When Do Hammer Throwers Hit Their Prime?

After the US championships, blogger Jesse Squire discussed a question many track fans are wondering: will Athens 400m Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner ever be able to break 44-seconds again? At 27-years old, most people say that Wariner still has his prime ahead of him. Squire looked a little deeper and found that this is just not the case in the 400 meters.

Wariner is not “relatively young” or “hardly ancient”. He is ancient by the standards of the 400 meters. It is an event that chews people up and spits them out. Only marathoners’ careers have shorter life spans. The gold standard of quarter-miling, breaking 44.00, has been done 47 times by nine athletes. Only once has it ever been done by a man older than 26 whose name was not Michael Johnson. All realistic analyses of the event should ignore Johnson—he was to long sprinting as Secretariat was to three-year-old racing, a once in a century outlier. If you look at those eight other mere mortals, the median age for a sub-44.00 is twenty-two.

This made me think about the hammer throw. I tend to assume that hammer throwers reach their peaks in their earlier thirties since Sedykh threw his world record at age 31. American record holder Lance Deal threw over 80 meters until his 39th birthday. Other hammer throwers have had an even longer shelf life. Sidorenko broke 80 meters at age 40, and Igor Astapkovich broke 80 meters for 20 years, from age 22 to 41. He even was the top qualifier at the World Championships when he was 40.


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11 replies
  1. TB
    TB says:

    Is your coach training in Converse hi-tops in that picture?

    Your throwers all seemed to basically hold their top level for ten years. Any idea how long it took each of them to climb the mountain to, say, 78m?

    • Martin
      Martin says:

      They might be the low-top Converse All-Stars (or a Soviet knock-off). They actually make a good throwing shoe. I’ve seen some eastern Europeans throw really far with them in videos from the 1990s.

  2. rjy
    rjy says:

    Similar question for me, how did the climb typically take? If 80M is the benchmark, how long have throwers taken to get to that number.

    • Martin
      Martin says:

      I think that varies a lot more than the peak does. On one end you have Nikulin and Olli-Pekka both hit 80m at age 20. But then Kibwe turns 30 this month and is just on the verge of hitting it. Maybe I’ll look into that more in the future.

  3. Joe Burke
    Joe Burke says:

    Don’t forget their is age and training age! North Americans (on average) might reach their peak later as they start throwing hammer later.


    • Martin
      Martin says:

      I am not sure if that is really the case. The top American men all peaked pretty early despite beginning the event later. Here is the top 10: Lance Deal (35), Jud Logan (29), Kibwe (30), Ken Flax (25), Kevin McMahon (27), A.G. Kruger (26), James Parker (29), Jake Freeman (29), Bill Green (27), Mike Mai (31). The average peak is 27. You don’t get anyone that peaks extremely young, but the average is even lower (even though it includes Jake and Kevin who had high school experience). Mai began in his 20s, and that might be the reason for the late peak.

  4. Kevin Harrison
    Kevin Harrison says:

    Martin, I believe Lance Deal threw his lifetime best of 82.52m in 1996, when he was 34 years old.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] year I looked at when hammer throwers reach their peak and last week I looked at shot putters. I decided to continue the project by looking at javelin […]

  2. […] I did a similar analysis of the top 20 male hammer throwers of all-time I concluded that “Whether you look at the mean, the median, or the mode, the average thrower […]

  3. […] still almost over 30, a year or two older than in the shot put and discus. This is in line with an earlier analysis of when male hammer throwers hit their prime. The common assumption is that it that the hammer is more technical than the shot put or discus and […]

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