For the past 10 days athletes fans have had their eyes on London, where the world’s best have competed at the world championships. It has been an action-packed meet where stars have fallen, new heroes have emerged, and anew controversy seems to be around every corner. On this week’s podcast we look back at our favorite moments from the championship, break down which countries had the best performances, and also analyze results in each throwing event. Read more
Anita Wlodarcyk captured gave us more drama than expected as a finger injury required her to come from behind for the win in yesterday’s women’s hammer final. Now all eyes turn to the men, who begin qualification tomorrow. If you thought the women’s hammer podium was wide open, the men’s will be even more so. There is a long list of contenders, and even more who could rise to the occasion. As Andrisu Gudzius and Mason Finley showed us in the discus on Saturday, all it takes is a personal best to bring someone out of the shadows and onto the podium. Read more
The NCAA Championships earlier this month showcased the next generation of throwers with individuals like Maggie Ewen setting an NCAA record and scoring in three events. However the veterans of the American throwing scene are not ready to hand over baton quiet yet. Names like Michelle Carter, Kara Winger, and Gia Smallwood-Lewis will be looking to keep their hold at the top of their respective events as the US Championships kick off on Thursday. For a preview of the men’s action, see the guide we posted yesterday. Read more
The US Championships kick off on Thursday and a change in venue from Eugene to Sacramento means more sun and less rain. Temperatures are expected to reach over 100 degrees, meaning the weather may be as hot as the action. With two Americans chasing the world record in the shot put and close competitions for the World Championships team in every event, it should be an exciting weekend of throwing. Below we break down each men’s event. Check back tomorrow for a look at the women’s action. Read more
If you are looking for the best throws coach in America, your journey might take you to Fargo, North Dakota. Justin St. Claire has turned North Dakota State University from a remote team into one of the best training groups in the country. On this week’s episode we sit down with St. Clair to discuss the secrets behind his success including his approach to team culture, recruiting, training, and technique. Read more
I’ll get straight to the point . . . this year the women’s hammer was about one thrower: Anita Wlodarczyk. The sport has never seen such a dominating figure. In fact 2016 was the first time the season’s best in the women’s hammer was better than the men’s hammer. But putting together the rankings after her was not as easy as throwers scrambled to position themselves. Below you will find my top 10 rankings for 2016. Feel free to share your thoughts and opinions in the comments. Read more
The world championships came to a close on Sunday and the throwing events could not have ended on a higher note. Sitting in bronze medal position, women’s javelin thrower Kathrina Molitor was given the last throw in the Olympic Stadium. All of the fans were on their feet as Lu Huihui was in the lead and about to get China their second gold of the championships. Then Molitor let out a monster throw. After the measurement it turned out to be a personal best, world lead, and a gold medal performance. This was just the final highlight of the meet; the entire nine days of action was fun to watch, with historic and thrilling performances across the board. But now that the dust is settled we can sift through competition to find some lessons learned. Read more
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.
There was hardly a hangover after the London Olympics. With records, upsets, and lots of youth talent emerging, 2013 was a year for the history books. My men’s and women’s rankings took a look at the top performers, but there were many more moments to remember. Here is my list of the biggest hammer throwing stories of 2013.
1. Surprise Winners at the World Championships – Those outside of the hammer throwing world likely had never heard of Pawel Fajdek, the young Polish thrower. Insiders knew he was a rising star, but after fouling out in London he had yet to make his mark at a major championships. Krisztian Pars was undefeated and a clear favorite entering the world Championships, but Fajdek came out firing and led from start to finish with a new personal best of 81.97 meters. At just 24 years of age, this will be the fist of many World Championships medals for him.
Just like Pars, Betty Heidler entered the women’s competition undefeated but unlike Pars she failed to even make the finals (more on this below). As defending Olympic and World Champion, Tatyana Lysenko was hardly an outsider but was still an underdog. And for the third year in a row she turned that underdog role into gold.
2. Women Put on a Competition to Remember – Combined, the stellar men’s and women’s competitions made this year’s world championships the most exciting that I have ever seen. I risk overusing this phrase, but the women’s competition in particular was perhaps the best of all-time. I also said this after the London Olympic final when five women broke 76 meters and it took 74 meters just to place in the top eight. The depth was not as good this year, but the competition was better. Lysenko opened the competition with a bomb of 77.58 meters. Since Heidler didn’t make the final and Wlodarczyk opened up with just 70 meters, I thought this would secure the win. By Wlodarczyk slowly started to warm up improving to 74 meters in round two and then took the lead in round three with 77.79 meters. In round four, Lysenko responded with the second furthest throw ever of 78.80 meters. Wlodarczyk then entered the ring and watched her throw nearly surpass Lysenko again. While the throw ended up being a little shorter (78.46 meters), it was still enough to move Wlodarczyk to third on the all-time world list.
There were also lots of competition and lead changes for the other positions too. Zhang Wenxiu won bronze, but was only 1.42 meters ahead of sixth place finisher Yipsi Moreno. Five of the top six had season’s best. Three had personal bests. And two set national records. Even the battle to make the finals was close. Position seven through ten were separated by just 20 centimeters with the two Americans missing the finals by just inches.
3. Heidler’s Future in Question – World record holder Betty Heidler was having a great season until she fell apart at the World Championships. This left many people asking questions, but her actions since then have only generated more questions. Other than a mediocre performance at home in Berlin, she abruptly called her season to an end after the World Championships. After the season she had surgery on her left knee. She also uprooted from her longtime training base in Frankfurt to more back home to Berlin. Then the big shocker came after some strange comments in an interview last month, when she said “I will not start again at the World Championships.” She clarified that she does not intend to retire, just to forgo competing at the World Championships. That’s a strange comment and strategy in an era where the World Championships is one of the only chances for a hammer thrower to make money.
4. New American Record – The top American women were huddled around 72 meters for several years until Jessica Cosby finally broke through and set a new record last season. That opened the flood gates and Amanda Bingson shatter the record this season with a toss of 75.73 meters to dominate the US Championships. With two records in two years and a young crop of throwers, it looks like the breakthrough has just started. Bingson had a very strong season overall and placed 10th at the World Championships, just five inches away from the top eight.
5. Strong American Women – Entering last season the American record was 73.87 meters. This year five women were over 73 meters. Along with Bingson, Jeneva McCall threw 74.77 meters and was actually the top ranked American in my world rankings. Gwen Berry, who like McCall is just 24 years old, also threw nearly 74 meters. Veteran Amber Campbell also had strong season and set a new personal best to make the World Championship team. And Jessica Cosby was once again quite strong. It was unthinkable that an American would not make the national team with a throw of 72.39 meters at worlds, but that is just what happened to Cosby as she placed fourth.
Not only are the marks increasing, but the athletes are also moving up the world rankings. Based on the yearly performance list, five of the top 18 women in the world were Americans.
6. Winkler Improves the American High School Mark – While the American men have not yet seen , a sign of progress can been seen in the development of youth throwers across the country. Once a seldom contested event, the hammer throw results have taken off over the least few years. This year the national record was yet again bettered by New Yorker Rudy Winkler. Winkler’s best of 79.38 meters (260’05”) from July added five inches to former World Junior champion Conor McCullough’s mark from 2008. Winkler also became the third hammer thrower in the last eight years to be named the Track and Field News high school athlete of the year.
7. Gomez Puts South America on the Map – Argentinean Joaquín Gómez fouled out at the World Youth Championships earlier this summer, but he had redemption this month by setting a new world under-18 best with the 5-kilogram hammer. His throw of 85.38 meters added 12-centimeters to the old best by Ashraf Amgad Elseify set in 2011. This may not be the most impressive throw by a youth athlete ever (Elseify also threw 85.57-meters with the heavier 6-kilogram hammer as an under-18 athlete), but it is still the farthest 5-kilogram throw ever by a youth thrower.
South America has lagged behind other countries in the hammer, and Gómez’s results are a good sign that an 80-meter thrower might be on the continent’s horizon. Oceania and South America are the only two areas in the world that have not produced an 80 meter thrower at the senior level. And South America lags the furthest behind with an area record of just 76.42 meters. Oceania is at 79.29 meters.
8. Hungarian Girls Demolish Youth Record Books – Hungrian men have long been winning global medals, but the Szombathely training group run by Zsolt Nemeth now has the two most promising young women’s throwers in the world. Like Gómez, Réka Gyurátz and Helga Völgyi both surpassed the old world under-18 best. Gyurátz’s best of 76.04 meters with the 3-kilogram hammer added nearly three meters to the old mark. Völgyi also posted an impressive 74.38 meters and the easily won gold and silver at the World Youth Championships. Gyurátz then jumped up an age group and threw 65.01 meters with the 4-kilogram hammer to place second at the competitive European Junior Championships.
Combined the two throwers have 18 of the top 19 performances of all time in the under 18 category. But their records might not last for long. Their third teammate Zsófia Bácskay already hit 71.76 meters (fourth all-time) and has one more year in the age category.
9. Hammer Challenge Finally Expands – In previous years there were so few meets on the circuit that were grouped so closely together that part of the jackpot remained unpaid since many athletes could not compete in the minimum three competitions. This year the IAAF expanded the challenge to feature 11 men’s competitions and 10 women’s competitions. While this was a great change, it also fell short of fixing the IAAF Hammer Challenge. As I mentioned in an editorial this spring, this only fixed part of the problems. The overall prize money still is minuscule in comparison to the Diamond League and most of the “new” competitions already offered the hammer throw in previous seasons. But with one Diamond League competition officially becoming part of the challenge the change offers a distant hope that more will join in the future.
10. The UK Loses a Legend – On a more somber note the hammer throwing community lost a legend when Alan Bertram passed away in May. The British coach was a die hard advocate for the sport that left an impact wherever he was, like he did with the training groups he led in London and Scotland. When I visited Glasgow in October I heard many stories of his impact on developing the event there. Even in America I remember reading Bertram’s guide to the hammer throw when I was first trying to teach myself to throw. Like Harold Connolly in the US, Bertram was a unique character and the type of people we need more of in this sport. Athletics Weekly had a thoughtful obituary that is well worth the read.
I had it easy with my men’s rankings this year. Other than an upset finish at the World Championships, the rest of the season generally progressed as scripted and the rankings almost wrote themselves. But with the women it was another story. The top three were clearly ahead of the pack, but the rest of the spots were decided by the narrowest of margins and several other athletes also had strong cases to make the top ten. A win few more centimeters at one competition or another could have meant a few places in the rankings. But this was exactly how the season went. At the World Championships there was just 1.5 meters between third and sixth places. Seventh through tenth was even closer with only 20 centimeters separating the five throwers. It’s no wonder I take my time below dissecting each athlete’s season.
1. Anita Wlodarczyk (POL) – The former world record holder from Poland put together her strongest season her 2009. After capturing the world title and world record that year she struggled to regain her dominance. While she was not able to win her second world title in 2013, she had nine wins and placed no lower than second in 14 competitions. And against rival Tatyana Lysenko she won five of six competitions, losing only narrowly at the World Championships in a back and forth competition that produced the top two throws ever at a World Championship. Her winning mark bettered her Polish record (which was her previous world record too) and puts her third on the current all-time list. She was the overall IAAF Hammer Challenge winner as well as winner of the Francophone Games and big meets in Berlin, Rieti, Warsaw and Dubnica. She was the strongest from July on and had two competitions over 78 meters, another over 77 meters and all of her final seven meets were over 75.50 meters. She did have a handful of losses against Betty Heidler early in the year, but Heidler seemed to fall from the face of earth at the end of the season. Had Heidler turned up to more competitions, Wlodarcyzk would have evened the score against her with this late season dominance.
2. Tatyana Lysenko (RUS) – The Russian champion continued to solidify her modus operandi. Here’s how it works: she puts out good but not great results at the start of the season, losses to her competitors, and then throws a big season’s best at the championship to win gold. She didn’t fool me in year’s past but this year her early season performances even convinced me that she would not repeat as World Champion. But she did in style by overcoming Wlodarczyk in the fourth round to set a new personal best, World Championship record, Russian national record, and the second best throw of all-time. She had a strong season overall and placed second in the IAAF Hammer Challenge series, but other than the World Championships she had no wins against her major rivals. This is chiefly what kept her out of the top spot.
3. Betty Heidler (GER) – Just looking at the numbers, Heidler’s season puts her in contention for first place. If you ignore the World Championships and she won four of five competitions again Wlodarczyk and split with Lysenko. Heading into the World Championships she was undefeated in nine competitions. But it was that one meet that was the difference maker; she threw 68.83 meters and finished in just 18th place. Combined with the European Championships last year, this is her second major flop in two years. After the meet she basically called it a season and competed only once more, which further hurt her ranking.
4. Zhang Wenxiu (CHN) – There is not much to judge Wenxiu by this year. On the one hand she won bronze in Moscow with a season’s best of 75.58 meters. But on the other hand she competed just five times this year and only twice against international competition. At her other international meet, the Pre Classic, she placed eight. In national competition she did face off a lot against World Championships sixth-place finisher Wang Zheng and beat her in three of four meets.
5. Yipsi Moreno (CUB) – At 33 years old, Moreno is the oldest of her competitors and it looks like the three-time world champions is starting to show her age. Moreno placed just 6th at the Wprld Championships season’s best of 74.16. Other than 2009 (which she skipped while pregnant) it was her lowest seasons best and world championships finish since 2002 and 2001 respectively. But while she didn’t get a big throw, she was consistently on the top three or four on the circuit, which earned her an overall fourth place in the IAAF Hammer Challenge rankings.
6. Anna Bulgakova (RUS) – Despite placing third at the European Championships last year, Bulgakova did not get the chance to compete at the Olympics. She made up for it this year with her a fifth place finish in Moscow, her best finish at a global championship since she won World Junior silver in 2006. She had several other strong performances, but limited herself mostly to domestic competitions. In her one meet outside of Russia, she threw just 67 meters.
7. Wang Zheng (CHN) – Zheng has often lived in the shadow of her countrywoman Wenxiu, but this year she started to emerge as a force of her own. After beating Wenxiu leading up to Worlds, she nearly eclipsed her again and won a very close battle for fourth place with a personal best of 74.90 meters. She also won the Asian Championships, but as with the other Chinese and Russian athletes, did not compete often on the circuit against other international competition.
8. Jeneva McCall (USA) – No American women appeared on my ranking last, but this year McCall matches Jessica Cosby’s eight place ranking from 2011. The US runner-up had the best international record amongst the strongest crop of American throwers in history. Her biggest result was a gold medal win over Kondratyeva at the World University Games. She then lost to Kondratyeva by just 11 centimeters to place ninth at the World Championships. One meet after worlds she threw a personal best of 74.77 meters to earn second in Dubnica and then ended her season with a strong third place finish in Rieti. Overall she took fifth place in the IAAF Hammer Challenge.
9. Oksana Kondratyeva (RUS) – The highlight of Kondratyeka’s season was her throw of 77.13 meters in July to win the Znamenskiy Memorial meeting. The throw moved her to sixth on the all-time list. However the rest of the season wasn’t at that high of a level. She placed a solid seventh at worlds and won silver at the World University Games in Ukraine. But in domestic competition she had abysmal record against to Lysenko (zero wins to four losses) and Bulgakova (one win to five losses). And other than one competition in Ukraine, she also did not compete outside Russia and that hurts we ranking against non-Russian athletes.
10. Éva Orbán (HUN) – The Hungarian champion had been stuck around 70 meters for several years until her breakthrough this season. Already a solid big meet performer, the USC grad used the extra distance to finish eight at the World Championships. She also won the European Team Championships 1st League, was second at the Beijing Hammer Challenge, and second at Halle with a new national record of 73.44 meters.