Michael Musselman: The Peruvian Connection To Indian Javelin Rise 
Michael Musselman: The Peruvian Connection To India’s Javelin Rise 

How a coach from Peru mobilised an entire nation with a Facebook page and an unflinching dedication to India’s javelin scene

It was in the summer of 2016 that Michael Musselman created the Facebook page, Indian Javelin‘. It was a humble but honest endeavour that Musselman started to track the goings-on of the javelin scene in India. At the time, it was mostly a niche sport, played by few and followed by even fewer. But things changed in the last couple of years, with the sport garnering mainstream intrigue, and Indian Javelin’s own staggering growth is a testament to that. Today, the page has evolved into a strong Facebook community for enthusiasts of the sport, with over 106k followers. Of them, many are aspiring athletes and coaches, who have used the platform for better visibility with Musselman’s concerted support behind them. 


The former javelin thrower and coach from Peru frequently leverages the page to promote young athletes from the hinterland of this country, but also, to mobilise resources, such as funds and coaches, who offer their guidance pro-bono. At the heart of this labour of love — that Musselman doesn’t, by the way, make any money from — is a “childhood dream,” he confides in us. “My father was a javelin thrower. As a child, I used to go with him to the ground every day. I started with throwing stones before I got my first javelin,” he remembers.   


But does that explain a South American’s intense fascination with the sport form in a country miles away from him, and one that he is yet to visit?  For Musselman, it started in 2015, when his friend, Garry Calvert, and the then-coach of the Indian national javelin team, sent him clips of a “Wild young boy”. “Garry had coached many former, world-number-one players. So, when he said that this boy had amazing prospects, I knew he meant it in all seriousness,” he recollects, adding that he was aware India had good hurlers, but hadn’t seen anything quite like the young man in question, who could comfortably throw around 81 metres, even at junior level.  


There will be no prizes for guessing that the starlet Musselman is referring to is Neeraj Chopra, whose gold-medal-winning act in Tokyo Olympics elevated the game considerably. “I started following him closely, and came up with the idea of making Indian Javelin a brand name,” he shares, adding how Chopra’s triumph led to a sudden spike of followers, with the hashtag, #IndianJavelin recording over two million impressions. Musselman was one of the first people to use the hashtag at the time. 


Soon, he would start receiving videos of players from unknown villages in the country; many of them utilising  near-perfect techniques, even if it was in the middle of an open field. And Musselman would scour through them meticulously, resharing the ones he saw potential in. In fact, last year, when he shared Rohan Yadav’s video it went viral on the Internet, leading to the 15-year-old player from Uttar Pradesh getting an invitation from the Military Academy. It’s a different thing that Yadav returned to train full-time under Musselman, after his stint under the academy went bust. “He can clock close to 73 m this year,” the coach observes. 


But online coaching has its limitations, too. “If an athlete is not independent and is influenced by others, the relationship then, breaks. Once they reach a certain level, they need to move on, because javelin requires you to have a coach who is close to you,” he explains.  


Interestingly, Musselman is also the force behind Rohan’s older brother, Rohit Yadav, who is considered among India’s most consistent athletes after Chopra, having featured alongside him in the World Athletic Championships last year. It’s hard to imagine where Rohit might have been today without Musselman’s unwavering support during his formative years, given that the player had been stripped of a silver medal in lieu of doping violation. At the time, the Peruvian played a pivotal role in arranging for lawyers to contest the suspension decision, ensuring Rohit’s training could proceed uninterrupted. “I’ll always be cheering for Rohit since I had coached him for close to three years,” he says, noting he will throw farther if he improves his build-up. In India, most young Indian athletes are thin and flexible. But to throw far you need to have a strong and brawny physique, he elucidates, adding, “Chopra is an exception. He is not very strong, but runs fast and his acceleration rate is the best in the world.” 


Chopra’s landmark triumph has had a ripple effect that isn’t limited to men, inspiring several women in the country to pick up the javelin, too. For instance, Deepika, is a 16-year-old from Haryana, who Musselman says we need to watch out for. Recently, she went onto break the national record at the U-18 level with a throw of 53.36 metres. Upon discovering her, Musselman began inquiring within his circle and managed to convince an American woman to sponsor her equipment and training.  


But what really prompts this Peruvian to channel all his energies into aiding and abetting young Indians interest in javelin? Perhaps, he sees something, coaches from our own land have missed. “In a celebrity-driven country like India, the superstar always hogs the limelight. But you need to focus on the grassroots if you want to have a strong legacy,” he points out. Surely, it hasn’t been a smooth ride for Musselman, whose dedication has been tested at many stages. Sometimes, even encouraging him to wind it down. But a small inquiry from a starry-eyed athlete, and this javelin fanatic finds it hard to say no. “Money means nothing. It’s about fucking passion. I want to inspire the nation,” he signs off. 

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