocated. It happens all the time with national associations seeking the panache a record performance puts on their meet.

But organizers in Winnipeg nixed it.

"I asked three days ago," Tunks said yesterday. "At every national championship across Europe they would have done it. It just shows they could care less here."

Ideal conditions for discus throwers feature a headwind coming slightly from the right for a right-handed thrower. The location in Winnipeg is unfavourable and officials said moving the existing ring would take six to eight hours and refused his request.

Tunks set the Canadian record in perfect conditions in Texas three years ago with a throw of 67.88 metres.

"This is typical of a Canadian meet and championship," said Tunks, who is ranked fifth in the world. "All I can say is this is crap."

While Athletics Canada coach Alex Gardiner says Tunks "is absolutely stoked to throw a Canadian record" based on his strong summer so far, Tunks figures the conditions don't favour it.

The London thrower probably will require only one throw to defend his championship today. He figures 63 metres will win it.

Tunks won a lot of money with top finishes at a dozen European meets the past two months. His strong performances come on the heels of a mediocre Athens Olympics.

He says it's the result of a new outlook.

After knocking off a 12-egg omelette for breakfast the other day, the six-foot-seven, 275-pound powerhouse spoke of refusing to be intimidated by himself or anyone else.

"I decided I'm just not going to put pressure on myself any more; I'm just going to get up and throw the best I can," Tunks said .

Tunks didn't perform to his abilities as a youngster at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, but made a major breakthrough at the Sydney Olympics with a sixth-place finish in 2000. He hoped to get into the medals at Athens last summer, but his sub-par performance left him in a funk that lasted months.

A full-time athlete now for more than a decade, injuries and constant competition made him feel jaded and that his desire was waning. Surgeries and self-imposed pressure were taking their toll.

He suddenly decided to cut through all the mental, physical and emotional drags and simplify his approach.

"I just felt I should go in and throw the best I know how and if things go well, they go well and if they don't, I've given it my best shot," he said.

Maybe he was a victim of paralysis by analysis, a malady afflicting so many elite athletes. Without intellectualizing what he does -- and there are a myriad of tiny nuances to the spinning plate-throw -- his more unobstructed approach has worked.

Just back from European competitions, Tunks reduced his prodigious schedule of weight work and just threw the discus.

"It's been my best year ever for consistency," he said after regularly surpassing 64 metres and having his best toss in three years -- 66.59 metres.

Along with Tunks in Winnipeg are his wife Lieja, the perennial Dutch shot put champion who last week also won the discus, his coach John Allan and London shot-putter Megan Weaver. Lieja Tunks is cleared to participate in the Canadian championships for the first time today.

She'll probably set a record. Under ideal conditions, her husband would have been well within range of one, as well.


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