Jaren Wilkey, BYU
Ex-BYU discus thrower Nik Arrhenius is trying to qualify for the Beijing Olympics.

PROVO — Welcome to Nik Arrhenius' month of June, where the former BYU discus thrower has one eye on a travel-packed European itinerary and the other eye on a specific distance to throw — 64.5 meters.

That's 212 feet, 7 inches — or nearly 71 yards, for those more comfortable with football-field dimensions.

That's the "A" standard for Olympic qualifying.

And that's the distance Arrhenius needs, starting this weekend, to earn a trip to compete in the 2008 Beijing Summer Games, compliments of the Swedish Olympic Committee.

He's done it before — repeatedly in practice sessions earlier this month with some of the world's best discus throwers at the U.S. Olympic training center in San Diego. His personal best in competition was done last year here in the U.S. — a throw of 65.77 meters, more than a meter farther than the "A" standard.

But he needs to throw better than 64.5 this month, in competition, as he bounces from meet to meet — in Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Turkey, Finland and back "home" to Sweden the last week of June.

No matter that he is the best discus thrower in Sweden, thanks in part to his father, Anders, creating dual U.S./Swedish citizenship for Arrhenius and his siblings a dozen years ago, with the former BYU and Swedish pro shot putter from the 1970s training his children in the throwing events as they grew up and competed for Orem's Mountain View High.

No matter that Arrhenius is the reigning NCAA outdoors national champion in the event, having thrown 206 feet, 2 inches at the 2007 nationals, move than a half-foot farther than the Olympic "B' standard of 62.5 meters, which he has surpassed eight times.

No, Swedish Olympic track officials want him to reach the "A" standard a time or two during June and couple that with some good throws in other meets during the month in order to earn the Olympic invite.

He bemoans a lackluster finish competing for Sweden at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, Japan, where a high finish against the best throwers from across the globe could have all but locked up an Olympic invite. However, a sub-par distance of 192 feet was only good for 24th place.

"Had I would have finished in the top 12, I would have been in the Olympics," Arrhenius said.

Sweden doesn't have an Olympic trials meet like what the U.S. and other countries use to determine their national squad, so June is the month for Arrhenius to make his mark.

It's been quite a spring for Arrhenius already — the birth of his son, Erik, on April 8, followed by his departure a couple of weeks later to train for a month in San Diego, then back in town to spend time with his family and to pass the GREs before heading off last Monday for Europe.

All said, he'd rather be home with Erik and his wife, Tiffany — also a former BYU track and field athlete (she threw the javelin) — and helping younger brother Leif, who as a current Cougar thrower himself is the fourth of two Arrhenius generations to toss weighty objects for the BYU men's track team.

"I wanted to be around for my little brother — he's got (NCAA) regionals and nationals coming up, and I wanted to help him," said Arrhenius.

There's as much sibling support as there is rivalry when it comes to brothers Dan, Nik and Leif in throwing the shot and discus, first at Mountain View High and later at BYU.

Since they were born four years apart — Dan in 1978, Nik in '82 and Leif in '86 — they never were high school teammates. But they did enjoy a little bit of brotherly overlap in college on Cougar squads — first Dan with Nik and then Nik with Leif.

"We always knew what the others have thrown at certain ages," Nik Arrhenius said, adding that they tried to equal or better each other's age-specific throwing distances and ended up breaking each other's state prep records. "In the discus, I always tried to be one year ahead of where Dan had been."

His older brother forged the path, and his young brother is fresh off an LDS Church mission and hot on the trail — and Nik Arrhenius would like to be there to watch, encourage and cheer.

But he's got his own meets to compete in this month and his own distances to worry about.


E-mail: taylor@desnews.com