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Q&A with Tanya Murray


Tanya Murray is an athletics champion. She is a budding Olympian who ever since she picked up a javelin fell in love with the sport. Trained by former kiwi Javelin thrower and Dame Valerie Adams’ former coach, Kirsten Hellier, she is on a quest to succeed and dreams of competing on the world stage at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. To understand her achievements you have to delve into her story. This Q&A not only gives you the background tohow she got her start in athletics but it contains incredible insight into how a girl from Alfriston is making it big, balancing school life, work and sport and making her family proud.

When did you get into Javelin and athletics?

“I’ve been involved in athletics since I was 9 but I didn’t start throwing a javelin competitively till I was 13, 14. Because my first national competition was when I was 14 and that’s when I broke my first national record.”

Why did you get into it? Was it through family or friends?

“To begin with, when I started throwing I was throwing shot put and discus and then from there one of my friends, Jermaine, he threw a Javelin and I was like hey, why not give this a go sort of thing and I picked it up and it kind of seemed to be this natural feeling and it was comfortable. It’s hard but if it was easy everyone would do it.”

Why do you love Javelin so much?

“I love it because it’s challenging. I’m not the type of person that seeks the rewards of it because I go out there and I know what I’ve done in my training and I just trust the muscle memory of everything. I just enjoy the challenge.”

Now I imagine you have so many trainings and competitions – how do you balance it with school?

“So that’s a bit challenging, I did have a stage where I was injured. So the last year I’ve been injured and I took the last season off. That means that my trainings are having to increase up to 4, 5 days a week again. And on top of work as well because I work on the weekends, so that’s a little bit challenging but the best way to kind of explain it is that as long as you’re organized and you’ve got everything planned then its fine. Because busy people get things done so it means that you know what you have to do.”

How many competitions do you usually compete in throughout the year?

“So now that I’m coming into the senior side of athletics, you have your two main nationals. So while I’m still at college you’ve got the Secondary School nationals which are in December and then you’ve got the club nationals which are in March. But my plans for the next few years are to go over to Australia and compete a little bit more because that’s where there is more competition, like girls throwing the same distance as me in our age group, so the Under 18 category. So it’s just trying to find the competitions that are more beneficial for me at this stage, money-wise as well.”

Could you tell me some of the national records or titles that you’ve held?

“When I was 14 I broke the Under 17 New Zealand record. Which was 45:53m. And from there there’s little school records. So the Auckland Secondary Schools, the North Island Championships and stuff like that.  But the biggest one I’ve achieved recently is the New Zealand track and field under 18 record which was 48:95m.”


I remember talking to you before and you said that you never used to be into athletics or sports and you said you were a couch potato – so do you think that for other young aspiring athletes – hearing these types of stories from their idols can really help them – especially when they can sometimes think that athletes are just born with talent?

“That’s actually huge with what I’ve been thinking about recently. Because a lot of people look at me and they just see the successes that I’ve had and the achievements that I’ve had but what they don’t see is what goes on behind it. So a lot of people just see me on the podium but beneath the podium there are so many steps that you go through. There’s the training, there’s the mental skills. Everything all adds up and a lot of people don’t see the sacrifice that has been made. The one thing I would say is if you find something that makes you happy, keep doing it because if you don’t have that passion towards what you’re doing then there’s no point in doing it.”

What does it mean to you coming from South Auckland?

“I’ve always lived in South Auckland, my ‘rewa athletics family has always been supportive of me and  seen the passion I have to see myself and others succeed. That’s the thing…these days a lot of people scout you for your natural talent instead of seeing the potential that lies within. Trust me, I was never a natural runner but ever since I remember I’ve been able to throw a ball back and forth to my dad in the backyard. But although I wasn’t a natural runner that never held me back. I had this sudden burst of motivation one day where both my Manurewa club members, coaches, parents and friends noticed my drive to change. I went from the kid you saw being encouraged on the track to a person finishing my race and instead of going to sit and have a break, jumping straight back on the track to run alongside my teammate as he struggled to get around his last lap. I am proud to say that I am a part of a group of people who are family to me. I can honestly say that I am so thankful for every single person who has helped me drive my bus to where I am in my journey right now and where I look to head in the future.”

Dame Valerie Adams is probably our greatest shot put and field event athlete so do you draw any inspiration from her or are there any other athletes you admire?

“For me I’m not the type of person that sees famous people and idolizes them. My biggest role model in my life at the moment is my coach because she is this beautiful person inside and out. She’s told me that if she died tomorrow, she wouldn’t hold any regrets because she’s lived the best life. She’s been to the Olympics, she’s got a beautiful family and so everything she’s achieved in life, she’s kind of content with where she is.”

What do you think is more important technique or power?

“As a javelin thrower…… you have to be flexible, you have to be strong, you have to be fast, (and) you have to be agile. So the requirements are huge. But if anything, to me the mental skill, so if you were comparing a ratio of physical capability to mental capability, throwing a javelin even in any sport really, I reckon mental is probably 80-20 physical. And it’s just a huge aspect and I feel like we don’t focus enough on it as athletes.”

How do you relax in pressure situations?

“I feel like I’m a pretty calm person anyway. I remember when I first started throwing and I was very result orientated. So I was so focused on the distance I threw or not placing but I realized that it’s not all about that. Because when that happened I wasn’t enjoying throwing my javelin anymore. So really as long as you focus and there are things I tell myself. I wrote a poem about it in English – breathe, relax and focus. Those are things that I tell myself and I just take this deep breath.”

Do you have any pre-competition rituals or any superstitions?

“Not really. I know I probably should do but I have those things I tell myself. Don’t think just feel, trust the process. Breathe, relax and focus. Those are the things I just tell myself and I keep reciting them because that’s my way of getting into the zone.”

Do you have any interesting facts we may not know about you?

“It goes back to that question you said before, like do you see me as a person who had that natural ability. That’s probably the only thing. Some people know it and some people don’t. Because a lot of people say oh she’s got it easy, things just come to her on a silver platter. And I’m like it really hasn’t. I’ve got a job so then I can contribute towards it all. Because I don’t want my family to have to pay for it all. Because as much as they want me to do well, succeed and go places, financially you can’t just be throwing money around everywhere. So that’s why I have a job then I can help out, then I feel like I’m helping with my journey.”

What are your goals for the future in javelin?

“So short term is to throw 50m this year. Mid-term goal is consistency to make the best distance I have my new average. And then the long term goal obviously is being selected for the Tokyo 2020 team or the Paris 2024 team.”

Shontelle Matano