OLYMPIAN Kathryn Mitchell has a strong reputation among a new generation of Ballarat High School students.
Amid lockdowns and unable to travel to Melbourne, Mitchell would often take to training in High School's gym.
High School sports director Rob Simmonds said Mitchell's sheer strength would impress a lot of the boys, mostly rowers, who were training at the same time. And particularly when they realised Mitchell could leg press on a single leg the same weight they could push on two legs.
There is a buzz about High School this week with Mitchell set to contest her third Olympic javelin final on Friday night. High also has Kyra Cooney-Cross fighting with the Matildas for a bronze medal against much-hyped United States women's football team on Thursday evening.
Some students, especially those with older siblings, can remember Cooney-Cross a little. Cooney-Cross did years seven and eight at Ballarat High School, helping the school to two runners-up finishes in state soccer finals, before her family moved to Torquay.
Mitchell, who hails from Casterton, graduated High School almost 20 years ago. Her London Olympic jersey hangs in the High School gym and is co-signed by classmates and fellow Olympians Collis Birmingham (middle-distance running) and Jared Tallent (racewalking).
Tallent was retrospectively awarded the men's 50-kilometre gold medal from that year.
High School's junior students watched Mitchell in action for her qualifying round on Wednesday and could hardly wait to see Mitchell and Cooney-Cross contesting Olympic medals in Tokyo.
This is pretty good because it's a real inspiration for the rest of us.Erica, Ballarat High School
"This is pretty good because it's a real inspiration for the rest of us," Erica said.
Mitchell, the reigning Commonwealth champion, threw 61.86 metres on her second throw to stake an automatic qualifying spot in the final, which she enters ranked 10th.
The 39-year-old arrived in Tokyo having not seen her partner and coach Uwe Hohn for about 20 months amid the pandemic. Hohn has been based in India where he coaches the nation's javelin team.
Mitchell told Australia's official broadcaster Channel 7 reaching the final had been "just hard work".
"What else is there to do, I think it's what I do best," Mitchell said. "I always believe that there is more possible and the challenges are what makes you stronger."
Cooney-Cross, aged 19, was part of Australia's devastating nil-1 semi-final loss to Sweden on Monday.
Their efforts are set to follow Ballarat rowing exports Lucy Stephan (Ballarat Grammar) and Kat Werry (Ballarat Clarendon College) who contested Olympic finals last week.
Stephan claimed gold in the women's four and Werry was fifth in the women's eight final.
Ballarat Clarendon College graduate Stewart McSwain will also feature in the men's 1500m semi-final on the track on Thursday night.
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