I opened my email on January 15th to a pleasant surprise from EME News. After discussing results around the world and entrants for upcoming competitions, the daily newsletter included this small tidbit about a meet in Poland: “In weight throw Polish stars Pawel Fajdek and Anita Wlodarczyk.” The weight throw was coming to Europe! To others this might be minor news, but for me it was a big deal. The weight throw is rarely contested outside America and here we have a competition lined up to include the current men’s world champion and top ranked woman in the world at the premier Pedro’s Cup competition Bydgoszcz.
After the announcement in November that Portland won the bid for the 2016 World Indoor Championships, I wrote an editorial suggesting that the weight throw should be held as an exhibition event there.
Would [weight throw record holder Lance Deal] have beaten Yuri Sedykh in the weight throw? Throwers debate whether who would win a matchup of historic hammer throwers with the same intensity that track fans argue who would win between Bolt and Mo Farah over 600 meters.
Just two months later and my prayers were answered. Could this be the start of a movement? Unfortunately the results were not spectacular. In four attempts, Fajdek had just one good throw of 23.22 meters. Wojciech Nowicki, who holds a personal best of over 75 meters in the hammer, was second with 22.72 meters. Sydney Olympic champion Szymon Ziolkowski was third with 21.10 meters. Fajdek’s throw is the third best mark in the world this year, but it is hardly historical. To put that in perspective unofficial world record is 25.86 meters by Lance Deal, who has a nearly identical best in the hammer throw. Former World Championships medalist Libor Charfreitag, who studied at Southern Methodist University, holds the unofficial European record at 25.68 meters. In the women’s competition Anita Wlodarczyk threw 20.09 meters to win. More than twenty Americans have thrown further than that this season, led by Gwen Berry’s toss of 24.39 meters last week.
Weight throw technique may look the same as hammer throw technique, but the event has a different feel and rhythm that take a long time to acquire. Therefore there I’m was not surprised that Fajdek fell far short of the world record. However he did improve the Polish indoor weight record of 20.41 meters set by Jaroslaw Zakrzewski while he was studying at the University of Akron in 2007. The old record was one centimeter less than the Swiss record set by yours truly
But while the results were not great, I still think the event was a success. The winter is a dead time for the hammer throw. Currently hammer throwers get no publicity and no chance to make money from mid-September to May. The weight throw can help our event crawl out from under the rug the IAAF has swept it under. Recently the big name athletes in track and field often skip the indoor season. This is an opportunity for us to grab the spotlight and stars like Fajdek and Wlodarczyk are a great place to start. In Poland they are huge; last year they were voted third and eight respectively among athletes in all sports for the Polish Sports Persons of the Year poll. Indeed reports after the meet highlighted their national records as well as other field eventers like Renaud Lavillenie and Ryan Whiting. Giving hammer throwers a chance to compete during the indoor season gives our sport a chance of getting more headlines.
Don’t get me wrong: I am not a fan of the weight throw. Training for it can take away from hammer throw performance. But if it can be used to help throwers make a better living and bring more fans and athletes to this great event, then I’m all for it. And I’m still holding out hope that it might make an appearance at the 2016 World Indoor Championships.