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HMMR Podcast Episode 143: More questions, more answers

Our mailbag is full again and on this week’s episode we take time to answer listener questions on a variety of topics. Tune in to hear our advice to our younger selves, thoughts on sequencing training, coaches education, training the weight throw, the placebo effect, and more. Read more

HMMR Podcast Episode 105: Bison Strong (with Justin St. Clair)

If you are looking for the best throws coach in America, your journey might take you to Fargo, North Dakota. Justin St. Claire has turned North Dakota State University from a remote team into one of the best training groups in the country. On this week’s episode we sit down with St. Clair to discuss the secrets behind his success including his approach to team culture, recruiting, training, and technique. Read more

New Lessons in the Weight Throw

First lets back up. Kamloops has an annual indoor meet called the Van Wryswick Invitational. This year it was on Valentine’s Day weekend and the weight happened to be contested just as we were finishing our second session of the day. Bondarchuk thought it’d be fun if we competed. I threw a result that led me to believe I could make some money at USA Indoors. So I went to Boston! Read more

Weight Throw Comes to Europe

I opened my email on January 15th to a pleasant surprise from EME News. After discussing results around the world and entrants for upcoming competitions, the daily newsletter included this small tidbit about a meet in Poland: “In weight throw Polish stars Pawel Fajdek and Anita Wlodarczyk.” The weight throw was coming to Europe! To others this might be minor news, but for me it was a big deal. The weight throw is rarely contested outside America and here we have a competition lined up to include the current men’s world champion and top ranked woman in the world at the premier Pedro’s Cup competition Bydgoszcz.

After the announcement in November that Portland won the bid for the 2016 World Indoor Championships, I wrote an editorial suggesting that the weight throw should be held as an exhibition event there.

Would [weight throw record holder Lance Deal] have beaten Yuri Sedykh in the weight throw? Throwers debate whether who would win a matchup of historic hammer throwers with the same intensity that track fans argue who would win between Bolt and Mo Farah over 600 meters.

World Champion Pawel Fajdek is picking up some heavier weights this winter.

World Champion Pawel Fajdek is picking up some heavier weights this winter.

Just two months later and my prayers were answered. Could this be the start of a movement? Unfortunately the results were not spectacular. In four attempts, Fajdek had just one good throw of 23.22 meters. Wojciech Nowicki, who holds a personal best of over 75 meters in the hammer, was second with 22.72 meters. Sydney Olympic champion Szymon Ziolkowski was third with 21.10 meters. Fajdek’s throw is the third best mark in the world this year, but it is hardly historical. To put that in perspective unofficial world record is 25.86 meters by Lance Deal, who has a nearly identical best in the hammer throw. Former World Championships medalist Libor Charfreitag, who studied at Southern Methodist University, holds the unofficial European record at 25.68 meters. In the women’s competition Anita Wlodarczyk threw 20.09 meters to win. More than twenty Americans have thrown further than that this season, led by Gwen Berry’s toss of 24.39 meters last week.

Weight throw technique may look the same as hammer throw technique, but the event has a different feel and rhythm that take a long time to acquire. Therefore there I’m was not surprised that Fajdek fell far short of the world record. However he did improve the Polish indoor weight record of 20.41 meters set by Jaroslaw Zakrzewski while he was studying at the University of Akron in 2007. The old record was one centimeter less than the Swiss record set by yours truly 🙂

But while the results were not great, I still think the event was a success. The winter is a dead time for the hammer throw. Currently hammer throwers get no publicity and no chance to make money from mid-September to May. The weight throw can help our event crawl out from under the rug the IAAF has swept it under. Recently the big name athletes in track and field often skip the indoor season. This is an opportunity for us to grab the spotlight and stars like Fajdek and Wlodarczyk are a great place to start. In Poland they are huge; last year they were voted third and eight respectively among athletes in all sports for the Polish Sports Persons of the Year poll. Indeed reports after the meet highlighted their national records as well as other field eventers like Renaud Lavillenie and Ryan Whiting. Giving hammer throwers a chance to compete during the indoor season gives our sport a chance of getting more headlines.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not a fan of the weight throw. Training for it can take away from hammer throw performance. But if it can be used to help throwers make a better living and bring more fans and athletes to this great event, then I’m all for it. And I’m still holding out hope that it might make an appearance at the 2016 World Indoor Championships.

Weight throw to #Portland2016?

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Pioneer Square in Downtown Portland, a perfect place for a competition.

This is my first post as part of Martin’s new HMMR media venture! I’m happy to be part of it and hope you all enjoy the benefits of his vision for a one stop shop for training.

Should meet organizers for the world indoor championships add the weight to the program? I think I agree with Martin that it is a good idea. Maybe even a great idea. After the success of the hammer Olympic Trials at the Nike campus, this too is an opportunity to seize in the interest of promoting the sport. I can’t say that I would compete, but the show should go on regardless.
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Bring Back the Weight

In a major coup for American track and field, a group led by Vin Lananna won a last minute bid to host the 2016 IAAF world Indoor Championships in Portland. This will be only the second time the US has hosted a world championship, the last time being the 1987 World Indoor Championships in Indianapolis. Nearby Eugene will also host the IAAF World Junior Championships next summer. Both American indoor track meets and the hammer throw have been moved to the sport’s fringes over the past few decades. But the World Indoor Championships in Portland presents a great opportunity to add excitement to the meet and help throwers by introducing a new event to the world scene: the weight throw.

Indoor track and field is a dying sport in America. Some of the best meets in the country used to form the indoor circuit. But the number if meets have dwindled, and even the historic Millrose Games has abandoned the Madison Square Garden for the much smaller Armory. Now most top professionals skip the indoor season, which causes the remaining meets to move even further to the fringes of the average person’s attention.

There are some ideas to give some spark to the sport. The indoor 400-meter hurdles has been gaining popularity due to the added drama and lane changes with banked curves. But adding the weight throw to the meet’s program gives a fresh new event and puts Portland’s unique stamp on the championship. The event is raw: it has athletes hurl a hammer-like object that, at 35-pounds, is more than twice the weight and only 16-inches long. An even heavier version of the weight was an Olympic discipline in the early 20th century, so it is more than ripe for a comeback and no place is better for it than on the soil of the event’s adopted country.

Matt McGrath shows the raw nature of the weight throw. He held the world record with the 56-pound version. In the hammer he became the oldest American track and field medalist at age 48 in 1924, a record which still stands.

Matt McGrath shows the raw nature of the weight throw. He was a 7-time US champion with the 56-pound version. In the hammer he became the oldest American track and field medalist at age 48 in 1924, a record which still stands. In a training guide about the weight throw he once wrote: “Weak men, and especially those with defective kidneys, should never bother with the big weight.”

The weight throw has been an American sport since the modern Olympic era began and the whole time throwers across the country have wondered if we are naturally great at the sport, or simply the best because we are the only ones left throwing it. At one time we were clearly the best against the world as we won won 4 of the 6 Olympic medals awarded in the event. Now that the rest of the world retired from the event hammer throw Olympic medalist Lance Deal holds the world record, but he only ranks 24th all-time in the hammer and most of those in front of him never even touched the weight. The technique is basically the same, but the different weight and rhythm can make a big difference. Would he have beaten Yuri Sedykh in the weight throw? Throwers debate whether who would win a matchup of historic hammer throwers with the same intensity that track fans argue who would win between Bolt and Mo Farah over 600 meters.

It’s true that I once wrote an article detailing how the weight throw hurts our sport due to its negative training effect. But an event like this I can support. For once the event could bring some benefits to our sport in the form of publicity. Portland was also the host of the successful Hammer Time event in 2012, where 3,000 fans showed up to watch the hammer throw Olympic Trials at the Nike headquarters. That’s 3,000 fans for just one event. The turnout for the last world indoor championships was only double that. If the weight throw can help our sport, more power to it.

It is likely too late to get the bureaucracy to add the weight as an official event for 2016. But nothing is stopping it from being an exhibition or promotional event. It could even be put in the city center at Waterfront Park. Or a block from Niketown at. Pioneer Square. Or even a parking lot in the trendy Pearl district. All optioned would help promote the event in the days leading up to the world championships similar to how Weltklasse Zurich has used the shot put competition as a teaser for the main event and the Karlstad Grand Prix’s use of the river hammer throw event. With the lack of prize money in most hammer throw events, a small purse could entice the top names to try out the new event in an exhibition. We could finally end the debates, get a niche event some great publicity, and showcase some American talent. Kibwé Johnson ranks as the world’s 4th best weight thrower of all-time before giving it up to focus on the hammer. With an opportunity like this perhaps he’d even make comeback too.

Ask Martin Vol. 12: Is the NCAA System Good for Hammer Development?

Question: Today I overheard someone say… “If an international hammer thrower is serious about being good, they will stay away from the NCAA.” Ouch. As a college coach I tend to be offended. But as hard as it is to hear that, are they right? I think the NCAA CAN be a great place for development, even for elite hammer throwers. It has it’s downsides, but it doesn’t have to be all bad. –Coach Lynden
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The Real Winter Throwing Championships

America just had their national championships last weekend and hammer throwers Amber Campbell and Jake Freeman both turned in impressive performances to win the weight throw competition. The NCAA Championships are coming up next weekend with Walter Henning as the men’s favorite and a close competition in store for the women. However, America is the only major country in the world that throws the weight. What do the rest of the world’s hammer throwers do during the winter? They throw the hammer.

It’s a simple concept, but it works. While the indoor season has been nearing its peak, many of the world’s best hammer throwers are already outside testing their form. Sergej Litvinov Jr. of Russia has already set a personal best of 79.76m and fellow countryman Aleksey Zagorniy topped 79.99m in February (with a foul of 82.80m). Down in South Africa, Kathrin Klaas upset fellow German Betty Heidler with a personal best of 75.30m. Nearly every European country has hosted winter throwing championships over the past few weeks and I’ll be competing at the European Winter Throwing Championships near the end of the month. The pre-season is in full swing.
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