New gear brings new event to Special Olympics Montana

2012-05-16T21:00:00Z 2014-08-25T10:32:51Z New gear brings new event to Special Olympics MontanaBy ZACH BENOIT The Billings Gazette

It all started in 1989 when two-time Olympian Tom Petranoff was living in South Africa.

The Illinois native, who competed in the javelin in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics, was working to establish a program designed to introduce track and field to more people in South Africa and had to come up with a safe way to get people interested in throwing the javelin.

"I saw some of those small model rockets at a mall and my sister-in-law saw one of those foam javelins they sell at Target," he said. "She took some pictures and sent them to me and, a little later, I came up with my version."

Thus was born the TurboJav, a safer, smaller and lighter form of the javelin that is used for training and in competitions across the world, including in thousands of schools. The Special Olympics World Games introduced it as an event last summer.

This year, the Special Olympics Montana State Summer Games will bring it on board as an officially medaled event.

"A lot of people have really embraced it," said Nolan Taylor, SOMT's training and competition coordinator. "It's great because you can be a student of the javelin for 20 years and still keep refining it."

The TurboJavs were purchased with a $2,000 grant awarded to SOMT by Boe Bros. That was enough to provide 150 of them and distribute them to teams across Montana.

They're also used in 25 other states and a handful of other countries. Petranoff helps teach new groups how to use them.

The javelins are made from plastic and rubber. They're engineered to handle and fly like a traditional javelin but, because of their construction, are much safer and can be used indoors.

"They can't kill you and it's more fun that throwing a real one," Petranoff said. "But it's the same as throwing any other javelin. The better you keep it lined up and keep it over your center of gravity, the better you'll do."

For a new event, the TurboJav is already gaining steam. Taylor said that as of early May, 71 athletes ranging in age from 8 to 60 had signed up to compete in the new event and he expects that number to double by next year.

He credited those numbers to the challenge the new event presents.

"I think it's really a humbling event for a lot of folks," Taylor said. "It's the kind of event where you have to be a student of the form to have any success. It's not that you can just grab this and have brawn over brains."

In years past, throwing events at the SOMT Summer Games were made up of the shot put, tennis ball and softball throws. Officials had the TurboJav as a display at last year's games and this year it replaces the tennis ball throw.

"It was kind of a logical move for us because we're making a significant push to push athletes towards more Olympic-style events if they're able to do that," Taylor said. "Across the country, folks are moving away from those sorts of things and towards events with better training and competition opportunities."



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