Off Beat: For Olympian, getting javelin in the air can be a hassle

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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For Skyview High graduate Kara Patterson, there is something special about sending her javelin winging into the air.

We're mostly talking about competitions such as the 2012 Olympics in London, where Patterson threw last week. It was the second consecutive Olympics for Patterson, who this time was hampered by a knee injury in the qualifying round.

But getting to international events means another sort of javelin flight, which can be interesting, too. Patterson talked about it when USA Today featured her in its "100 Olympic Hopefuls in 100 Days" series.

It might be timely again, as athletes head home following Sunday's closing ceremony. (Although you'd expect that most London-area airport employees are aware of Olympic athletes and their gear by now).

But during a typical trip, Patterson is used to walking toward the check-in counter with a javelin bag in her hand. She is looking at the eyes of the person behind the counter, and knows the baggage clerk is thinking: "Oh my gosh. What is that?"

"I've been traveling with javelins for like 10 years, since high school. So I understand the reservations that those people have about checking it, and I try to approach it with a smile on my face and an understanding mood," the American record-holder told USA Today.

"… I know this is weird (for them). I've been here before. I know this is the first time you're doing this, but I promise it will fit on the plane.

"Sometimes they tell you you can't take them, and you have to call the manager and the person who actually puts the bags on the thing and make sure it's OK," she said.

Zip through customs?

Those special javelin moments don't always involve a confused baggage clerk. Patterson, who now lives in the San Diego area, recalled a javelin bag she used in February during a competition in Australia. The zipper didn't work very well, but it was extra-roomy, so she stuffed her dirty laundry in it.

While going through customs, "The zipper had broken and there was like dirty socks and stuff everywhere, and it was really embarrassing."

Off Beat lets members of The Columbian news team step back from our newspaper beats to write the story behind the story, fill in the story or just tell a story.