LONDON -- Craig Kinsley of Fairfield saved his best throw for last in Olympic javelin qualifying, but it wasn't quite enough to advance to Saturday's final.
Kinsley finished 23rd with a last throw of 78.18 meters Wednesday night in his first international competition. The top 12 advanced to the final, Kinsley coming 2.21 meters shy of the cutoff.
Had Kinsley matched his personal best, 82.31 meters from June, he would have finished eighth and advanced.
"It's not easy at all, but at the end of the day, you're coming down a runway, and you're throwing a javelin," said Kinsley, 23, who took up track and field while recovering from a broken hand as a junior baseball player at Fairfield Prep. "So if you're able to get past all the distractions, you should be able to do just fine. The first two throws didn't go as planned, and I pulled it together on the third throw."
Those first two throws went for 72.80 meters and 71.47 meters while his U.S. track and field teammates combined for seven medals in other events in front of a packed 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium. Without that last of three throws, he would have finished a disappointing 39th out of 44.
"I had a good throw, not a great throw, on my final throw," Kinsley said. "Your third throw, trying to make the Olympic final, and after you have two crummy ones to start off, it's an awfully tough situation I put myself in. But I was able to dig out and get a respectable finish."
The 78.18-meter final throw vaulted Kinsley above both of his American teammates, Cyrus Hostetler (32nd) and Sean Furey (37th). Kinsley took satisfaction in outdoing his ranking going in, 29th, by six spots.
An American man hasn't medaled in the javelin since Bill Schmidt's bronze in 1972, the longest drought among men's field events.
Kinsley upped his personal best by four meters this year, which he called his best season since first picking up a javelin six years ago. He made the Olympic team via that personal best, an "A" standard mark, and celebrated by going to Olive Garden. Kinsley prepared for his Olympic competition by watching animated films "Despicable Me" and "Brave" at the athletes' village Wednesday.
He has a torn right labrum, which he said didn't affect his throwing in qualification, but does cause him pain.
"I was amazed at how it held up this year," said Kinsley, who does a handstand to get blood rushing to his head before every throw. "It hurts, but I'm going to try to make it through as long as I can without getting the surgery."
He plans to put off surgery until after next year's world championships in Moscow, provided he makes the team. At this rate, that looks like a strong possibility.
"I just need to improve consistency," said Kinsley, the NCAA javelin champion at Brown in 2010. "What tends to happen is (you make a big jump) and then you start to get consistent at that higher level. So that's what I need."