The making of a champion starts at a young age with the athlete’s family, youth coaches, and community. The champion’s mindset then grows from there. Kevin McMahon won two US titles in the hammer throw and competed in two Olympics and four World Championships. He joins this week’s podcast to share how he started out as a thrower, the San Jose throws community he came of age in, and the inspiration he took from that. In addition, we look a bit at what it takes to be a champion in the hammer throw, and more.
Notes and quotes
Kevin McMahon is one of the most successful throwers in American history. More than a decade after his retirement, he still ranks fifth all-time in American history. He has a personal best of 79.26 meters represented the US on multiple occassions, including the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, and won silver at the 1999 Pan American Games. Currently he is a visual arts teacher at Bellarmine College Preparatory School located in San Jose. While he is not currently coaching, he has previously worked as a coach for Stanford University.
- 6:00 – Starting out as a thrower and taking inspiration from Ed Burke: “When Ed Burke was carrying the flag at the 1984 Olympics, he was the most epic human being in the world. And he lived where I lived. It was a moment of possibility that great things can happen from anywhere. “
- 9:00 – Learning from the San Jose throwing community.
- 15:30 – Focus and the drivers of performance: “The mental and physical comes from the emotional. If you don’t start with a fire, nothing else happens. ” “There’s a misconception about sacrifice. None of it is sacrifice if what you really want to do is throw far. “
- 21:30 – The impact of San Jose on Nick’s development and the decline of the San Jose throws scene.
Strength, size and hammer throwing
- 28:00 – Does size matter in hammer throwing? “I don’t consider myself an exceptional athlete, and I could throw 80 meters at a bodyweight of 215 pounds. If someone learned the lessons I learned only at the end of my career, no doubt they could throw even farther. There are other factors than size that are far more important. “
- 33:45 – How important is weight lifting to becoming a world-class thrower in a less doped age? “Sedykh taught me that a thrower must throw. Throwing is strength training too. All that time you spent in the weight room, I spent throwing. “
- 38:45 – Teaching a feeling: “When you look at a max squat, you are chasing a different feeling than a PR throw. A good throw is like a sprint. It is loose and quick, not a grind like heavy lifting. “
- 44:00 – Influences from Harold Connolly. “The world record becomes a part of you. Losing the record was like losing a limb for Hal, and he was wholly driven toward that goal. ” “We have camps on technique and training, but the emotional side is so critical. It informs and motivates everything else. For every great athlete I’ve ever met, they’ve had something to prove. “
- 49:00 – The best Harold Connolly stories.
- 53:30 – McMahon’s goals for 2019.
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The following links were referenced in the podcast or provide some additional reading material on the topic:
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- McMahon has been featured many times on this site. On Episode 9 of the podcast we discussed work-life balance with him. We also did a detailed written interview with him in 2013 where he discussed the influences he took from working with some of the best coaches in the world. In 2017, he also sat down with Sergej Litvinov and others for a hangout on accelerating the hammer. Highlights of the hangout are available here.
- Another part of McMahon’s life is design. He teaches design and has helped design the logos for both HMMR Media and Garcia Performance. You can find some of his designs on Instagram @design.dojo.
- Want to see how McMahon whipped the hammer around? You can find some of his throws on YouTube. A recent TedX talk is also available.