Some athletes choose to spend their off-season on the beach. Others rest their weary limbs on the couch. Not two-time Olympic javelin champion Andreas Thorkildsen

Even in the off-season Andreas Thorkildsen can’t resist attempting to break a personal best. And this year the Norwegian javelin superstar focused his attentions in the gym, and decided to lift. A lot.

“My biggest project was, I wanted to do a 200kg bench press,” says Thorkildsen. “These two months are the only time I can dedicate myself to do that kind of training, as I didn’t want it to interfere with my javelin training.

“My PB was 195kg for a lot of years and it took me about a month and a half of training to reach 200kg. It was funny, the two days or so before I attempted 200kg it felt like I was going into a big meet.”

So with the aid of a spotter and a video camera, The Mighty Thor attempted 200kg, which is roughly the equivalent of lifting Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Jess Ennis-Hill above your head at the same time.

Thorkildsen then uploaded it to the Instagram account which is usually home to pictures of his pet pug Båbby. Watch his attempt below #nomakeup.

“I’ve only tried 200kg one time and if you miss it, it’s so tough on the shoulders. You have to be confident you can get it,” he says.

“It would have bugged me for the whole year had I not done it. It was strange afterwards. Once I did it, I didn’t have any motivation to train for the bench press anymore. It was a bit like if you play a computer game and you get to the end of it.”

Side project complete, he returned to training at the beginning of November, determined to right the wrongs of two seasons’ comparative underachievement.

His stellar international career burst into life a decade ago. Thorkildsen swaggered to Olympic gold at Athens 2004, aged 22. It was start of a seven-year period in which his appearance on the top two spots of a major podium was guaranteed.

European champion in 2006 and 2010; Olympic champion in 2004 and 2008; world champion in 2009 – he took the world silver medal in 2005, 2007 and 2011.

For five of those years, including four in succession between 2008 and 2011, Thorkildsen produced the single furthest throw of the season, underlining his status as a true world number one. His personal best of 91.59m, set in the Norwegian capital Oslo in 2006, ranks him sixth all-time.

Yet for the past two seasons, he has struggled. Ranked tenth and ninth in the world in 2012 and 2013, respectively, he swapped the top of the podium for successive sixth place finishes at the London 2012 Olympics and the Moscow 2013 World Championships.

The question is why? And Thorkildsen, one of the most open, honest and engaging athletes on the circuit, has nothing to hide. He says that the problems of the past couple of seasons can be traced back to a hip injury in 2011, which he carried through to 2012.

“The injury set my timing off in my throwing, so that last five percent or that extra five metres I used to get, I just couldn’t connect to it,” he says. “In 2013 I was really close, and by the second half of the season I was feeling more confident about next year.”

He also admits struggling to recapture his best distances when running at full speed. The important thing though, is to “let things happen and not freak out about it.”

image

Andreas Thorkildsen, trapped in a javelin case of emotion

So, given his struggles with form and fitness, does he still love the sport?

“Yes, I still do, especially after a couple of seasons of difficulty,” he says. “I can see now that I took some of the success I had a little bit for granted. It is not that I didn’t do the work, but everything came a little naturally.

“At the time you are kind of surfing on the wave, and now I’ve fell off that wave I need to get back on it. But I do [still love the sport], even in the times when it is tough. I still love the travelling, meeting my fellow competitors and friends.

“I try not to take it not for granted. I realise I have a certain number of years in sports, and I have to take advantage of that.”

With an attitude as admirable as his optimism is infectious, Thorkildsen has no plans to “reinvent the wheel” in terms of his training this winter. “I’ve proven before, my training works,” he says.

January training will take place in South Africa, and he’s likely to travel out to San Diego for some of April and May.

“I hope to be in shape for Zurich [the 2014 European Championships in August]. It is one of my favourite tracks. I love the atmosphere at the Zurich Diamond League meeting, and with the same people organising the Europeans it will be a great event.

“I also want to get Diamond League points and be more competitive, better than I was last year. I want to get that five per cent back and consistently throw far.”