It was not hard to pick out Roald Bradstock at the Aviva Trials. He was the 50-year-old performance artist wearing a tracksuit top from the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, over the top of a kit emblazoned with the Union Jack that he had hand-painted. It helped, too, that he threw 72.78m.
That was good enough to win him a silver medal behind 27-year-old Lee Doran, from Sheffield, and made him the oldest man to win a medal at the championships since 1936.
This was Bradstock's eighth Olympic trials. His first was in 1984. Sadly, his best distance was still 9.12m shy of the 'A' qualifying mark, so he will not be representing Great Britain at the Games this year, as he did in 1984 and 1988. "Today wasn't about qualifying for the Games," he said afterwards. "It was about showing the kids I teach that life is about having fun and doing your best." Pausing to pat his bald head, Bradstock said: "It was also about taking a few scalps. I need them." He was more than twice the age of nine of the 11 other finalists.
His 72.78m throw was a new world record for the over-50s. Bradstock added it to his considerable tally of other such obscure marks. "I collect them all," he said. "Official, unofficial, and highly questionable." He also holds the world records for throwing "an iPod, a vinyl record, a cell phone, a boiled egg, a golf ball, a telephone, a toothpick, and a dead fish," he said. "What I am doing is having fun. What's a javelin? A stick. Is a dead fish really much of a leap?" It was for the fish. Bradstock threw it 56 yards. The iPod went all of 154 yards. "People know what an iPod is," he said. "But they ask 'Why the hell would you throw it?' I do it to show there is a technique to everything, an art to everything."
Bradstock, who lives in the US, is a successful and talented artist. He said: "I'm not clowning around, I am being very serious. I see this as performance art, it is a very different way of thinking about it. It is very different, very visual." He designs all his own kits, often co-ordinating them with his javelins. He was especially pleased because his high finish had ensured maximum exposure for his artwork.
"What I am doing shows that if you stay healthy you can still do stuff at a high level," Bradstock said. "And even if you're not a high level you can enjoy it." Age is, he says, beginning to catch up with him a little. "I used to be 5ft 11in, now I am 5ft 10in; I am shrinking." Bradstock said he could not remember the last time he had been on the podium at the Trials. "But then again my memory goes, so I am not quite sure. Where am I?" So what is next for this extraordinary athlete-artist? "I think I'll go and get a beer."
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