Meet the Olympian Who Learned His Sport by Watching YouTube Videos: 'It Really Worked!'
On Saturday, Julius Yego will represent Kenya in the men's javelin throw at the Rio Olympics
Every Olympian has dedicated hours and hours of practice to their sport to get to the Rio Games – but only one of them likely spent most of that time in a cyber café.
On Saturday, Julius Yego will represent Kenya in the men’s javelin throw at the Olympics. Unlike most of his competitors, Yego didn’t have access to a world-class training facility or even a coach.
Instead, he perfected his sport by watching YouTube videos.
“The need to succeed in javelin pushed me to the cyber café to watch great javelin throwers,” Yego, 27, tells PEOPLE. “I studied what they were doing to improve my training since I didn’t have a coach.”
Yego says he fell in love with the javelin throw at a young age, practicing the sport with sharpened wooden sticks as his primary school didn’t have the proper equipment.
“I realized I had the talent so I kept going,” he says. “I had the dream of being in the Olympics to compete with the best.”
His perseverance paid off: Yego excelled in national competitions in high school, winning two junior national championships. The whole time, he supplemented his practice by watching videos of the sport’s greatest athletes and copying their techniques.
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“Videos were my real javelin training – it really worked!” he says. “I won the All-Africa Games in 2011 and set a Kenyan record.”
This success led to a six-month scholarship from the International Association of Athletics Federations that allowed Yego to practice intensively with a coach in Kuortane, Finland.
The next year, Yego became the first Kenyan to qualify for the Olympic javelin final. At the 2012 Games in London he competed against Andreas Thorkildsen – one of the athletes he had obsessively studied on YouTube.
Though he didn’t earn the gold then, he will get a second chance.
“It’s the greatest moment to be in Olympics and it’s a good adventure as you get meet men and women competing in different sports and share experiences,” Yego says. “It’s really exciting.”