Published in the Summer 2012 Prospect Magazine
Our Prospects – Justin Rodhe
It’s a long way from a dairy farm outside of Toledo, Ohio to the London 2012 Olympics, and for Justin Rodhe, it almost didn’t happen. And not because he wasn’t good enough.
The elite shot put competitor posted a personal best performance in April 2012 of 21.11 meters, placing him third in the world rankings at the time. Even though the Ohio native had received his Canadian immigrant status in November 2011 and was married to Canadian-born hammer thrower Meghann Rodhe, his dreams of competing in London were nearly dashed due to an immigration rule.
Track & field’s International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) disqualified him from competing for Canada in international competition until October 31, 2012, just three short months after the big event. But after months of anxious waiting, Rodhe finally got the go-ahead from the IAAF in May 2012, and he hasn’t looked back since.
It’s been an interesting journey for the 27-year-old, who possesses the spirit of a true adventurer, willing to take the chance and dive in without really knowing what the outcome will be. He has followed his gut, that inner voice that is his guiding light, and as a result he may have the opportunity to compete in the world’s biggest show of athleticism and every athlete’s ultimate goal: the Olympics. All he needs now is to finish in the top three at the trials in Calgary this June and he’s on his way.
Oddly enough, Rodhe got involved in shot put after he accidentally missed his baseball tryouts and decided to join the track team instead. It was here he discovered his tenacity for throwing. It encompassed everything his spirit yearned for, which was the solitude and personal challenge of individual sport rather than the strategy of team sports.
Rodhe also says his early years growing up on the family farm and involvement with 4-H prepared him in many ways for the life of a high-level track and field athlete. Spending many hours on a tractor in the fields, alone with his thoughts, contemplating the difficulty in the simple task of holding a straight line or showing cows at the fairs, shaped his ability from a young age to remain calm under pressure and opened his eyes to the world of extended development toward competition.
After competing and training throughout high school and university, Rodhe decided to pursue his sport further. This is when he looked to the National Throws Centre in Kamloops, British Columbia. Here he found his present day coach, Soviet gold medalist in hammer throw, Dr. Anatoliy Bondarchuk. Rodhe met Dr. Bondarchuk by chance, at a clinic in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His methods and ideas were like nothing Justin had ever encountered before. He recalls Dr. Bondarchuck coaching him for three sessions, and after the first five minutes he knew he was with the most brilliant sport mind had ever met, and that his new mentor could teach him throws technique nobody else in North America understood.
Determined that if he was going to truly continue in his sport he needed to do whatever it took to be the best. In 2008, with nothing but $3,000 in his pocket and no idea of how he would support himself, he made the 69-hour trek by car from Cleveland to Kamloops with the sole purpose of training with Dr. Bondarchuck.
A typical training schedule for Rodhe is made up of 10 practices per week over five days. Each session has throwing and lifting and lasts about two hours. He sticks to a diet high in protein, fat, fruits, vegetables and low in starch and carbohydrates. He chooses not to structure his nutrition too strictly, since he says it is nearly impossible to maintain a perfect nutrition plan while travelling, especially while in Europe. He has found that if he specializes his nutrition too much, when he can’t provide his body the same sustenance, it can lead to problems.
As for the future, he isn’t making any concrete plans. He says he is “riding the wave” of this great time in his life, and when he feels he’s done, he will do as he always has; “My inspiration lies ahead of me somewhere on the horizon. I have always followed a gut instinct and a voice from a place not visual but palpable on the heart,” he says.