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Chris Kirkwood, 27, picked up the javelin nine years ago because coaches told him that his football-conditioned thighs were too large for pole vaulting. What he didn’t foresee was that javelin would lead him on a path of accolades and a trip to the Olympic Trials.
Kirkwood’s score of 229’09” at the Aggie Open on March 10 qualified him for the javelin throw at the June 23 Olympic Trials in Oregon. Kirkwood is raising money so that he can attend the Olympic Trials and train for them by competing in eight out-of-town track meets.
Javelin throwers such as Kirkwood combine strength, agility and speed to throw an 8-foot-long and one-and-a-half-pound spear as far as they can. To qualify for the Olympic Trials, male athletes need to throw a distance of at least 229’07.”
The top 24 javelin thrower finalist from the Olympic Trials will compete for two spots on Team USA.
Originally, Kirkwood, a personal trainer at Fitness Rangers, had planned on financing his Olympic dreams himself.
His client Gordon Fowler, president of 3Fold Communications, suggested that he turn to the Sacramento community to help him raise the money instead.
“I just thought that we should all just get together and have a grassroots movement that could send one of our own to the Olympics or to the Olympic Trials,” Fowler said.
Sacramento residents responded to the call.
Fowler and CEO of Golden Pacific Bank, Kirk Dowdell, discussed a plan to get the business community involved. Through a series of connections, Dowdell was able to elicit the attention of a Hungarian diplomat willing to give Kirkwood a high-quality javelin, his first personal javelin, according to Fowler.
Golden Pacific Bank also donated a free checking account specifically for fundraising, Tru Love Photo donated a free photoshoot to help Kirkwood market himself, Bell Family Chiropractic Center donated massage services and Mission Courier handles his mail-in donations.
He raised $3,800 from 27 people using the personal fundraising platform Go Fund Me. His goal is $25,000.
“I know how to compete in stuff, but financially it took a lot off my shoulders,” Kirkwood said.
The money goes toward hotel, car rental, flight and entry-fee expenses for out-of-town track meets including the Olympic Trials.
If there is any additional money left, he plans to donate it to a charity or save it to help him train the following year.
Kirkwood said his friends, family and clients have all been very supportive through the entire process and have made contributions to his Go Fund Me page.
Sacramento State track and field Assistant Coach Jeff Magley said he admires Kirkwood’s strong character and work ethic.
“He is a very hard worker who has dedicated himself to this sport and to the event, and it is a testament to him that he has continued to do it, even post collegiately,” Magley said.
Kirkwood first played javelin at Santa Rosa Junior College in his hometown of Sonoma in 2003, but it wasn’t until he transferred to Sacramento State in 2005, he said, that everything began to “click.”
For the two years he attended Sacramento State, he competed in the NCAA western regional championship, a feat accomplished by the top 80 to 100 throwers in the nation.
He broke the school record in 2007 as a senior. He said that breaking the school record made him realize that he had a chance to get to the next level.
“I figured another three/four years I would have a good shot at more than doubling my distance,” he said.
Fowler said he thinks Kirkwood would be an ideal representative of Sacramento at the Olympics.
“He embodies everything about Sacramento that we love: He’s gotten far in his field, he’s generous and donates his time, he is a volunteer coach at Sac State in javelin, he’s a proud resident,” Fowler said.