Kara Winger celebrates after the women's javelin final at the 2022 World Athletics Championships on July 22, 2022 in Eugene, Ore.
EUGENE, Ore. — This was Ted Williams in his last at-bat. Or John Elway in his last Super Bowl. Or Bill Russell in his last NBA Finals.
All finished with a flourish.
Except those three icons had already achieved the pinnacle in baseball, football and basketball. Kara Winger had not. Never had she won a global medal in the javelin.
But here she was, at age 36, in her native Pacific Northwest, after two ACL surgeries, in her last season, in her last throw, in her last World Athletics Championships.
On a Friday with the sun setting in Oregon and on Winger’s javelin career, she had one last chance. She was in fifth place. Instead of a face of tension, hers was a broad smile as she urged the Hayward Field crowd to clap rhythmically.
“I felt every single person in the stadium was cheering for me. So why wouldn’t I be happy about that?” she said.
She crossed steps down the runway, holding the javelin above her right shoulder and aiming to throw through the point at which it would travel farthest. This time, the spear soared . . . and kept going.
The tip stopped 64.05 meters away — 210 feet, 1 inch — and suddenly Winger was second.
That is where she stayed. She became the first American woman to win a javelin medal at a world championships. People talk about Hayward Field magic, she said, and she experienced it as never before.
“I’m amazed these results are coming after my second ACL tear,” Winger said. “When you do the right stuff, your dream can come true.”
The four-time Olympian was honored to be flag bearer at last year’s closing ceremony at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. This time, she was draped in the flag as she made her way around Hayward Field on a victory lap. She interrupted the celebration long enough to high-five Sydney McLaughlin after the latter’s historic world record in the 400-meter hurdles.
Winger’s result was no fluke. She had three other throws exceeding 200 feet and was briefly in fourth place. She was fifth at the 2019 worlds, previously the best by an American, and fourth in qualifying Wednesday.
“I walked into this stadium, this season, very much at ease with whatever happened,” Winger said. “I’ve always known that’s in me. So to actually have that finally come true is extremely gratifying in front of a home crowd.”