For the fourth year in a row I ventured north for the memorable Fränksich-Crumbach Hammermeeting in small-town Germany. I’ve been explicit in stating that this is my favorite hammer meet around. Attendance looked a little higher at this year’s tenth edition of the meet, but the results were a little down and so was the excitement. I think everyone was expecting a world record and some mere international calibre results left them wanting; Betty Heidler defeated perhaps the best women’s field the meet has ever had, and Markus Esser convincingly won the men’s title. There is still just something unique about the meet. Nearly every one of the fans embraces the event in a way that makes the athletes feel like we have been adopted by a family. To take an example, I stepped into one of the local hotels to look for Sultana. I had never been there before, but as soon as I walked in the proprietor said: “You must be Mr. Bingisser.” He then explained to his wife that I had written a great article about Fränkisch-Crumbach on the internet.
This last weekend I was invited to present about training methods at the National Coach Development Programme Hammer Workshop in Loughborough, England. With the 2012 Olympics coming up in London, the country has been infused with cash and done a great job of using the resources wisely to develop coaching and facilities. Events like last weekend’s are commonplace, and Loughborough is putting the finishing touches on a beautiful covered throwing facility that will complement the indoor throwing facility they already have.
Over the past ten days I have taken a trip back in time. I returned to my former home and training partners. I returned to working with my coach in person. I returned to the routine of a life 100% focused on training. In other words, I returned to Kamloops.
After nearly a year away from coach Bondarchuk, I needed to touch base with him. We talk or exchange emails every week, but that isn’t the same as getting in person feedback from him. The feedback is something he also needs, since it is also difficult for him to determine my progress without observing me first hand.
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.
One year ago, the global hammer throw community lost its greatest advocate. For the past 60 years, nearly every great american hammer thrower knew and was influenced by Harold Connolly. Some, like Kevin McMahon, were coached by him. Others didn’t even agree with him, but couldn’t avoid his impact. While his stubbornness made many hostile, he forced even those people to look hard at their values before deciding they were correct.
I could immediately sense this when I met Harold. This led me to learn my most valuable lesson from him: every moment is a chance to teach and learn. Read more
Right after the Swiss Championships I hopped on a plane to America, where I am now preparing for my wedding on Sunday. I took a three week vacation from work for the wedding and honeymoon (one of the benefits of working in Europe) and had planned on taking most of that time off of training. But after talking with coach Bondarchuk on Sunday, I will now only take a 10-day break. I am in great shape and he doesn’t want me to lose that before starting my training back up again. That means I am trying to squeeze in a few training sessions before the wedding and then will relax on the honeymoon. Even though the break is shorter than planned, I think it is still my longest period of time off since 2007. A man of few words, he gave me a succinct reply after I presented him with a revised training schedule: “Okey. Heppe weding. M.B.”
Whenever I complain about the hammer throwing situation in America, I always need to remind myself that it could be worse. It could be like Switzerland. America has come quite a long ways in the last decade. Switzerland has been going in the other direction.
In the late nineties, Switzerland had more than five throwers over 65 meters. For comparison’s sake, Canada, a country with nearly five times as many people, had just three throwers over 65 meters last year.
But the fortunes have changed. Last season I was the only thrower over 65 meters in Switzerland and I learned to throw in America. Two more throwers were over fifty meters, but both are over 35 and had either already retired or were nearing retirement. The next best result was under 50 meters and an underwhelming 45.98m was good enough for the bronze medal at the Swiss Championships. With few coaches and competitions, participation is low. We need to do something to turn things around, and thankfully the Swiss federation agrees. They invited the top throwers, coaches, and youth to a hammer throw workshop last weeked at the Tenero national training center near Locarno. This was the first such event here in more than a decade.
I’ve been busy lately with my continued mission to evangelize the world about the hammer throw. If you are a frequent reader of this site, you already know my thoughts on the current state of the hammer throw. We’ve been excluded from the top meets and are shrinking away into oblivion. But perhaps worse is that the vast majority of track fans don’t even realize our absence. Many posts here have tried to inform the world of this, and now I’ve spread my efforts elsewhere.
I was looking back at my review of last season today and it is eerily similar to how I feel about this season. However, the two years were world’s apart. I not only threw three meters further this year, but I was also more consistent and had almost ten meets over my season’s best from last year. But, as always, I want more.
The Good – Like I said above, I threw better than last year. Much better. The highlight of the season was another win at the national championships by a convincing margin. I finished more than fourteen meters ahead of the next Swiss thrower (Björn, a German citizen, also threw great for second place), which by my research is the largest margin of victory at a Swiss Championship. Training has also gone very well. I improved my special strength and set lots of training bests from the 5-kilogram hammer all the way up to the 10-kilogram hammer. If I can get that strength into the throw, I know it will produce something over 70-meters. My technique also improved this year, although it is still not where I want it to be.