Home » Javelin thrower Max Dehning after 90 meters: deeply relaxed hopeful with large reserves

Javelin thrower Max Dehning after 90 meters: deeply relaxed hopeful with large reserves

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Javelin thrower Max Dehning after 90 meters: deeply relaxed hopeful with large reserves

It was in the summer of 2019 when junior national coach Matthias Rau first saw this young man in action, who had just stunned the athletics world with a phenomenal javelin throw. “Max was a line in the landscape. His attempts were anything but technically clean, but he won the German U-16 championships and you could see that he has a natural throw – you can’t learn that.”

Almost five years and several training sessions later, Dehning has become a 1.87 meter tall, strong athlete who – still with imprecise technique, as Rau says – has passed a magical mark and has received interview requests even from Scandinavia and India, the country of Olympic champion, gets.

“Social media, Instagram and interviews, everything is going completely through the roof,” says Max Dehning and doesn’t really know what’s happening to him. His throw of 90.20 meters a week ago in Halle/Saale was a surprise coup, has historic dimensions and suddenly catapulted him into the world‘s best and the spotlight in the year of the Paris Olympic Games. Dehning remembers looking at the scoreboard: “I felt like I was in another world. Even days later, I still didn’t fully realize what I had conjured up.” Who is this 19-year-old? How was this achievement possible and what does it mean for the future?

Low expectations and historical dimensions

He achieved the distance that would have led to World Cup gold last year in the first round of the German Winter Throwing Championships. The Soltau native, who now trains at TSV Bayer 04 Leverkusen, improved his old best of 79.13 meters enormously and is now number one on the world annual best list, met the European Championship and Olympic standards and improved the European U23 record by the British Steve Backley (89.58 m) in 1990. Dehning is also the youngest javelin thrower to ever break the 90 meter mark and only the sixth German to break this barrier. Johannes Vetter, Thomas Röhler, Raymond Hecht, Andreas Hofmann and Boris Obergföll have succeeded in this so far. It’s clear: Dehning is shaking up the scene and has put himself in an excellent position nationally in the fight for Olympic tickets.

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He almost didn’t compete in Halle. The week before, he had struggled with an infection for four days and had been in bed. “I tried two more sessions after that, but had to stop the strength training and the throwing session was by far the worst of the year,” he says. But if he wants to compete in the European Cup in Portugal, he had to compete in Halle and show a reasonably good performance.

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He didn’t expect much more – until he intervened during the competition. “You could already see that this could go really far again,” says Dehning, and he was surprised himself. He wanted to take the first attempt easy, as long as it was valid. And then the spear pierced the ground at 300 feet. “I knew after letting go that it was a personal best, but I never expected that,” he says. “The competition is something very special for me.”

Suddenly world class – “a blessing and a curse at the same time”

Not just for him, the hustle and bustle was and still is big. Now Dehning doesn’t come out of nowhere, but has already caused a stir at the junior level, but this dimension is new and unexpected – both the breadth and the attention. Enjoy, but don’t take off, that’s what it’s all about now. “I don’t want to put any additional pressure on the boy,” says his coach. “It should continue to grow and not break because of it. That’s a blessing and a curse at the same time.” The list of failed giant talents is long, from prodigies to problem children. “The nice thing is,” says Rau, “that I can talk openly about it with Max. We’re trying to keep the pressure off him a little bit.”

Powerful throw: Max Dehning in action last year

Quelle: picture alliance / Lukas Adler

He’s not worried about him. The 19-year-old is a down-to-earth guy, calm, very relaxed and with great family support from his sister to his parents to his grandparents. He is a link in the club. “Everyone likes him, whether old or young, top athlete or beginner. He is always joking with the student and youth groups. “It’s tangible for everyone, but he still works really hard and determinedly,” says Rau and has to laugh at so much praise. Negative or a real flaw? He can’t think of anything. “Sometimes he’s a dreamer,” says Rau. “And he likes to take a nap. Sometimes he comes to training and only woke up shortly before.” Deeply relaxed.

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Despite all his euphoria, Dehning himself tries to see the 90 meters and the hustle and bustle in a relaxed manner. He weighs it up: “I first have to achieve such a performance over 90 meters at a European Championship, World Cup or Olympic Games and I take my hat off to those who have achieved that. That’s another big difference.” And achieving that is the goal of the passionate motorcyclist.

“I have doping controls; you can see the results there.”

But how was this increase in performance possible? Apart from a good dose of relaxation, which probably contributed to that. “In any case, some people will be surprised,” says Dehning and can understand why, in view of such an increase, skepticism arises as to whether this is all happening correctly. “But I don’t let that affect me. Because I have doping controls and you can see the results there.”

Was it a lucky throw, a slip? No, that’s what the 85.45 meters in the second round prove. Stopping after 90 meters was out of the question. “It was important to me to confirm the performance. For myself and so that it doesn’t mean it was luck,” he says.

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His talent, this “natural throw,” as Rau calls it, plays a role in the improvement. Also that Dehning describes himself as a competitive type. In addition, he hasn’t been concentrating exclusively on javelin throw for too long and played handball at the same time until he was in the B-youth. German U16, then U18 champion – these were no coincidences. At 17, he moved to Leverkusen with his sister Marie, who was a year older than him and a heptathlete. New city, new club, new school. “I felt very comfortable right from the start, we are like a big family in the club,” says Dehning, who lives in a shared apartment with his sister. The environment was right, the training became even more intensive, and it paid off: He followed up with German U20 championship titles and celebrated second place at the U20 World Cup in 2022.

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Suddenly tired and weak. Diagnosis: Pfeiffer’s glandular fever

But 2023 was crazy. At first elbow problems slowed him down, then he was fit again and his training performance pointed to competitive throws beyond 80 meters, but suddenly something wasn’t right anymore. “Someone pulled the plug and we didn’t know why. “Max was tired of the role and could no longer perceive his body,” remembers Rau. At some point the diagnosis was made: Pfeiffer’s glandular fever.

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He struggled with it all year. Coaches and athletes agree that the 80 meters would otherwise have fallen in 2023 – and the increase in the best performance would not be that great now. And now that he is completely healthy again, a decision he made last year is also paying off in terms of sport: Dehning finished school after the eleventh grade and is doing an internship at his club, which means he has the best training conditions and will soon receive his high school diploma.

Nevertheless, the 90-meter throw came as a surprise. “I threw 82, 83 meters in training and know that I can do better in the competition,” says Dehning, “but this 90 – wow.” The goal now is to continue working in peace. 19 years is not an age in the javelin throw, Dehning has time to stabilize his performance. And that’s what Rau wants to give him, no unnecessary pressure for someone for whom a lot is possible. “I do a lot with strength, so my technique suffers,” says Dehning. “I still have a lot of reserves.” The competition is likely to sit up and take notice.

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