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How Sensible Standards Kept Me in the Sport for Life

When I read last week that the IAAF announced the Olympic qualifying standards, including an unbelievable qualifying standard of 83 metres in the javelin, my first thought was:

Please please can somebody stop these people from killing our sport!

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When Do Javelin Throwers Hit Their Peak?

Last year I looked at when hammer throwers reach their peak and last week I looked at shot putters. FiveThirtyEight even looked at this aspect of tennis. I decided to continue the project by looking at javelin throwers. I often train together with the Swiss national javelin coach Terry McHugh. McHugh sits just outside of the top 100, but when I complain about getting old he is the first to tell me otherwise. He knows from experience since he threw his personal best just days shy of his 37th birthday. On the other hand I know a few javelin throwers who careers have been ended quite young due to injuries. With this in mind I figured it would be an interesting event to look at.

The javelin throw offers a unique perspective compared to the other throwing events. Doping era marks prevail in most women’s throwing events and some of the men’s events and skew any historical analysis. The javelin, however, has had the advantage of starting over. In 1986 a new men’s javelin was introduced thereby resetting the records books. In 1999 the a women’s javelin was also introduced. As a result, some of the issues with questionable marks have been overcome and this also allows me to look at both genders for the first time. Here are three points I took away from the analysis.
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Finding the Right Rhythm

Rhythm and the hammer throw are inseparable. A good throw needs it and bad throws lack it. As a coach I often have my throwers focus on the the rhythm of the throw as much as any other aspect. But as a thrower training alone, rhythm is something that is difficult for me to focus on in my own throw. Perhaps it is just me, but rhythm seems much easier to watch or hear than to feel. The blur of the throw prevents me from getting much feedback about the rhythm. I can feel when a throw is smooth or easy, but I can tell you little about the rhythm. Harold Connolly told me that at least one of his athletes must have felt the same way so he altered his hammer to whistle as he threw, with the pitch varying as speed increased.

Watching the acceleration patterns of Yuri Sedykh gives you a good idea of his rhythm.

Watching the acceleration patterns of Yuri Sedykh gives you a good idea of his rhythm.

Thankfully I can sometimes get others to come and watch me throw. Yesterday Terry McHugh was once again able to watch me practice and his sole focus was on rhythm. Terry has little experience with the hammer, but he is a talented javelin coach and has a good eye. As with focusing, rhythm is universal and something Terry can help me with as much as any hammer coach can. Read more

Previewing the Rest of the Trials: Part 2

So far the trials have been non-stop action as far as the throwers are concerned. Over the weekend the men’s shot putters, women’s discus throwers, and javelin guys continued the momentum started in the hammer throw. Reese Hoffa threw a world leading mark to win the shot put. While the three favorites all qualified for the team, it was not without a little pressure when Joe Kovacs’ big personal best briefly overtook Christian Cantwell. Stephanie Brown-Trafton and Aretha Thurmond led the women’s discus, while Sam Humphreys threw a personal best to take the men’s javelin over a last throw breakthrough by young talent Sam Crouser. While Humpreys’ mark did not qualify him for the Olympic team (it landed just 14 centimeters short of the qualifying standard), he still seized the day. Even the meet’s biggest highlight thus far, Ashton Eaton’s world record in the decathlon, has the throwing events to thank. The record was only possible due to the progress Eaton has made in throwing over the past few seasons.

With all this excitement, it is hard to believe that the trials are only half-finished. Action starts again on Thursday and this weekend will feature three more finals in the throwing events. Take a look below to get a taste of what’s to come.
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Previewing the Rest of the Trials: Part 1

An epic hammer throw competition started off the 2012 US Olympic Trials off on the right foot, but we still have more than a week of action ahead of us including the shot put, discus, and javelin throws. As the hammer throw competition showed, there will be drama even in events where the Olympic team is all but set already. Overall, the throwing events feature a mixture of known stars in established events and young guns trying to resurrect dormant events. Throwers rarely get a chance at the spotlight, so expect a week of surprises as they fight for a little glory. Below is a quick preview of the events that will have finals in the coming days. Check back next week for previews of the remaining events.
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Training Talk with Derek Evely (Part 3)

Over the past week, I’ve posted the first two parts of my interview with Derek Evely, the director of the Loughborough (UK) University High Performance Centre. Both of those posts focused on how to apply Bondarchuk’s theories to the throwing events. But while Bondarchuk’s has focused on coaching the throwing events, his theories and research extend to all of track and field. In addition to coaching the throwing events, Derek also has had international success coaching sprinters. The final part of our interview focuses on how Bondarchuk’s theories apply to other events like the sprints and javelin.

He had the opportunity to learn from Bondarchuk first hand when they worked together in Kamloops, and has been fine tuning his approach ever since. You can learn more about those through this link, or by reading Part I. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments below.


Part 1: Turning Theories Into Practice (17 May 2011)

Part 2: More About Hammer Throw Training (27 May 2011)

Part 3: Applying Bondarchuk’s Methods to Other Events

The sprinting events

Martin: When you were coaching the sprints, were you still following Bondarchuk’s methods?

Derek coached a young Shane Niemi to the Canadian Junior Record

Derek: Well, to begin with, the way Kevin Tyler and I were already setting up our sprint periodization and sprint methodology is very similar to how a sprint program would work under Bondarchuk’s methodology anyways. I just sort of formalized it in terms of looking at the athlete’s reaction and particularly the number of sessions it would take for an athlete to reach peak form. That is one of the keys elements of his whole methodology: that you understand that what amount specific training or more specifically exposures to specific training it takes for an athlete to reach peak condition. We found that with a lot of our sprinters they were coming into form after about 36-45 sessions with a mixture of various types of speed training. And that is what we were doing already.
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