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Looking back at 2018: women’s hammer throw world rankings

Last weekend we released our men’s world rankings. Today it’s time for our women’s rankings. For the sixth straight year, Anita Wlodarczyk led the way in the women’s hammer throw. But for the first time in a while, she showed some signs of weakness and many new names emerged on the world rankings. Check out the full rankings below. Read more

10 reasons to watch the hammer throw in 2018

Temperatures are rising and so is the anticipation as the international hammer throw season is about to get underway. Over the next few weeks the IAAF Hammer Challenge will kick off and big meets like Hallesche Werfertage in Germany will take place. As a fan of the hammer, there is lots I am looking forward to watching. There are some new stories, some old. Some good stories, some bad. But the common common theme is that 2018 will definitely be exciting. Below are 10 stories I’ll be tracking as the action gets underway. Read more

The Diamond League Decathlon

Last month I brought to light a proposal for European Athletics to transform the decathlon and heptathlon into a new event: the octathlon. In criticising the plan I noted that it failed because European Athletics doesn’t have a clear idea of what they are trying to fix about the multi-events in the first place. Unlike European Athletics, decathlete Tom FitzSimons has a clear idea of the issues facing the multi-events and as a guest on his podcast this week we chatted about some ways to help the sport. Read more

Separate But Not Equal

I am writing a piece for next week about how the Diamond League can improve presentation, but as I sat down to watch the last meet of the series tonight I once again got frustrated that, despite being a track and field event, the hammer throw has been excluded from the sport’s premier league. First and foremost this means we do not get a chance to showcase our extraordinary event to the world. But for that athletes it also means they lose out on a big payday. On Twitter during the meet Finnish hammer thrower Fredrik Fröberg laid it out in simple numbers: Read more

10 Reasons to Watch the Hammer in 2015

Kibwé beat me to the punch in January when he outlined his wishes for the hammer in 2015, but our event is so fun that there is always room for another’s take on it. The month of May is when the season really gets underway, so it’s time for me to count down my annual list of 10 reasons to watch the hammer throw this season. Please share what you are looking forward to in the comments section below. Read more

10 Reasons to Watch the Hammer in 2014

The month of May traditionally marks the start of the international season. The top North American throwers have already started to knock off the dust and the IAAF Hammer Challenge kicks off next weekend in Tokyo. Ready or not, the season is starting.

Some view this as a lost year as there is no World Championship or Olympics. For American athletes it could indeed be hard to find a challenge, but there is plenty to look forward to this year. As is my annual tradition now, here are ten of the things I am most looking forward to. Feel free to leave a comment below about what you are looking forward to this season as a fan of the sport at any level.
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2013 IAAF Hammer Challenge Comes to a Close

Fajdek (right) and Pars (left) won gold and silver in Moscow and are close at the top of the IAAF Hammer Challenge standings. However a quirk in the rules means that the final competition of the season might not even count for them.

Fajdek (right) and Pars (left) won gold and silver in Moscow and are close at the top of the IAAF Hammer Challenge standings. However a quirk in the rules means that the final competition of the season might not even count for them.

The IAAF Hammer Challenge will come to a close on Sunday with a stop at the Rieti Meeting in Italy. The women’s competition is all but decided as a late season surge of three straight competitions over 77 meters for Anita Wlodarczyk gives her an insurmountable 6.90-meter lead heading into Rieti. The men’s competition, on the other hand, couldn’t be much closer. The top two throwers are only separated by 6-centimeters. However a unique aspect of the IAAF Hammer Challenge means that the final competition might not count at all.
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Cheating and the IAAF Qualifying Standards

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At the end of June I wrote about the absurdity of the IAAF men’s hammer throw standards. Now that the qualification period has closed we can see the extent of the damage done. Last year in London 42 athletes competed. This year, if each country sends the largest possible team and there are no new injuries, an estimated 26 athletes will compete at the World Championships. Only four countries will have more than one athlete: Russia, Belarus, Hungary and Poland.

My first post talked about how unrealistic standards are in comparison to historical results and how these standards exclude potential finalists and medalists from the competition. In addition, the standards discriminate against the hammer because funding and sponsorship decisions are often based upon the IAAF’s standards. Both of these points are equally valid for all field events, it is just that the hammer has been hit particularly hard.

But there is also an elephant in the room when we start talking about standards: illegitimate marks. The standards are so high that many athletes throw qualifying marks at competitions with questionable validity or doping control procedures. This, in turn, helps the IAAF justify higher standards. This is a bold statement for me to make, especially since I have only anecdotal evidence to back it up, but while many other elite athletes allude to the problem on Facebook no one is willing to come out and say it. The reason I want to speak up is because if the Diamond League included the hammer throw I think this problem would nearly disappear.
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High Standards Are Lowering the Standards in Hammer Throwing

The men’s hammer competition at last week’s IAAF Hammer Challenge meet in Ostrava assembled the best field of the year so far and included the Olympic gold medalist, the Olympic silver medalist and eight of the top eleven throwers in the world so far this season. Yet despite the big names, only two throwers eclipsed the IAAF “A” qualifying standard for this summer’s World Championships. And only five even surpassed the “B” standard, the minimum standard for entry to the World Championships. It is not that the results were bad; quite to the contrary the results were quite strong and for just the second time this year two throwers broke 80 meters in the same meet, something that didn’t even happen at last year’s Olympics and only happened three times during the entire 2012 season. The culprit wasn’t the performances, it was the exorbitantly high new IAAF Qualifying standards.

The last qualifier for the finals at all major championships over the past few decades. The current A standard is 79 meters. Stats compiled by Ian Tempest.

The qualifying standards in nearly every field event were raised after the London Olympics, but no event was hit harder than the men’s hammer throw. The new A qualifying standard is 79.00 meters. The B standard is now 76.00 meters. To put that in perspective 74.69 meters was good enough to qualify for the finals in London and 78.71 meters earned a medal. Yes you read that correct: the A standard is higher than what was required for a medal at the Olympic Games. As a result of these high standards, it is not surprising that only five men have met the A standard this year, by far the lowest number amongst all track and field events. Even the B standard is much higher than the mark required to make the finals at the majority of major championships over the past 25 years, as shown in the graph to the right and discussed in a previous analysis. At the end of this post I have also compiled an analysis which shows how many individuals have met the A standard in each event and how high the A standard would need to be if just the top five athletes in each event had reached it.

The decision to raise the standards is having the odd effect of lowering the standard of competition in the hammer throw. It is doing this in two major ways: (1) by keeping potential medalists and finalists out of the World Championships; and (2) by inadvertently limiting the funding and sponsorship opportunities available to top throwers in every country.
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The Diamond League’s Make-Believe Infrastructure Problems

A few small divots shouldn't stop the hammer throw from being in the Diamond League, especially when the stadiums have hosted the hammer so many times before.

A few small divots shouldn’t stop the hammer throw from being in the Diamond League, especially when the stadiums have hosted the hammer so many times before.

Two weeks ago the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene proved once again that, despite the fears of meet directors, the hammer throw can be included in the Diamond League without any problems. The Prefontaine Classic has regularly hosted the hammer throw, and this year the event also became an official stop of the IAAF Hammer Challenge, making it the first Diamond League meet to join the IAAF Hammer Challenge circuit. Unlike other track and field events, which are included in at least half of the Diamond League meets and are eligible for the season ending jackpot, the hammer throw has been excluded from the sport’s premier circuit. While the prize money offered to hammer throwers at the Prefontaine Classic still falls behind the other events, just being included in a Diamond League meet is a sign of progress for an event that is often been denied a seat at the table.

But all this just begs the question why the Prefontaine Classic the only one of the 14 Diamond League Meets to hold the hammer throw. The same thought crossed my mind on Saturday as I threw the hammer at a competition in the Stade Olympique de la Pontaise in Lausanne. If we could throw hammer then, why can’t we throw in July when the Diamond League comes to Lausanne? The Diamond League has cited “infrastructure” as the problem and Weltklasse Zurich meet director Patrick Magyar elaborated on that last year to say that the Diamond League stadiums just cannot handle the hammer throw. The damage to the grass is supposedly too much, and the cages required are too big.

Unfortunately the Diamond League officials have jaded memories. It is not just Eugene and Lausanne that are capable of hosting the hammer; almost every Diamond League stadium has held the hammer throw in the past decade. Below I compiled a quick history of the hammer throw at each Diamond League meet and Diamond League stadium. Of the fourteen meets, twelve have a strong hammer throwing history. It is time to get past the excuses and look at the facts: the hammer throw could be successfully included in the Diamond League and such an exciting event would add a lot to each meet.
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