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Meet Recap: Olten Nachmittagsmeeting

Another week and another unplanned competition added to my schedule. This time I went to Olten for their season opening all-comers meet yesterday. I’ve had good luck in Olten the last few years and it continued yesterday afternoon as I launched a big season’s best of 65.27 meters and then got to watch two of the girls I coach also throw personal bests.

I followed up a decent result in Basel last week with a week full of season training bests from the 10-kilogram to the 7.26-kilogram hammer. I knew I was ready to throw in another meet. My technique did not quite hold up in Basel, but after the competition I knew I was ready for 65 meters this month. In Olten I also had the technique and, not surprisingly, my result was again over 65 meters. Other than one throw I abandoned, all throws were solid, stabile, and legal. I gradually built up in each round until my best throw arrived on my last attempt. I’ve included a video of that throw below.
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Italy Training Camp: Wrap-Up

I returned from Tuscany on Saturday, but my training camp actually ended only yesterday since I still had a few extra vacation days remaining to focus on training back here in Zurich. Overall the training camp was a success. Above all I have come back to Zurich refreshed with renewed energy to start the core of the season. I have also made definite technical progress, which is more and more difficult as I approach my 30th birthday. As I explained at the start of the camp, my technical goal was to get get more radius after landing on the first turn. Rather than utilizing an early double support phase to patiently push the hammer, I try to force the hammer around and thereby reduce the radius of the implement. I focused on this point entirely for the last two weeks and it seems to have paid off. While the error is still there, my small improvements are now present in nearly every throw rather than just one or two throws each session. And I had a my best results with every implement so far in this training cycle. In the coming weeks I’ll post some more video showing the differences.
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Italy Training Camp: My Focus

Comparing the first turn of last week and this week.

Comparing the first turn of last week and this week.

I have been looking forward to an April training camp since the start of the year. After a long tax season at work and an even longer winter in Zurich, this was the focal point that kept me training hard for the past three months. Originally my plan was to join coach Bondarchuk’s group at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista and compete once again at Mt. SAC to watch Kibwe and Sultana win. But getting to Chula Vista isn’t as easy when you are coming from Europe. As my trip shrunk in length it just didn’t make much sense to travel all that way for a camp.

Thankfully another opportunity showed up. I decided to travel south once again to Tuscany last Thursday and join my club’s sprint group for a 10-day training camp. I am the only thrower making the trip from Zurich, but since I often train alone in Zurich I do not mind. Plus, I occasionally have a training partner here since Olympic silver medalist Nicola Vizzoni lives nearby. Read more

Ask Martin Vol. 21: Favorite Technique

Question: Which thrower’s technique do you like watching the most? – Gary

At the beginning of my career I watched video to learn. Now I watch video to help visualize my own throw. While throwers like Balazs Kiss, Igor Nikulin, or even Koji Murofushi have very good technique, their styles are so different than mine that they are lower down my list. Both then and now I tend to watch video that I hope to emulate and I list a few of my favorites below. You might notice that I do not mention any women below and this is for the same reason. Female throwers typically do not have, or need, the same amount of countering in their throw as men. Since I am trying to visualize myself in the throw it is easier to do that with a male thrower. Read more

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

Unsolicited Advice and YouTube

As a coach, I try not to advise other coach’s athletes unless they ask for my input. Not only do I not want to get into a territory war with another coach, but I also think you need to know about an athlete’s background in order to give them advice that will actually help. If I point out one error in the throw, 99% of the time the thrower already knows they are doing it wrong and my input will just hurt their confidence without helping their throw. To provide better input I need to know what they are working on, what progress they have made, and what are some of their strengths and weaknesses. What may look like a bad throw could in fact show a lot of progress on their points of focus. Knowing more about their background can also give you a guide as to what cues may or may not work in fixing the problems.

While these rules are not set in stone anywhere, I generally expect others to abide by them just as I do. For me, it is just common courtesy. If the point of giving advice is to help the athlete, then a coach should do whatever they can to make sure their advice is helpful before giving it. And, for the most part, the throwing community respects that at meets. Rarely does a stranger come up to me and offer unsolicited technical advice. While the coaches that do may be well intentioned, their advice often comes across as trying to boost their own ego rather than helping me.

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But something apparently transforms some people when they log on to the internet. Their moral compass is no longer aligned the same and they are no longer hesitant to make comments they wouldn’t dare make in person. Read more

Training Talk With Kevin McMahon (Part 2)

Last week I posted the first part in an interview with Kevin McMahon, a two-time Olympian in the hammer throw and one of the top throwers in the history of American hammer throwing. In Part 1, he discussed how he started out in the sport and the coaches that helped him along the way. In part 2, he goes on to discuss his approach to training and technique.

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Martin: When you started out, you were able to progress quite quickly and reached nearly 70 meters before you turned 20. That is a level that many throwers already plateau at. What do you think helped you to continue to improve to almost 80 meters, while others never get beyond that mark?
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Three Steps in Coaching Technique

When listening to coaching presentations at clinics, I am often frustrated by the coaches that simply point flaws in technique without giving a solution. They leave the audience thinking that finding the problem is the same as finding the solution. In my mind, technical analysis and coaching technique is not simply a matter of identifying problems, but a three-step process that applies not only to the hammer throw, but to all events and sports. The first step is analyzing positions. Next comes analyzing the movements that connect the positions. And finally a coach has to figure out a way to get an athlete to achieve the positions and movements they’re aiming for. While there is some overlap in these steps, the steps are mostly distinct, requiring a separate approach and thought process.
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Coaching Roundtable: Chris Cralle Video Analysis

This is the first post in the new Coaching Roundtable series, which will bring together top coaches from the around the world to give their different perspectives on the same topic. The first roundtable brings together three of the top hammer coaches for a video analysis session. In addition, feel free to also leave your comments below. Subjects for the coaching roundtable are chosen exclusively among members of this site.

The Subject

Chris Cralle
Chris Cralle seemed to come out of nowhere last year with a personal best of 74.36 meters to place second at the U.S. Olympic Trials. While he was off of most people’s radar before the meet, he still had a strong resume including NCAA All-American honors while attending Sam Houston State University and a gold medal at the 2010 NACAC Under-23 Championships. Since graduating in 2011, he has continued to live in Huntsville, Texas where he is self-coached, although he does seek occasional advice primarily from coaches Freddie Hannie and Shaun McGinley. Cralle started throwing hammer just before starting college at age 18, and just turned 24 days before the Olympic Trials.

The Coaches

Michael Deyhle is the German national coach, as well the coach at the Eintracht Frankfurt club where he guides women’s world record holder Betty Heidler.

Derek Evely served most recently as Director of the UK Athletics Loughborough National Performance Centre. In addition, he has guided several hammer throwers including Sophie Hitchon, who at age 21 set a national record to become the youngest Olympic finalist last summer. Evely is strongly influenced by Anatoliy Bondarchuk, who he recruited to and worked alongside with in Kamloops, Canada.

Vladimir Kevo is the former Yugoslavia national champion in the hammer throw who is best known for guiding Primož to Olympic and World Championships in 2008 and 2009. Since then, Kevo has continued to train a small group of throwers in Brežice, Slovenia including European Junior Champion and World Junior Championships runner-up Barbara Špiler.
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Watching Sedykh Coach Olympians

The first time I was introduced to the Soviet approach to the hammer was not through Bondarchuk, but through world record holder Yuri Sedykh. As a high school student I watched his instructional video and already began to incorporate some of his special-strength exercises into my training. At age 19, in the winter 2003, I had the first chance to meet him in person by attending a clinic in the Bay Area. It was an eye-opener. Read more