Thrown on to the world stage

By Jenna Ward

Ben Langton-Burnell at the 2017 World Championships in London, where he finished 24th. Credit: Alisha Lovrich Photography.

Juggling work, study and training is not an easy mix, but Ben Langton-Burnell is throwing big and aimed high at the Commonwealth Games. Jenna Ward caught up with him before the Games.

Ben Langton-Burnell was always a “sporty kid”, but the world-class javelin thrower says he never imagined being at the Commonwealth Games.

The 25-year-old, originally from Levin, now calls Cambridge home, juggling work, study and training with precision. His passion for sports goes way back, but it was the 2008 Beijing Olympics which set him on his path to the Gold Coast.

“I was watching four-time Olympian Stuart Farquhar on TV and got into it at school, Palmerston North Boys High. I was a very sporty kid. I played a lot of different sports growing up – soccer, tennis, swimming – but my main sport was badminton. After watching the javelin on TV, I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” he says.

Langton-Burnell is in the final stages of completing a Bachelor of AgriCommerce and is currently studying for a Postgraduate Diploma in Accountancy. After starting his university years in Palmerston North, he now studies via distance, meaning he can fit it in around working 27 hours a week at accounting firm Accounted4 in Cambridge, and training three or four hours a day with his coach Debbie Strange.

“When I first started uni, I was studying full time, and I managed to get my throws up to about 70 metres with the help of a local coach, but I wasn’t really progressing. So I decided to put everything in to it and move north to train with Deb. She only works with one athlete at a time, so taking me on was a big deal.

“I trained with Stu Farquhar from 2014 to 2017. I had always had a very big throwing arm, but when I watched him throwing 80 metres, and I was throwing 55, it was like whoah, that’s just insane how far he can biff that thing,” he says.

While the Gold Coast was the first Commonwealth Games for Langton-Burnell, he’s no stranger to pressure. He represented New Zealand at the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London, finishing 24th. He also wore the silver fern at the 2010 and 2011 Oceania Athletics Championships, winning silver and gold respectively. But he wants to further his throw in Australia.

Langton-Burnell is very respectful of the current talent in the javelin throwing circuit. “The javelin is heavily stacked in the Commonwealth – we’ve got an Olympic champ, a world champ, and a whole bunch who are throwing between 82 and 85.”

Langton-Burnell also held an unofficial world record for throwing a cellphone. The athlete’s Nokia suffered a fatal blow during the record attempt on Massey’s athletics track in Palmerston North in 2013. The phone flew a whopping 120.64 metres. The current world record belongs to Tom Philipp Reinhardt from Germany, with a throw of 136.75 metres.

Massey students and alumni fly the flag for NZ

At least 34 current students and alumni competed at the Commonwealth Games, including Tall Blacks Tom Abercrombie and Mika Vukona, Black Sticks Hayden Phillips and Samantha Charlton, swimmer Matthew Stanley and mountain biker Samara Sheppard.

Dr Rachel Batty from the School of Sport, Exercise and Nutrition was also working at the Games, working as part of the athletics events presentation team.