Steve Backley

Last updated

Steve Backley
Personal information
Full nameStephen James Backley
Born (1969-02-12) 12 February 1969 (age 50)
Sidcup, England
Years active1989–2004
Height1.95 m (6 ft 5 in) [1]
Weight102 kg (225 lb)
CountryFlag of the United Kingdom.svg  Great Britain
Sport Track and field
Event(s) Javelin throw
Achievements and titles
Regional finals
Personal best(s) NR 91.46 m (1992)
Updated on 10 February 2014.

Stephen James Backley, OBE (born 12 February 1969) is a retired British track and field athlete who competed in the javelin throw. He formerly held the world record, and his 91.46 m throw from 1992 is the British record. During his career, he was a firm fixture in the British national athletics team. He won four gold medals at the European Championships, three Commonwealth Games gold medals, two silvers and a bronze at the Olympic Games, and two silvers at the World Championships. Currently, he is an occasional commentator for athletics competitions, especially the field events.

Order of the British Empire order of chivalry of British constitutional monarchy

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a British order of chivalry, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organisations, and public service outside the civil service. It was established on 4 June 1917 by King George V and comprises five classes across both civil and military divisions, the most senior two of which make the recipient either a knight if male or dame if female. There is also the related British Empire Medal, whose recipients are affiliated with, but not members of, the order.

Track and field sport involving various running, jumping and throwing disciplines

Track and field is a sport which includes athletic contests established on the skills of running, jumping, and throwing. The name is derived from the sport's typical venue: a stadium with an oval running track enclosing a grass field where the throwing and some of the jumping events take place. Track and field is categorized under the umbrella sport of athletics, which also includes road running, cross country running, and race walking.

Javelin throw track and field athletics event where the javelin is thrown

The javelin throw is a track and field event where the javelin, a spear about 2.5 m in length, is thrown. The javelin thrower gains momentum by running within a predetermined area. Javelin throwing is an event of both the men's decathlon and the women's heptathlon.



Early life

Backley was educated at Hurst Primary School, Bexley, and later at Bexley and Erith Technical High School for Boys (now Beths Grammar School) in his teens. He competed for Bexley in the London Youth Games. [2] He enrolled at Loughborough University in October 1988 to study for a BSc Honours degree in Physical Education, Sports Science and Recreation Management. Although he completed his first year there and remained a student until 2002, the time he dedicated to the javelin prevented him from completing his studies. However, on 16 December 2002 Loughborough University honoured him with the degree of Doctor of Technology honoris causa.

Beths Grammar School

Beths Grammar School, commonly known as Beths, is an all-boys grammar school with academy status in Bexley in south-east London. Pupils are admitted from the age of 11, with girls joining the sixth form in Year 12. Since becoming a grammar school in 1976, it has consistently performed well within the borough, typically attaining more than 100% A*-C grades at GCSE.

Bexley area of southeast London, England

Bexley is an area of south-east London, England and part of the London Borough of Bexley. It is sometimes known as Bexley Village to differentiate the area from the wider borough. It is located 13 miles (21 km) east-southeast of Charing Cross and south of Bexleyheath.

London Youth Games

The London Youth Games is an annual multi-sport event held in London, England. The London Youth Games offer competitive opportunities for young participants aged 7 to 18 across 30 sports. The London Youth Games are contested between the 32 London boroughs and take place at venues around the capital all year round, with the focal point being a finals weekend at the National Sports Centre in Crystal Palace. The finals weekend traditionally takes place on the first weekend in July and they are free and open to all young people living in or going to school in London. Over 125,000 young Londoners take part in the London Youth Games, making it the largest annual youth sports event in Europe.

Backley's first significant title, was won in 1987 when he threw 75.14 metres to pick up the European junior title, ahead of Vladimir Sasimovich (73.24) of Russia and East German Raymond Hecht (72.78). In 1988, Backley won the silver medal at the 1988 World Junior Championships. He also broke the world junior record that year.

Europe Continent in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere

Europe is a continent located entirely in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere. It is bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. It comprises the westernmost part of Eurasia.

Vladimir Nikolayevich Sasimovich is a retired javelin thrower who represented the USSR and later Belarus.

Russia transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia

Russia, officially the Russian Federation, is a transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and North Asia. At 17,125,200 square kilometres (6,612,100 sq mi), Russia is the largest country in the world by area, covering more than one-eighth of the Earth's inhabited land area, and the ninth most populous, with about 146.77 million people as of 2019, excluding Crimea. About 77% of the population live in the western, European part of the country. Russia's capital, Moscow, is the largest metropolitan area in Europe proper and one of the largest cities in the world; other major cities include Saint Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg and Nizhny Novgorod. Extending across the entirety of Northern Asia and much of Eastern Europe, Russia spans eleven time zones and incorporates a wide range of environments and landforms. From northwest to southeast, Russia shares land borders with Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and North Korea. It shares maritime borders with Japan by the Sea of Okhotsk and the U.S. state of Alaska across the Bering Strait. However, Russia recognises two more countries that border it, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both of which are internationally recognized as parts of Georgia.

World record

In July 1990, Backley set a world record of 89.58m in Stockholm, Sweden. [3] The record was then bettered by the Czech thrower Jan Železný a few weeks later, but Backley then regained the record with a throw 90.98m at Crystal Palace, London, to end the year as the world record holder. Finland's Seppo Räty then bettered the record in 1991. The records set by Železný and Räty, as well as Backley's 90.98m throw, had all been made using new 'Nemeth' javelins, however in August 1991 the IAAF declared this type of javelin illegal and all records set using them were retrospectively deleted. As a consequence, the world record reverted to the 89.58m mark that Backley had set in 1990. Backley then set another world record of 91.46m in January 1992 in New Zealand, a record which stood until the following year when it was bettered by Železný. [3]

Stockholm Capital city in Södermanland and Uppland, Sweden

Stockholm is the capital of Sweden and the most populous urban area in the Nordic countries; 960,031 people live in the municipality, approximately 1.5 million in the urban area, and 2.3 million in the metropolitan area. The city stretches across fourteen islands where Lake Mälaren flows into the Baltic Sea. Just outside the city and along the coast is the island chain of the Stockholm archipelago. The area has been settled since the Stone Age, in the 6th millennium BC, and was founded as a city in 1252 by Swedish statesman Birger Jarl. It is also the capital of Stockholm County.

Sweden constitutional monarchy in Northern Europe

Sweden, officially the Kingdom of Sweden, is a Scandinavian Nordic country in Northern Europe. It borders Norway to the west and north and Finland to the east, and is connected to Denmark in the southwest by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund, a strait at the Swedish-Danish border. At 450,295 square kilometres (173,860 sq mi), Sweden is the largest country in Northern Europe, the third-largest country in the European Union and the fifth largest country in Europe by area. Sweden has a total population of 10.2 million of which 2.4 million has a foreign background. It has a low population density of 22 inhabitants per square kilometre (57/sq mi). The highest concentration is in the southern half of the country.

Jan Železný Czech athlete coach, javelin thrower and sports official

Jan Železný is a retired Czech track and field athlete who competed in the javelin throw. He was a World and Olympic Champion and holds the world record with a throw of 98.48 m. Widely considered to be the greatest javelin thrower of the modern era, he also has the second, third and fourth best performances of all time.


2000 Olympics and 2001 World championships

Backley started the year recovering from knee surgery throwing 82.19m against the U.S. in Glasgow, Scotland. The injury forced him to withdraw from the European Cup Super League meeting in Gateshead, England in early July. Due to injury his second competition came in August, taking second (85.84m) to Finlands Aki Parviainen in the Norwich Union Grand Prix and improved to 86.70m in winning the AAA Championship.

United States federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Glasgow City and council area in Scotland

Glasgow is the most populous city in Scotland, and the third most populous city in the United Kingdom, as of the 2017 estimated city population of 621,020. Historically part of Lanarkshire, the city now forms the Glasgow City council area, one of the 32 council areas of Scotland; the local authority is Glasgow City Council. Glasgow is situated on the River Clyde in the country's West Central Lowlands. Inhabitants of the city are referred to as "Glaswegians" or "Weegies". It is the fourth most visited city in the UK. Glasgow is also known for the Glasgow patter, a distinct dialect of the Scots language that is noted for being difficult to understand by those from outside the city.

Scotland country in Northwest Europe, part of the United Kingdom

Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Sharing a border with England to the southeast, Scotland is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, by the North Sea to the northeast and by the Irish Sea to the south. In addition to the mainland, situated on the northern third of the island of Great Britain, Scotland has over 790 islands, including the Northern Isles and the Hebrides.

At Sydney, Australia for the 2000 Summer Olympics he beat the qualifying mark with his very first throw (83.74m), although the favourite, Jan Železný, threw an enormous qualifying throw of 89.39m. In the final, Backley set a new Olympic record with his second throw of 89.95m, but in the third round two-time champion Železný threw a distance of 90.17m. Subsequent rounds did not see improvements from either competitor and again Železný won the gold medal ahead of Backley. Sergey Makarov took bronze.

Sydney City in New South Wales, Australia

Sydney is the state capital of New South Wales and the most populous city in Australia and Oceania. Located on Australia's east coast, the metropolis surrounds Port Jackson and extends about 70 km (43.5 mi) on its periphery towards the Blue Mountains to the west, Hawkesbury to the north, the Royal National Park to the south and Macarthur to the south-west. Sydney is made up of 658 suburbs, 40 local government areas and 15 contiguous regions. Residents of the city are known as "Sydneysiders". As of June 2017, Sydney's estimated metropolitan population was 5,131,326, and is home to approximately 65% of the state's population.

Australia Federal constitutional monarchy in Oceania

Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. The neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and East Timor to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. The population of 25 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's capital is Canberra, and its largest city is Sydney. The country's other major metropolitan areas are Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.

2000 Summer Olympics Games of the XXVII Olympiad, held in Sydney in 2000

The 2000 Summer Olympic Games, officially known as the Games of the XXVII Olympiad and commonly known as Sydney 2000 or the Millennium Olympic Games/Games of the New Millennium, were an international multi-sport event which was held between 15 September and 1 October 2000 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. It was the second time that the Summer Olympics were held in Australia, and also the Southern Hemisphere, the first being in Melbourne, Victoria, in 1956.

With the 2001 World Championships in Athletics to look forward to, he threw over ninety metres for the first time since 1992 at the British Grand Prix at Crystal Palace on 22 July. He had trailed behind Latvian Ēriks Rags (86.47) and American Breaux Greer (85.91) who had both produced personal bests before he pulled out a huge 90.81 with his final throw.

This should have given him an enormous for boost for the worlds in Edmonton, but on 10 August Backley had not taken his A-game to the show. He could only manage 81.50 in the qualifying rounds and when both pools had finished this left him way down in thirteenth place. One consolation was that his teammate Mick Hill had qualified well, but even this good news was short lived as Mick unfortunately picked up an injury and only managed to record one distance in the final, finishing last.

Jan Železný took gold with a championship record of 92.80 ahead of Aki Parviainen (91.31) and Konstadinós Gatsioúdis of Greece (89.95). American, Breaux Greer once again increased his personal best to 87.00 in finishing one place outside the medals.

Such was his disgust at his performance he had been contemplating retirement but re-appeared in Gateshead,[ citation needed ] for the Norwich Union Classic and gained a little revenge by beating world silver medallist Aki Parviainen with a throw of 86.74. Of his six throws this day five of them would have qualified for final nine days earlier.

Backley then travelled to Brisbane in September to take part in the Goodwill Games but despite leading after two rounds, the up and down season continued and he could not improve to leave Jan Železný on top once again ahead of Ēriks Rags and Breaux Greer.

2002 Commonwealth and European champion

It was going to be a busy with two major back-to-back competitions, the Commonwealth Games on 25 July – 4 August and the European Championships on 6–11 August .

On 31 July was the first test and with no major competition he knew that he had reclaimed his Commonwealth title after his very first throw of 86.81 in the City of Manchester Stadium. Runner up Scott Russell of Canada was nearly eight metres back with (78.98) and England's bronze medallist Nick Nieland managed only 78.63. This gave Backley a hat-trick of Commonwealth titles.

The European Championships in Munich would be much stiffer task with all of the World's leading exponents on show. Producing an opening throw of 86.29 and then surpassing that marginally in the third with 86.37 it was obvious that he was in form but he still trailed behind Russian leader Sergey Makarov who had sent out a massive 88.05 first round throw.

World record holder Jan Železný again found the European title beyond him and did not manage to record a distance so was eliminated after the third round. This seemed to inspire Backley and the reigning champion went half a metre past the leader in the fifth with 88.54. Makarov couldn’t respond to this and ended up with silver with Germany's Boris Henry taking bronze with 85.33. This fantastic achievement made Backley the first British athlete to win four consecutive European Championship golds.

Closing career

Backley began the year having problems with a knee injury, but with an early season win in Sweden under his belt another victory on 13 July at the Norwich Union Grand Prix in Gateshead throwing 85.69 defeating Boris Henry (83.52) and Alexandr Ivanov (81.69), he put these firmly behind him,

A couple of weeks later at the North Down International at Bangor Northern Ireland his opening throw of 81.42m was once again good enough to see off the competition.

It was therefore disappointing when after managing to qualify for the final, only in seventh position, at the IAAF championship Stade de France, Paris, on the final weekend of August, his third and best throw of only 80.13m could not take him through to the last eight in the Sunday final. Sergey Makarov took the title with 85.44 ahead of Andrus Värnik 85.17 and Boris Henry 84.74 with these all being recorded in the first round.

In Backley's final year of competition in 2004, where he was hoping to add to his Olympic medal haul, he struggled to find form and at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, in a wide-open field, he only made the final as the last non-automatic qualifier. In the final his third round throw of 84.13 metres pulled him up to fourth place but he could not improve on this and finished in that position unable to gain a medal at his fourth consecutive games.

Personal best

Backley's personal best was 91.46 metres achieved on 25 January 1992 at North Shore City, New Zealand. That throw still stands as the British record in men's javelin.

Life outside athletics

Backley, was awarded the MBE in the 1995 New Year’s Honours list and then an OBE in 2003. He was inducted into the London Youth Games Hall of Fame in 2009. He was also on a special Olympic medal winners version of Jungle Run. The team collected the most monkey statues ever, getting 3 minutes out of a possible 3 minutes and 20 seconds. The team walked out of the temple with about 35 seconds to spare. The other members of the team were Mark Foster and Iwan Thomas.

Backley competed in the 2008 edition of Dancing on Ice with partner Susie Lipanova. He survived three consecutive skate-offs against Samantha Mumba, Aggie MacKenzie and Tim Vincent. However, Steve ended up in the skate-off for the fourth time in a row, where he lost out to Zaraah Abrahams and her partner Fred Palascak after the judges chose to save her. Steve finished 7th. [4] In 2012 he joined the BBC athletics commentary team for the London Olympic Games, and has commentated at various events for them since. He is the main commentator for field events.

In August 2014, Backley was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian expressing their hope that Scotland would vote to remain part of the United Kingdom in September's referendum on that issue. [5]

International competitions

Representing Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  Great Britain and Flag of England.svg  England
1987 European Junior Championships Birmingham, United Kingdom1st75.14 m
1988 World Junior Championships Sudbury, Canada 2nd 75.40 m
1989 World Cup Barcelona, Spain1st 85.90 m
1990 Commonwealth Games Auckland, New Zealand1st 86.02 m
European Championships Split, Yugoslavia1st 87.30 m
1991 Universiade Sheffield, United Kingdom 1st 87.42 m
World Championships Tokyo, Japan15th (q) 78.24 m
1992 Olympic Games Barcelona, Spain3rd 83.38 m
1993 World Championships Stuttgart, Germany4th 81.80 m
1994 Commonwealth Games Victoria, Canada 1st 82.74 m
European Championships Helsinki, Finland1st 85.20 m
World Cup London, United Kingdom1st 85.02 m
1995 World Championships Gothenburg, Sweden2nd 86.30 m
1996 Olympic Games Atlanta, United States2nd 87.44 m
1997 World Championships Athens, Greece2nd 86.80 m
1998 European Championships Budapest, Hungary1st 89.72 m
World Cup Johannesburg, South Africa1st 88.71 m
Commonwealth Games Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia2nd 87.38 m
1999 World Championships Seville, Spain8th 83.84 m
2000 Olympic Games Sydney, Australia2nd 89.85 m
2001 World Championships Edmonton, Canada14th (h) 81.50 m
Goodwill Games Brisbane, Australia4th 83.34 m
2002 Commonwealth Games Manchester, United Kingdom1st 86.81 m
European Championships Munich, Germany1st 88.54 m
World Cup Madrid, Spain4th 79.39 m
2003 World Championships Paris, France9th 80.13 m
2004 Olympic Games Athens, Greece4th 84.13 m

Seasonal bests by year

See also

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  1. "Steve Backley". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved 9 February 2014.
  2. Hall of Fame retrieved 2013-02-19
  3. 1 2 "Steve Backley – Personally Speaking Bureau" . Retrieved 19 June 2017.
  4. What do you rink about the new Dancing on Ice line-up? | Organgrinder | Guardian Unlimited
  5. "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories | Politics". 7 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.