Don’t be surprised if you see Mount Pleasant Track Club’s Liam Christensen competing in the Olympics sometime in the next few years.
The Summer Olympics is a long-range goal of the 16-year-old javelin thrower, who will be representing the U.S. in the IAAF World Youth Games (ages 18 and younger) this weekend in Cali, Colombia. The boys’ preliminaries in the javelin are Saturday with the finals Sunday.
“He is just a very goal-oriented, very focused athlete. He trains all winter long on javelin,” said Tami Dennis, head coach of the Mount Pleasant Track Club. “I give a lot of credit to our javelin coach, Michael Flournoy. He has taken him from one level to five or six levels higher. They have set very aggressive goals. The fact that he accomplished it and is now representing the U.S. is huge.”
Christensen earned his spot at the USA Track and Field World Youth Trials in Chicago earlier this month. On his last throw, Christensen threw the javelin 68.39 meters (224 feet, 4 inches), exceeding the standard of 65 meters and beating his closest challenger by more than 7 meters. Christensen’s performance also gave him a bye into the USA Track and Field Nationals later this month where he will be trying to repeat as a national champion.
“I went for it and did my best,” said Christensen, who was competing with a 700-gram javelin for the first time. The 700-gram javelin is the international standard, 100 grams lighter than Christensen normally uses.
“It was basically starting with something new. I had thrown one once, but that was not even a real throw. It was just messing around at a tournament. I came up (to Chicago) and had a few warmup throws, getting the feel of it. The last throw I really hit it on the dot. (The World Youth Games) was a long-term goal ... and here I am.”
Last summer, Christensen became Mount Pleasant Track Club’s first National Junior Olympic champion, winning the 15-16 boys title with a throw of 57.81 meters (189-8), also on his final throw. In doing so, he fulfilled a promise he made a year earlier when he told Dennis he would be her first national champion.
“He was our first national champion, and the way he did it tells you a little bit about his competitiveness,” Dennis said. “They get three throws, and then if you make the top eight you go to the finals and get three more throws. So you get a total of six throws and they take the best of those six throws. It took his No. 6 throw at Nationals last year to be national champion. He really had to have a clutch performance. This year at the World Game Trials, it took his last throw to win.”
Christensen, the son of John and Maura Christensen and a rising junior at Academic Magnet High School, is a three-time All-American for Junior Olympics and also has earned All-America honors from New Balance. He is a member of the AMHS track team, but javelin is not included in high school competition in South Carolina.
He was 12 when he first began experimenting with the javelin. Christensen said he saw someone “throwing a spear” and thought it was cool.
Dennis said she knows a lot of colleges are tracking Christensen, although they can’t speak with him until the end of his junior year.
“We were actually training him for decathlon,” Dennis said. “He’s a very good runner. He’s a good thrower. He’s a decent jumper. He’s just a well-rounded athlete. Javelin has been his event. I see him getting a college scholarship for track. His goal is the Olympics. And I do see him going to the Olympics, representing the USA. I see that in his not too distant future. He’s getting great exposure and great international experience as a 16-year-old.”