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While the Weltklasse Zürich Diamond League bills itself as the “Olympics in a day”, it is hardly a one-day event. For me, the action began on Tuesday as I coached some kids to throw medicine balls and toy javelins with Valerie Adams at the Weltklasse Zürich Kids Clinic.

On Wednesday I attended the “Big Shot” shot put competition with Kibwe. For the second year in a row, the shot put competition was held one day before the main meet and placed in the center of Zürich’s main train station. With over 350,000 people a day passing through there, it made for a packed and energetic venue. We produced a video for Flotrack (see below) showing a behind the scenes look at the venue, the competition, and the competitors. The competition was thrilling. Valerie Adams controlled the women’s competition until Nadzeya Ostapchuk took a brief lead. Adam responded for the win. The podium for the meet (and the final podium for the overall Diamond Race) were the same as in Daegu. The men’s competition was very close and the top five throwers were nearly within a foot of each other. Reese Hoffa led for much of the competition before a struggling Ryan Whiting found his technique in the final round. Then, on his last attempt, my old training partner Dylan Armstrong responded for the win. His first place also secures a victory in the Diamond Race for him. Young Swiss shot putter Gergori Ott also got to throw with the big boys and set a new national under 18 record of 20.00 meters with the 5-kilogram shot put.

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2011 World Championships Preview: Men’s Hammer Throw

IAAF World ChampionshipsWhile the men’s hammer throw likely won’t produce any headline-making distances at this year’s world championships, it should be one of the closest competitions in Daegu. The is no hiding that the level of the event has fallen with the stock market since 2007. Back in Osaka, the field was deeper than ever and it took more than 78 meters to place in the top ten. In Berlin, 79 meters somehow took silver and this year the A-standard of 78 meters is enough to win some of the IAAF Hammer Challenge meets (image the A-standard of 10.18 winning a Diamond League 100m event). There are now fewer A qualifiers in the hammer than any event at the championships.

The bright side is that the lower level has opened up the competition. Any of a dozen athletes could realistically stand atop the podium. A throw of just over 80 meters should win and, at the very least, will guarantee a medal. Of the 35 competitors, nearly half (16) have broken that barrier in their career. The sparse schedule for the IAAF Hammer Challenge means that many of the best were last tested more than six weeks ago in Madrid. Six weeks is a long time. It’s ample time to either fix mistakes or get rusty. World leader Aleksey Zagorniy has now withdrawn due to injury, leaving the twelve throwers I profile below as the top contenders. As you might notice, the field is so deep that I had to leave out an Olympic medalist.

If you are interested in a short overview of the other throwing and field events, Jesse Squire and I gave a quick rundown of each event for the House of Run podcast last week. 
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May Training Update

Back when I was throwing at the University of Washington my season was almost over by this point in the year. Rather than having thrown in just one meet, my season had only one or two meets left. Here in Switzerland, on the other hand, I still feel like my season has yet to begin and I’m getting a little impatient since all the men I used to train with in Kamloops threw new personal bests last weekend: Kibwe Johnson became the first American in a decade to break 80 meters and now ranks third in the world; Michael Letterlough improved his Cayman national record; and Ryan Jensen broke 60 meters for the first time. But, since our national championships are not until August, I keep reminding myself that there is no need to start as early as I did in North America.
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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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Ask Martin Vol. 10: The Winds and Entry

Question: My question is prefaced by two different wind and entry techniques. A few years ago at the NTCA, one coach spoke about keeping your shoulders facing forward in the winds and winding around your head and getting your hands down as the hammer comes to 0º, before entry into the first turn. Others at the conference felt that you should turn your shoulders to the right, catching the ball at 270º, still getting your hands down by 0º and pushing into the entry. -Bill
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Offseason Training Recap

My year typically can be broken down into three phases: the offseason, the preseason, and the competitive season. The offseason lasts from September until February and can hardly be thought of as time off. This is the time when I dedicate myself to training and put in the highest amount of volume during the year. The preseason begins in March and lasts until the end of May. During this time my training will remain the same, but I will begin to do a few competitions to test my form. Then, from June until August the big meets begin and I start to back off the training a little to try and reach new bests.
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The Paradoxical Nature of the Hammer Throw

When I wrote about my training last month, things were going quite well. Distances were at an all time best, but my technique was mediocre. This month has seen the reverse. My results have declined, but my technique is progressing. This reversal often happens in my training and is one of the many paradoxes in the hammer throw. You would think that my best results would occur when I had the best technique, but it doesn’t always work that way. This time the cause of the apparent paradox is the intense special-strength oriented training program I began in November. I would complain about the crazy amount of volume, but I think Kibwé‘s new program has me beat. Nevertheless, my energy level has plummeted and my results have slowly gone with it.
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Ask Martin Vol. 7: Technique

Question: I just read this interview with Dr. Bondarchuk. In it, he says the two reasons U.S. hammer throwing lags behind is because of the way we train (lack of special strength) and technique issues. You have talked a lot about how to train special strength, I would like to know what you think some of the major flaws in the U.S. style of technique is compared to what Dr. B teaches. -Jeff
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Ask Martin Vol. 5: How and Why to Throw Heavy Hammers

Question: I understand throwing 8- and 9-kilogram hammers, but why do you throw full length 10-kilogram hammers in training? -Robert

Many people are surprised when I tell them we throw the 10-kilogram hammer in training. Their jaw then starts to drop when I tell them we throw it on a full-length wire. For some, deviating too far from the competition weight hammer is a big no-no. But for us, it is just another tool to use in our arsenal. The more tools you have, the better chance that one of them will help you improve. Heavy hammers play an essential role in developing special strength, which is more useful and important than general strength for hammer throwers.
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Olympic Champion Primoz Kozmus

Ask Martin Vol. 4: Push the hammer

Question: What puzzles me is why no one ever gives a definitive statement about how to achieve hammer acceleration. If it is pushing with the right hand, driving with the right foot, dropping onto the right foot early, lowering the left shoulder on the entry, etc. Why not just say so plainly!! It seems to me that someone needs to step-up to the plate and say: this is how you make the hammer go faster, and this is how you best counter the forces that you produce. –Ray
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