Typically, world-class athletes spend countless hours and twice as many dollars being trained by coaches, traveling to competitions and purchasing proper equipment. But Kenyan javelin-thrower Julius Yego, who won a gold medal Tuesday (Aug. 25) in Beijing at the Track & Field World Championships, employed a 21st-century mode of training: He watched a lot of YouTube.
“I do not have a coach,” the 26-year-old told CNN when he first emerged in 2013, becoming the first Kenyan to reach an Olympic final in a field event. “I watched YouTube and it really paid off for me, to see the training techniques and skills they are using.”
Since Yego’s country produces mainly track stars, the young athlete found himself early on with a dream incompatible with area instructors. So he turned to the next best thing: Videos of the world’s best javelin throwers.
“The javelin is inborn in me,” he has said of why he chose the sport. “The first time I threw a javelin, we were just using a stick … there were no coaches to guide me. I was alone … My father wanted me to give up javelin. Everybody here in Kenya is a runner.”
Yego turned to the computer, where he spent endless hours watching videos of top javelin throwers like Norwegian Andreas Thorkildsen and Czech Jan Zelezny. “My coach is me, and my YouTube videos,” he explained.
Clearly, all those videos paid off because Yego not only took home the gold in Beijing, but also made the longest throw that the sport has seen in over 14 years.
Kenya has produced 79 Olympic track and field medalists (many from Yego’s tiny village in the Rift Valley), and exactly zero of them have come from the “field” part of that category. After this latest conquest, however, he is being seen as a favorite to medal in next year’s Rio games. To most, that would be motivation to get back into the gym — for Julius Yego, however, it might be enough to make him click on that mouse a few hundred more times.