By Michael Muldoon
An hour and a half after his event was completed, Sean Furey still sounded breathless.
Who could blame him?
The former Methuen High All-American had just qualified for the Olympic Games in the javelin.
"People put Olympians on a pedestal," said the 29-year-old San Diego-based engineer. "I was just stupid enough to keep going. Plenty of people could have made it. I've been so lucky to have the family and the opportunity to keep going. I was pigheaded enough to keep progressing."
Don't look for that to change.
"I won't quit until my arm falls off," he said.
Hopefully, that won't be before Aug. 11 ... the day of the Olympic javelin finals! The preliminaries are Aug. 8.
He had a bit of a subpar effort last night in the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore. He threw 255 feet, 5 inches for fourth place. That could have been disastrous as the top three qualify. But in the javelin, most elite Americans haven't thrown the Olympic qualifying A standard. Furey made it 21/2 weeks ago with his career best 271-5, the top throw in the country this year.
Sam Humphreys won with a 268-7 yesterday in the damp conditions and Samuel Crouser of the University of Oregon was second with a 265-1. But neither had made the A standard (269 feet) so it was finishers 3-5 who are going to London.
That is 2010 Brown grad Craig Kinsley (262-2), Furey (255-5) and 2010 Oregon grad Cyrus Hostetler (254-8).
The odds of making the jump from hometown hero to Olympian are minuscule, but Furey always believed in himself.
"I guess I was in high school," he said about when he first thought of the Olympics. "After junior year I had a huge personal best to win the state championship. From then on, I just knew I was good.
"My goal was 230 and everyone said it was impossible. Then I said in college 280. I always had huge aspirations. I just knew I wouldn't stop until I'd be an Olympian. It's just weathering the storm. Who can come through the injuries? Who can train enough? How do you make a living? It's a lot more than talent."
The text messages were coming fast and furious last night. There was his old Dartmouth football teammate Mike Giles of Andover. His closest friend Adam Wright from Methuen. His lifelong friend John Bazdanes.
And at the meet were his wife, Matthan Chatterton-Richmond, his mother, Kathy Stupack, his stepfather and his coach.
"I can't say enough about my support structure," he said. "My wife and my mom. My mom was as nervous as me."
He talked fondly of his first coach, the late great Methuen football, track coach Larry Klimas.
"That's what started me," said Furey. "How to prepare myself. How to be a man. The little details. Toughness and preparation. Just the attitude that you aren't going to quit. It doesn't matter if your arm is broken."
He also credited his college coach, Carl Wallin, and current coach Todd Riech.
The irony is that with all the extraordinary success, he'd probably make a lot more money concentrating on his engineering career. He graduated near the top of the class in grad school at Dartmouth.
In other words, being a world class javelin thrower isn't the same as being a quarterback for the Patriots.
"I never even thought like that," he said. "Missing out on money, I don't care. We have everything we need and more. Making money won't make me happier. Being on the Olympic team will make me happier."
Furey has his heart set on being one of the 12 in the finals in the Games in London.
He'll need to throw better than in Oregon.
"It's mixed emotions, fourth place vs. the Olympic team," explained Furey. "But beggars can't be choosers. I knew what the rules were. It's bittersweet. I just didn't execute like I needed. But I did what I needed to. There was no doubt in my mind the whole meet I was going to make it. I was in third place going into the last throw."
Crouser popped a big one to surpass him. Furey's best of his six throws was his first. He followed that with 249-10, foul, 254-3, foul, 252-1. Furey was the No. 6 qualifier Saturday with a best of 249-4.
He's ranked 16th in the world. Could he win the gold? While the odds may seem long, he's overcome serious odds to get this far.
And there may be karma on his side.
The last Methuen High grad to make the Olympic track team was Fred Tootell in 1924. He won the gold in the hammer throw.