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Inspired by Kara Winger, women’s javelin qualifiers lead the way in return to U.S. Olympic qualifying competitions in track and field

EUGENE – Recently retired professional Kara Winger led the women’s javelin qualifying event Friday at the U.S. Olympic qualifiers at Hayward Field.

Winger threw 206 feet, 8 inches to advance to Sunday’s final, showing that at 38, she still has what it takes to compete at the world level.

The last time Winger was seen on the infield at Hayward Field, she won the silver medal at the 2022 Outdoor World Championships. She did so in fairytale style, with her final throw of the competition, cheered on by fans from her hometown of Vancouver, Washington.

This was to be the crowning achievement of a career that included four Olympic appearances. She announced that she would end her career at the end of the 2022 season.

Well, a little about that.

“I still can’t believe the miracle of 2022,” Winger said. “It was so much fun.”

She couldn’t quite shake this feeling and discussed it with her husband, former discus thrower Russ Winger.

“Russ and I talked a lot about what it would have meant – also for his career – to train a little less as he got older and to trust in the 20 years of work that he had put in,” Winger said. “Then increase the intensity with a better technical understanding.”

“Last year I thought this would be fun.”

Day 8 of the 2024 U.S. Olympic Qualifiers in Track and Field took place on June 28, 2024, at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.

In the meantime, Winger has been writing articles for the website TrackTown USA as an accredited media member. According to USA Track & Field, she is the only media member who also attends the Olympic qualifying events.

She said she enjoyed her time at TrackTown, but she kept wondering what would happen when she picked up her javelin again and returned to competition.

She took her time, trained away from prying eyes, and only decided to enter this year’s trials at the end of May. On June 9, she showed up at the New York Grand Prix, where she threw 207-5. Not bad for someone who had been out for two years.

Not only is she the elite stateswoman in this year’s javelin competition, she could still be the best.

“I’m 38,” Winger said. “Some of these girls weren’t even born when I competed in the 2004 Olympic Qualifiers. That’s crazy. I’m totally OK with that. It really inspired me to be around them and see the world through their eyes. To see them achieve a personal best in the Olympic Qualifiers is really cool. I’ve never done that.”

Winger didn’t reach this year’s Olympic entry standard in the women’s javelin of 210 feet, 0 inches. But she’s not far off it. And even if she doesn’t reach 210 feet on Sunday, she could still qualify for the Olympics based on her world ranking. The final rankings will be released on July 7.

“If I can do it, cool,” said Winger. “If not, then I haven’t been number 1 in the world many times. So I’ve made my peace with that reality too.”

Here are the results of the Olympic qualification: https://results.usatf.org/2024trials/

— Ken Goe for The Oregonian/OregonLive

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