Training Talk With Jean-Pierre Egger (Part 2)

Olympic champion Valerie Adams training with Jean-Pierre Egger.

On Friday I posted the first part of my interview with Jean-Pierre Egger, the coach of former shot put world champion Werner Günthör and current Olympic champion Valerie Adams. Click here to read part one. After talking about training methods, our discussion turned towards throwing and technique and the future of the shot put.

Training Technique – Range Throwing

Martin: Does Valerie normally throw without a reverse like she did today?

Jean-Pierre: She normally throws with a reverse at meets, so today was naturally not her competition technique. It is only a training technique that we use because she has a tendency to jump too early. Last year she came to Zürich and threw almost 20 meters and then came to Magglingen. We did five training sessions then like we are doing now: precise throws without a reverse and without measuring or anything else. Then in Croatia at the Continental Cup she threw 20.86m, the second best result of her career and in an important competition not just a small one.
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Training Talk With Jean-Pierre Egger (Part 1)

Top shot put coach Jean-Pierre Egger of Switzerland

Nearly every thrower knows who famed shot putter Werner Günthör is. But few people know the man behind the athlete: his coach Jean-Pierre Egger. A former Olympian himself, Jean-Pierre became the Swiss national throws coach and guided Günthör to three world titles and an Olympic bronze medal in 1988. After Günthör retired in the mid-1990s, Jean-Pierre began to focus his attention on other sports and found just as much success as the strength and conditioning coach for, among other, the America’s Cup champion Alinghi yachting team and the silver medal winning French national basketball team.

Jean-Pierre has now returned part-time to the sport and has been coaching Olympic shot put champion Valerie Adams since last winter. In June I had a chance to visit a training session at the Swiss Olympic Training Center in Magglingen. After the workout we sat down to discuss throwing and training. The interview was conducted in German and I later translated it to English.

Throwing in Switzerland

Martin Bingisser: My first question is about the current level of the throwing events in Switzerland. It’s low right now. Very low. What do we need to increase the level?

Jean- Pierre Egger: We need talent that doesn’t go to other sports like Handball, Volleyball, Schwingen (Swiss-style wrestling), and so on. We have definitely have the potential though.

Martin: Last year I was at the Eidgenössische Schwing- und Älplerfest (the historic Swiss wrestling championship) and everywhere I looked I saw potential shot putters.

Jean-Pierre: I do the strength and conditioning coach for one of the best, Mattias Sempbach. He just took second place in Zollikofen yesterday. He would be a good thrower. And may others too. The problem is that they have more fun wrestling. The shot put is just not as attractive. And more importantly they don’t see the way that they can really more forward in the event. And that problem isn’t just one for the shot put, it also affects other athletic disciplines. The top results are so far, so high, so fast that for the it is more discouraging than it is attractive.
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Spitzen Leichtathletik Luzern Recap

The brand new Luzern athletics stadium with Pilatus in the background.

Thanks to the generosity of meet director and friend Terry McHugh, the hammer throw was added to this year’s Spitzen Leichtathletik Luzern meet on Thursday. This meet is one of my favorites in Switzerland. While its budget is dwarfed in comparison to Switzerland’s two Diamond League meets, it still manages to bring in Olympic champions and world record holders every year. This edition was no exception as I headlined the meet along with Andreas Thorkildsen and Yelena Isinbayeva. Well maybe I was more of a footnote, but I still got to throw at another top meet.

The Setting
The reason I love the Luzern meet is because of the environment. I visited for the first time in 2003 and was struck by the beauty. The stadium sits at the base of Pilatus and the mountain is so close you feel like you can hit it on a good throw. While the stadium is small, it is always packed with fans excited to be close to the stars. In 2003 I happened to find a great shot put competition with John Godina, Resse Hoffa, and a young Christian Cantwell. Watching these stars from just feet away made quite an impression on me as a teenager, especially when Godina invited me to join them for dinner afterwards.

This was my first time competing in the meet and it has still maintained the same charm. The only blip was the weather. After four months of summer, spring has finally arrived in Switzerland.
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Confidence in Numbers

Tomorrow will be exactly one year since the last Swiss Championships. It will be exactly one year since I threw my best result of 2010: 66.03 meters. With a season’s best of 65.61 meters this year, my position right now is not that far off of last year.

But if you have been following this site, you know that I want more this year. Matching last year’s performance is not enough. With two meets left in the season, I feel like I’m ready for a breakthrough. I had some big fouls in June and threw nearly 66 meters at last week’s meet despite completely training through the competition. It feels there.

But I’m a numbers guy. Feelings don’t normally do it for me. Read more

The Art of the Stone Throwing

Stone throwing on top of Rigi

In addition to hammer throwing, I’m entering my second season as a mediocre stone thrower. On Sunday I competed in my first competition of the season, the Rigi Schwingen and Alpine Festival. The setting was breathtaking. A large crowd woke up early and rode the funicular train up to 5,000 feet. The reward was some good competition and a panoramic view of the alps.
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A Case Study in Ideal Meet Preparation

I have tried several different pre-meet training plans with Bondarchuk, but I think I finally found the right one this week:

  • T minus 4 Days – Train twice (lifting and throwing each session), work a few hours, and then spend six hours sitting on the train.
  • T minus 3 Days – Train twice (lifting and throwing each session)
  • T minus 2 Days – Train twice (lifting and throwing each session)
  • T minus 1 Day – Train twice (lifting and throwing each session), work seven hours, and get a few lingering aches and pains looked at by Mr. Fix-it.
  • Day of competition – Train in the morning at 6:30 am so that you are able to get to an 8:00 am meeting. After training, work six hours.

This was my preparation for Tuesday night’s competition in Olten. If you can’t sense my sarcasm, it was far from the ideal meet preparation. Read more

Swiss Club Championships Recap

I woke up at 5:30 on Saturday to travel to Geneva. Thanks to Runnerspace, I was able to start the day off on the right foot despite the hour as I watched Mo Farah run an exciting European Record during breakfast. Then I headed out to Geneva for the Swiss Club Championships. 18 hours later I returned to Zürich.

The Setting
The Swiss Club Championships are one of my favorite competitions of the year. Since my club’s hammer throwing group trains at a different location, I only get to know the fellow throwers and the athletes that are good enough to travel with the national team. The Swiss Club Championships is an opportunity for me to get to know everyone else. It also reminds me a lot of the old UW-WSU dual meets I competed at in college. Everyone chips starts to do multiple events so that the team can score as many points as possible. It is a great concept that all of the clubs here take very seriously.
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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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Basel Competition Recap

After a week-long training camp, I returned to Switzerland for a season-opening competition on Sunday in Basel. While in Italy, I wanted to take advantage of a week away from work and a week with a coach, so I trained without any of my normal breaks. That left me a bit exhausted by the time I arrived home to Zurich Saturday night after a nine hour car and train ride. But I still wanted to compete Sunday for two reasons: (1) I wanted to see if some of the technical gains I have made would hold up under the pressure of competition; and (2) the Swiss championships will be held in Basel this year and I wanted to get a feel for the facility. The cage took a few adjustments to get used to since it is constructed very narrowly. Even with the doors wide open, it is possible to hit the cage with your wire on a throw that lands in the middle of the sector. After a few attempts I was able to figure it out. I was also happy with my technique which was the best it has been in a meet for several years. Unfortunately, my legs were just drained of power and my result was a less-than-stellar 62.37 meters. But I won, and am quite satisfied with how the last week has gone.
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Profile in the Einsiedler Anzeiger

Since I was born in America, it is hard to truly call any place in Switzerland home. However, my Swiss passport tells me that my “place of origin” is a small town called Einsiedeln. That is where my grandfather was born and raised.

Caught off guard by Kate behind the Einsiedeln Abbey last summer.

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