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Karlstad Introduces Water Hazards to Hammer Throwing

As I wrote last year, the throwing events need to be imaginative and think outside of the box in order to gain in popularity. This is easier with the shot put since it can be hosted anywhere there is a small slab of concrete. The hammer throw can be more difficult since it requires a big cage and ample landing area. Simply put, while they can host the shot put inside Zürich’s main train station, that would never work with the hammer or discus throws.

World discus throw champion Robert Harting is always one to grab headlines and this April he announced that he would love to have a discus throw competition over the Spree river in Berlin. That never materialized, but the Swedes did one better yesterday. As a prelude to today’s Karlstad Grand Prix, the city hosted a hammer throw competition on the banks of the Klarälven river. And by banks, I mean the opposite banks. They installed a hammer throw ring on one side of the river and attempted to throw to the other side. Fans surrounded the cage and lined up on the bridge to watch.
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Trying to Make Sense of Freeman’s Suspension

2010 U.S. hammer champion Jake Freeman is currently serving a 1-year doping suspension.

Kibwé Johnson dominated the U.S. championships in the hammer throw yesterday, outdistancing America’s best hammer throwers by six meters. Behind him were two-time Olympian A.G. Kruger, former World Junior Champion Conor McCullough, and many other world-class throwers. But when the officials read through the throwing order at 4:20 in the afternoon, one big name was missing. Rather than getting reading to defend his title, former world championship competitor Jake Freeman was spending his time serving a one-year ban after testing positive for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive chemical found in marijuana.

This post is not a plea for Freeman’s innocence or even an attempt to get his ban overturned. There are rules, and Freeman broke them. I think Jake is a great guy, but I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the position he is in. It’s not just that he should have known better since THC is listed as a banned substance and everyone knows there is drug testing at the U.S. indoor nationals. It’s that Freeman DID know better since he has been in this situation before: He tested positive for the same substance at the same exact meet two years ago and served a 3-month ban after that offense. As a second offense, his ban was raised to one-year.

This post also isn’t advocating a legalization of marijuana or allowing the use of other banned substances.

Instead, this post is about why anti-doping policy even tests for marijuana in the first place. Read more

Tips for Bringing Fans to the Hammer with Ken Goe

Ken Goe, one of the nation's best track and field writers (photo courtesy of the Oregonian).

Back in February, Oregonian sportswriter Ken Goe wrote a persuasive article about why the USATF needs to switch its focus from the athletes to the fans. Ken has been writing about track and field for more than two decades and is one of the last print journalists in America that continues to cover the sport. In his piece he stated “If track and field ever is going to regain its foothold in the U.S. sports scene, somebody is going to have to care about the people who buy tickets and tune into televised meets.” I couldn’t agree more. It sounds backwards, but if you focus on the fans, the athletes will be better off. More fans means a more exciting competitive environment. And more fans will bring more sponsors and money for the athletes.
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10 Reasons to Watch the Hammer in 2011

The outdoor season is about to start in full swing and I’m excited. Last season had its ups and downs. One the one hand, the women’s hammer saw a new world record and every competition was a battle on both the men’s and women’s side. But on the other hand, the level of the men’s hammer was at historic lows. You’d have to look back to 1981 for the last time the world leading mark was so low and so few throwers broke 80 meters. Looking towards this summer, both men and women look to be ready for an even better season in 2011.

Olympic champion Primoz Kozmus will be making his comeback in 2011.

1 – The return of the champions. Primož Kozmus and Ivan Tikhon have won every Olympic or World Championship gold medal dating back to 2005. Kozmus was the Beijing Olympic champ and 2009 World Champion before announcing his retirement at the peak of his career. After one year away from the sport, he wanted back in the game and announced his return and plans to defend his Olympic gold. His goals for this season are modest, he’s aiming for 78 meters and a spot in the finals in Daegu, but it will be exciting to see if he can return to form under the guidance of his new coach. Tikhon has had a more interesting path back to the sport. After winning three world championships and throwing the second-best mark of all time, he was banned for a positive test at the Olympics and then stripped of his bronze medal. After a lengthy appeal with the Court of Arbitration in Sport, he was reawarded his medal and is now eligible to compete again. Both Tikhon and Kozmus have some of the best technique in the sport and will be a pleasure to watch again.
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IAAF Hammer Challenge Sinks to New Low

After the first year of the IAAF Hammer Challenge, reviews were bad. Athletes, coaches, and commentators have all spoken out about how the opportunities for hammer throwers were reduced last year under the new system. Previously, the hammer throw was included in many of the world’s top one day meetings. After those meeting joined the new Diamond League, they cut the hammer from the new program.* The IAAF then set up the IAAF Hammer Challenge to help accomodate the event by adding it to some smaller events, but offering it a reduced amount of prize money.

Hopefully the return of Olympic champion Primož Kozmus from retirement can help resuscitate the men's hammer throw.

I was hoping to hear today that the IAAF decided to remedy this problem at today’s IAAF council meeting. Instead, they reduced the number of meets included in next year’s IAAF Hammer Challenge. While the women will still have eight events, the men will be reduced from seven to five events over the course of the season. Fewer meets means it will be even harder for elite throwers to make a living. Along with the world championships, there will only be six hammer meets offering a decent paycheck for male hammer throwers (and by decent, I am being liberal with the term since a $2,000 first prize at a Hammer Challenge event will hardly pay the bills). In reality, only the top few throwers in the world would be able to be a “professional” and truly make a living at the event without the assistance of their national federations.

In announcing the change, the IAAF was pleased to note that “The Hammer throw Challenge was created in 2010 when it was found out that this discipline was the only one which was not included in the new Diamond League concept.” While the statement makes the IAAF sound altruistic, it is quite the contrary since the IAAF has significant influence with the Diamond League and was involved with the decision to exclude the hammer in the first place. Furthermore, they could have better fixed the situation by setting up a better alternative circuit that made it possible for hammer throwers to compete at more high level competitions and earn some more money in the process.

The one good thing about this announcement is that the women’s hammer throw will not be cut back. The event was exciting this year and that has shown through by the fact that many of the competitions that hosted only a men’s event last year will switch to the women’s hammer throw in 2011. With a new world record and great battles between Anita Wlodarcyk, Betty Heidler, and Tatyana Lysenko, there was plenty of excitement at nearly every meet. The men’s hammer throw lacked that star power, but it should return in 2011 since Primož Kozmus is planning on coming out of retirement under the guidance of a new coach. Hopefully he can help reverse the trend.

2010 IAAF Hammer Challenge
• 3 meetings organized both men and women: Rio – Ostrava – Rieti
• 4 meetings organized only a men’s event: Osaka – Hengelo – Madrid – Zagreb
• 5 meetings organized only a women’s event: Dakar – Daegu – Moscow – Athens – Berlin

Provisional 2011 IAAF Hammer Challenge:
• 3 meetings intend to organize both men and women: Rio – Ostrava – Rieti
• 2 meetings intend to organize only a men’s event: Osaka/Kawasaki – Zagreb
• 5 meetings intend to organize only a women’s event: Dakar – Daegu – Hengelo – Moscow – Madrid

*Note: While the hammer throw is not part of the Diamond League program, the Prefontaine Classic did go out of its way to add the women’s hammer throw as a non-Diamond League event at this year’s meet. It was the only Diamond League meet to do so and those lucky enough to attend saw a great competition and the furthest throw ever on American soil. The Oregon student newspaper even led it’s recap of the meet with the hammer throw.

The Fight Goes On: Responding to Critics of Youth Hammer

Those of you the followed my advice and wrote to USATF Youth Committee Chairman Lionel Leach have found out that he has already made up his mind. He vehemently does not want to support the rule change that would add the hammer throw to the 13- and 14-year-olds age group. Mr. Leach has sent out the following response to those that wrote him:

We as a division have made every attempt and good faith effort to have this event in our meets. Before I was chairman it was not in our program we allowed first in our 17-18 age group then 15-16 age group then both the junior olympics then our youth championship as an exhibition with a 2010 full event we did it as a full event in 2008 2 years early. Then to have it as an event at regional and association meets I have bent enough on this. finally it is only 2 states that has this event their are not enough qualified coaches in the country to teach the event I am not risky kids getting hurt.

While Mr. Leach has been kind enough to talk to those that have contacted him, myself included, his arguments are misguided and he has made many inaccurate statements. Along these lines, I would like to present some additional facts and arguments that not only reinforce our position, but also respond to Mr. Leach’s position.

Note: If you are already in favor of this rule change, click here to skip my arguments and see what the next steps are and how you can help.

Business 101: Reinvest in Success

Before I address Mr. Leach’s concerns, I’d like to point out that the main reason this rule change should go forward is because it will build on an already successful program. No matter how you measure success in track and field, it would be difficult to find a better poster child for it over the last decade than American youth hammer throwing. If success means medals, America won the 2010 world junior title and swept the top two spots at the 2008 World Junior Championships. Prior to that, the U.S. had been the world’s doormat in the event and hadn’t won a gold in any international championship at any level since 1956. If success means records, just look at how every national single junior, high school, class, and age-group record at the national level has been broken in the past five years. Every one. If success means participation, just look at how the number of competitors has increased from just a few throwers to over a thousand. If success is the number of elite athletes, that has also increased. Back in 2000, the national rankings listed just 5 high school boys over 200 feet and 19 over 175 feet. This year, there were 17 boys over 200 feet and 51 over 175 feet. The girls have improved even more rapidly, tripling the number of throwers over 140 feet from 12 to 36 kids over the last ten years. Finally, if success means having fun, let’s just say there is a reason so many kids are flocking to this event.

All this success has not been due to luck. It has been due effort. Performances were already improving in the late 1990s, but the event was still limited to a few pockets of athletes around the country. The hammer really took off when it was added as an event for 15 to 18 year olds at the Junior Olympics. Though the change took a lot of effort by the USATF Youth Committee and associations nationwide, it allowed competitions to immediately spring up in every corner of the country and athletes emerged with them. This rule change would expand those opportunities. The infrastructure is already in place, we just need to take it to the next level.

Responding to the Arguments Against

There are a variety of people that disagree with me for a number of reasons. Below I address each potential concern.

There are not enough coaches – It’s obvious that there are more distance coaches than hammer coaches in this country, but there are plenty of coaches to support youth hammer throwing. Presumably, there are enough coaches in the youth ranks already since this was not a big enough issue to stop the Committee from adding the hammer throw to the older age groups several years ago. If there are enough coaches for 15 years olds in this country, surely there are enough for 14 years olds too. In a quick census of hammer throw coaches over the past 48 hours, I already identified over 300 youth coaches covering nearly ever state in the union. Mr. Leach feels that Harold Connolly and the hammer community did not live up to their side of bargain by training more coaches after the Youth Committee added the hammer for older age groups. Contrary to his belief, Harold worked tirelessly to train more coaches. First, he published free online coaching resources and guides on his website. He toured the country giving clinics and hosted a special coaches clinic every summer at the Olympic Training Center. He also answered numerous inquiries every month from aspiring coaches looking for help. And Harold has not been the only one working. College coaches across the country have been conducting more clinics in recent years, as have I through the Evergreen Athletic Fund. Track Coach also published an article I wrote on teaching youth to throw the hammer in their latest edition. There are already many hammer coaches and we are working hard to expand their ranks.

There are not enough athletes – Some argue that the USATF should not add the event since only a few athletes participate in it. It is true that only a few states offer the event as an official high school event. However, thanks to the Junior Olympic program, athletes are now spread across the country. In 2010, athletes from more than 25 states were represented on Bob Gourley’s national rankings of the top 100 throwers and the top six boys came from six different states. We have worked to compile state records and nearly every state has had a thrower break its record over the past decade. In 2010 alone, 19 state records were bettered. The beauty of adding the hammer as an official youth event is that it will give athletes a chance to compete even where they are not allowed to do so at school. For example, one 8th grade boy and girl (14 years olds) made it onto this year’s national rankings even though could not find a sanctioned competition. In this era of budget concerns many schools are looking at limiting funding of athletics. Therefore, it will be even more important for non school initiatives to be supported, including club athletics and USATF youth participation.

There are not sufficient facilities – Again, this rule change would not increase the demand for facilities. Again, while it is easier to find a place to run than it is to throw the hammer, there are presumably enough facilities already since the event is allowed for older youth throwers. Adding it for a younger age group will not create an increased need for facilities.

Youth are too young for the event – This is not what the IAAF believes. The IAAF is in support of youth hammer throwing and has recognized the need to begin training young in order to produce top results. They sanction the hammer throw at the youth level and recommend the same lightweight implements for 13 and 14 year olds. Canada allows the hammer down to the 12 year old age group despite having perhaps fewer or more isolated coaches and hammer facilities. These young men and women are not toddlers, they are on the verge of entering high school. They are old enough to officially throw the javelin and compete in the pole vault. The hammer throw is not too much for them to handle. For example, a Hungarian who is just one year older this age group threw the 4-kilogram hammer over 280 feet this year.

The hammer throw is too dangerous – Whether it is danger to the participant or others that is being raised as an issue, neither is a valid basis for rejecting the proposal. Like all events, the hammer can pose risks, but statistics have shown that it isn’t dangerous. My experience has been that safety is the first topic discussed when coaching, conducting clinics and during competitions. Safety is a concern in all areas of daily life (commuting to work, at work, at school, at play, etc.), but that does not mean that all activities are dangerous to such an extent that they should be avoided. If danger or safety was the primary criteria, then javelin, discus, pole vault, football, etc. would all need to be reevaluated. Insurance data in Rhode Island (the state with the largest number of high school throwers) show that there have been no claims for injury from the event. Risks may even be lower with younger kids since they are not throwing the hammer as far and are using lighter implements. The event also does not pose a substantial risk of harm to the thrower since injury rates are much lower than the javelin and other track and field events.

What’s Next

As I said last week, I encourage you all to express your opinions to Youth Committee chairman Lionel Leach (917-913-5505, lionel@youthusatf.org). While his mind is made up, it will help our cause both now and in the future for him to know the number of youth coaches and throwers nationwide. Specifically, he feels that even the coaches we have are unattached and have just one or two athletes. This is not the case and hopefully you can provide him with examples to the contrary.

What will be even more effective is to utilize contacts you have at USATF. Obviously, if you know someone at the top, get them on our side and voicing their support to the Youth Committee. But more importantly, if you know someone involved with youth athletics at the association level, have them contact Mr. Leach too. Mr. Leach is very concerned about the impact the rule change will have on the local associations since they must implement the rules. Having those same people support us will provide us with tremendous support.

Finally, you can always attend the USATF Youth Committee Meeting and show your support. While opportunities to participate there may be limited, support never hurts.

Whether this rule change passes or not, we need to keep this issue front and center so that we can continue to provide more opportunities for American hammer throwers well into the future.

The Hammer Throw: A Political Cause You Can Believe In

Update: I’ve responded to critics and written more on this topic in a follow up post. Click here to read it.

Those of you in America probably woke up this morning and were welcomed by the joyous void created by the absence of non-stop election ads. Well, I hate to be the one to do this, but I’m here to lobby for one more cause before you stop thinking about politics for the year. The USATF Annual Meeting will start on December 4th in Virginia Beach. On the agenda is a rule change (Item 92) that would add the hammer throw to the youth age group for 13 and 14 year old throwers. I encourage you all to reach out to the chair of the USATF Youth Committee, Lionel Leach, in support of this amendment.

As with anything, starting young helps in the hammer throw

A young Koji Murofushi was featured in an IAAF instructional video at age 10 (click to view). By age 29, he was the Olympic champion.

Time and time again, the importance of starting young in the hammer throw has shown its benefits. Koji Murofushi, 2004 Olympic Champion, began throwing at age 10. While attending a clinic by Yuri Sedych in 2003, I saw his then nine-year-old daughter Alexia Sedych throwing the hammer. This summer she won the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore. Later that year, a 12-year-old Conor McCullough attended the USATF Junior Elite Camp at the USATF Olympic Training Center. Now he is the U.S. junior record holder and the most recent world junior champion. This, along with Walter Henning’s 2008 win, was only America’s second gold medal in a major international competition in more than a half century. The hammer throw is an event centered around rhythm and technique. Both take more than a decade to master and it is essential to start the process young.

The IAAF recognizes that starting young is important. They currently sanction the event and recommend using lightweight 4-kilogram (boys) and 3-kilogram (girls) hammers for the age group. These are also the weights proposed by this amendment. The International Olympic Committee also recognizes the event at youth level, most recently allowing 14 year olds to compete at the Youth Olympic Games. Countries across the world follow this lead, even our neighbors to the north. In the U.S., however, the USATF does not allow 13 or 14 year olds to compete.

The hammer throw is safe

While there are many opponents to this amendments, there is little sound reasoning behind the opposition. The arguments against the amendment normally begin with a mention of safety concerns. But all the data that exists shows the hammer throw is no more dangerous than any other track and field event. Former USATF President Bill Roe also feels “[w]e should investigate the medical issues surround introduction of the events to younger athletes.” He argues that the hammer may not be appropriate at the youth level for the same reason that youth runners may not compete at longer distances. But, runners are not banned from running, they just have to run the 3k instead of a 5k. Similarly, hammer throwers should not be banned, but should throw a lighter weight implement (as proposed). Personally, I think that the idea that hammer throwing can be unhealthy stems from the urban legend that lifting weights can stunt growth. There is no clinical evidence of this, and weightlifting’s own federation includes an under 13 age group for both boys and girls with weight classes down to 35kg (77 pound). If their own sport allows power events, what are we doing?

If weightlifting is not a risk, I do not see the hammer throw as a risk. Kids as young as 9 and 10 are allowed to do the shot put, which is more of a strength event than the hammer throw. The youth age group is even allowed throw the real javelin, which is likely more dangerous for both the athlete and spectator (younger age groups use the TurboJav and if younger age groups were to adopt the hammer, it might be right to adopt a similar training tool in our event). If we are worried about injuries, a kid is more likely to tear an ACL playing basketball or break a bone playing youth football than they are of having a serious injury in the hammer throw. With the rates of childhood obesity climbing, we should do whatever we can to encourage youth participation in sports. Even if America fails to win another Olympic medal in the event, we can help a lot of kids by letting them find a sport they love.

The sport is growing, but needs support to continue to grow

The other common objection is that the hammer throw needs to grow more before it should be added as a youth event. First of all, the sport has already grown rapidly in the past ten years, as documented on an earlier post. The sport is doing its part, and now the USATF needs to live up to its motto of “Sport for Everyone” and fulfill its role of establishing grassroots programs. How many more 13 year olds are going to pick up the hammer if there are no sanctioned events for them to compete in? As was the case in Field of Dreams: if you make it they will come. If you add the hammer throw as a youth event, more athletes will pick up the sport. At least that was the case for me. I first competed in the hammer throw merely because I saw it offered as an exhibition event at the 1999 Junior Olympic Regional Championships in Cheney, Washington. I had already qualified in the shot put for the competition, but had no chance of winning a medal there. As a high school freshman, a medal was the coolest thing in the world and when I saw the hammer throw on the entry list, I immediately signed up. I had never thought of trying the hammer before, but entered my first meet simply because it was a new event where I had a chance. I would not have begun the event if there were no competitions to introduce me to it. Offering more competition opportunities is the quickest way to grow the sport since other kids like me will see a potential new event.

Let your voice be heard

I am likely preaching to the choir with this post, but that is the point. It is those of you that love the hammer throw that can give this amendment the support it needs to pass. The hammer throw likely has the least political support at the USATF. Harold Connolly worked tirelessly in support of this issue during his final years and I am hoping that we can continue the effort in his absence in order to further his legacy. With your help, we can. If you agree, please contact Mr. Leach (lionel@youthusatf.org). Contact other members of the executive committee (contact information is available here). Let them know that you support the amendment. And, more importantly, let them know why you support the amendment and how the event has changed your life. Feel free to CC me on your emails or copy your responses below since I’d also love to hear your stories.

More Press for the Hammer Throw

I’ve been busy lately with my continued mission to evangelize the world about the hammer throw. If you are a frequent reader of this site, you already know my thoughts on the current state of the hammer throw. We’ve been excluded from the top meets and are shrinking away into oblivion. But perhaps worse is that the vast majority of track fans don’t even realize our absence. Many posts here have tried to inform the world of this, and now I’ve spread my efforts elsewhere.
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Reviewing the IAAF Hammer Challenge

When the IAAF announced the new IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge last November, I was skeptical. My mindset was already biased and bitter because the hammer throw was not included in the Diamond League, but hearing about the new Hammer Challenge only made me feel worse about the future of the event. I felt like someone was selling me dirt and calling it a diamond.

The initial announcement for the Diamond League six months earlier had the opposite effect. I was excited. The Golden League often held only one, if any, throwing events. The Diamond League, on the other hand, offered more opportunities for the throwers. In the initial press release, IAAF President Lamine Diack even said, “It is great for me to be able to announce that all events* of our sport will be touring around the world.” But, as I read on, I realized that ‘all’ did not mean all since an asterisk had been inserted into his quote. That’s the first time I’d ever seen an asterisk inserted into a quote from a press release before. As I scrolled down I was informed that that Diamond League was very distressed that they could not include the hammer throw in this new series due to ambiguous “infrastructure” reasons which have yet to be clarified in the last 18 months. However, the IAAF promised a new hammer throw challenge to help compensate the hammer throwers for being kicked out of the inner circle. Maybe, I thought, things would turn out okay. After details of the Hammer Challenge finally emerged in February, it became clear that we had been screwed.

What actually hurt the most was that the IAAF tried to spin it as a gift to our sport with a headline reading, “IAAF throws weight behind Hammer discipline with $202,000 purse.” That is indeed a large amount of money, but it isn’t any more than the hammer throwers were receiving under the old system. Rather than “throwing its weight” behind the hammer throw, the IAAF was pushing it to the periphery of the sport as the other throwing events got promoted to the big leagues.

To get into the details, the new series did not really create any new opportunities for hammer throwers. Most of the meets included in the “hammer challenge” had already hosted the hammer throw in previous years. And, to make matters worse, not only was the hammer throw relegated to the second tier meets, but it was by far the worst paid event at the second tier meets. For instance at the Zagreb meeting the winners of every international event earned $4,000 to $5,500, except the hammer throw which took home just $2,000. This was the case at every meet. While there was a year-end jackpot to supplement this, previous years allowed athletes to earn just as much money at the World Athletics Final.

Libor Charfreitag is not a fan of the this year's new IAAF Hammer Challenge. Photo from TopAthletics.org.

In addition, if you were a spectator at any of the hammer challenge meets, you would not have even noticed it existed. No effort was made to market the series and the events were contested before the international program and television coverage began at the meets. I spoke with Libor Charfreitag, the current European Champion, and he felt the event did not get the respect it deserved. “It is actually pretty hard to tell if it was any different from previous years. I would say that overall it was worse … When it comes to each individual meet, we were definitely WORSE OFF … The winner of hammer throw was always the most under-appreciated athlete at the meet! Is this fair? Not only hammer throw was excluded from the Diamond League with no real or persuasive reason, BUT we received no to very little compensation for being kicked out!” [Emphasis added.]

Of anyone, I would think Charfreitag might be happy with the current system. He placed third in the series, entitling him to a $14,000 bonus. Including his prize money from each meet, he earned $19,200 from the series. But, that is barely enough to pay the bills for the season considering the seven meets on the circuit represent virtually the only money making opportunities for a hammer thrower. To put this in perspective, the winner of each Diamond League meet in the discus (or any other event) took home $10,000 and top high jumpers are complaining that this isn’t enough for them to make a living. In addition, being in the Diamond League exposes the athletes to more fans, making them more attractive to sponsors.

But matters get worse. Charfreitag is at the top of the food chain. My training partner Sultana Frizell fared worse this year under the new Hammer Challenge. Despite placing 10th at last year’s world championships and breaking her own Canadian record this May, she was only invited to two of the seven Hammer Challenge competitions. Most of the meets featured the same 4 or 5 top athletes mixed in with some local talent. Anyone outside of that pool had to sit on the sidelines. To make matters worse, the meets were spread out over four continents and six months. The final standings were based on each athlete’s three best results and Sultana still placed 12th with just two meets. However, she wasn’t awarded the twelfth place prize since she did not have the requisite number of meets. This is one of the world’s best athletes, and she barely received any money from this series. In talking with her, she earned more last year under the old system and much of her prize money this year came from a non-Hammer Challenge meet: the Prefontaine Classic. And it all continues to trickle down. Without opportunities at the top meets, Sultana seeks out opportunities at lower paying meets, pushing athletes at my level out of the picture all together.

I asked Libor if he has any suggestions for improving the series and his reply was short and simple: “YES! One and only- make hammer throw part of the Diamond League!!!” He’s right. If the IAAF wanted to support the event, it would have tried to include it in the Diamond League with every other event. In the alternative, they could have created a hammer challenge that at least paid the athletes comparably and highlighted the event. Instead, they did neither and never even gave a reason for their decision.

Libor mentioned to me that if the meets are looking for publicity, records, and fans, the hammer throw is the perfect event. Only one women’s event had a new world record this year: the women’s hammer throw. But rather than being thrown in front of the world, it was thrown at a small meet in Bydgoszcz, Poland. The free publicity that comes with a world record was lost because of this. The women’s hammer is a young event that is ripe for attention, but isn’t even given the opportunity to shine. Hopefully the IAAF and the Diamond League will come to their senses before the hammer throw drifts off into further obscurity and another opportunity is lost for track and field.

How to Make the Diamond League Sparkle

As the first year of the Diamond League drew to a close last weekend, reviews and commentary are beginning to pop up online. The comments so far, however, have focused mostly on whether or not the series has been good for the athletes. I think that’s a fairly simple question to answer: it tends to be better for some of the minor events and worse for the top events. The shot putters I’ve talked to have loved the series. The event was rarely included in the Diamond League in the past decade, but this year they have been included in a high-profile meets getting the athletes both more exposure and more money. Other events have seen a decline in competitions and earnings. Because more events have been included, appearance fees have become rare in order to pay for the extra events (except for the select few Diamond League Ambassadors). A Twitter exchange between sprint star turned TV announcer Ato Boldon, high jumper Jamie Nieto, and sprint Lisa Barber concluded with Nieto saying “The Diamond League is making it real hard to make a living. Something has got to change.” The split program concept, where meets alternate hosting certain events, also means less meets for 100m runners and stars from events that used to be included in every meet. Sprinter Carmelita Jeter told Spikes Magazine that “This year I had about 40 to 50% less races, because of the split programme concept.” (By my count, she’s only done 13 meets outdoors this year versus 23 last year). This also hurts mid-level athletes, since some of the top athletes are now entering mid-level meets to fill the gaps in their schedule, which is leaving the mid-level athletes with fewer chances to compete.

The fans came out to watch the Diamond League, but was the new series a success? Photo by lejoe on Flickr.

So, to summarize, some athletes win and some lose. And that doesn’t even mention the hammer throw, which was excluded from the series all together. Of greater interest to me, however, is whether the Diamond League met its goal of expanding the brand of athletics. Meeting that goal will help the athletes, coaches, meet directors, and everyone involved in the sport.
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