USA Discus Debacle Part II: The Home Phenomenon and Prevailing

I hope everyone is enjoying the new year and that you had a great holiday season. Last time I left off talking about how well discus throwers do near home. As an athlete who has competed around the world, I can really appreciate when athletes throw well quite far from home, especially right after a long trip/ time change. This is quite the rarity in our sport and more often than not the comfort of home or near home results in the biggest distances.

Looking at the all-time top marks lists you will see that the majority of athletes have there personal records in their home countries, many that do not fall within that category have them very near their home countries or training bases. The biggest exceptions to this on the top of the list are Imrich Bugar who holds his personal record in San Jose, California and Mac Wilkins who’s farthest throw came in Helsinki, Finland! Many of the all-time farthest throwers have never gotten near their Pb’s in overseas environments and those that have done so, usually set a training base there. A great example is Alex Tammert’s PB throw over 70m in Denton, TX which is not far up the road from his spring training base in Dallas. Even the mighty Alekna has a personal record in his home country, Lithuania.

For many years I have heard the chatter about USA athletes that can’t throw far in Europe and have massive bests in the USA. One issue with this is that looking at the schedule of world class track and field, I see that there are roughly 16 meetings on the Diamond League and 2 of them take place in the USA (1 discus per gender). This is despite the fact that the USA has the best Track and Field team in the world. Obviously there has been an attempt to take away our advantage of competing close to home and without lengthy travel. In events like the discus some of us have the choice to compete overseas or stay at home. Since Anthony Washington in 1999 we have not had a medal in discus, but prior to his accomplishments he traveled to Europe may times to compete against the rest of the best throwers in the world. This is necessary but was much more demanding on his part,though tough to replicate, it can be done.

I feel that USA men’s discus is not at the level that is needed yet for medals but we have to understand that in an event in which we are not currently among the top in the world, all of our best throwers are working diligently to overcome this issue. The best Diamond League meet I have ever done was 2010 at Eugene,l I was in great shape, I threw almost 67m and was 3rd behind the Malachowski and Kovago. I had about an 8 hour travel time (2hour time change)from Texas to Oregon and nearly prevailed at the comp. I beat many of the top throwers in the world that day including Kanter and Alekna, who on most days in Europe they would clobber me by 2-3m. You see on this day, it was them who had to take 3 flights to a comp 48 hours beforehand, be crunched between everyone on flights for 18 hours, eat crap food, and try to sleep while some guy shoves his elbow into your ribs. This can be the great equalizer of sorts and even though those guys where better than me, I got the best of most of them that day.

If I asked any of the top Euro throwers to fly from their home base to Dallas, Texas to compete against me 36 hours after landing, I’m sure that they would not RSVP for that comp. Especially when they find out that I grew up there and it’s just an 1 hour flight for me! You see the events like the men’s shot put where we are stacked with all-time greats, we frequently must go to Europe to battle and show that we are the best. In the shot put, we are so good that none of our athletes really need to go there to prove anything, buuuuuuuuuut Europe is where they make a living. My hats go off to our shot putters, who are the best in the world and keep showing that no matter what the situation they are always around and threatening. Some of you will note that non of our guys got medals in 2011. To that I say stop hating…hater. No other country gets 4 athletes into the a shot final or pretty much any other event.

This may sound like a great EXCUSE FOR OUR LACK OF MEDALS in the men’s discus but but it’s not. This is what I call my task analysis to develop a complete game plan.

I can list a few parts of my plan but some of them are secrets of course 😉

  1. Compete at home in the wind if there is no ample competition at the time. Yeah I said it, throw far when you can and train at home as much as possible. Far throws never hurt anyone. Ask the Cuban’s about La Habana, the Spaniards about Castellon, the Germans about Halle or the Swedes about Helsingborg? Nuff Said
  2. Compete as frequently as possible under any condition in the USA against any of the top 10 throwers in the world. During the USA domestic season, seek them out when/if they are here and try to beat them on our turf.
  3. Be extremely prepared to compete on their turf. Don’t train through any big meets in Europe. At our current state we can’t afford just to try and “peak”. This is where you learn to make finals. Doesn’t matter how many power cleans or squats you have done when you realize at the Major Championship, that you have never been the victor over most of the throwers you are versing in the final. Confidence is everything. Competing well creates confidence. Prior to Washington’s 1999 win, he was throwing very well in Europe and battling closely with Riedel and Schult prior to overcoming them in Spain.
  4. 4. Don’t relax and don’t be comfortable ever! I think that this is an American thing. I have studied the body language of the top throwers of all time. When I saw Lars Riedel in major meets, he always looked focused, anxious and ready to crap a brick. But he usually threw really far. I haven’t seen Kanter or Alekna singing cumbiyah with each other during comps. Throwing discus is athletic, graceful and balletic, but don’t confuse it with a yoga class.
  5. Can’t tell this one. It’s a secret.
  6. Also this one is just for me. Sorry.
  7. Utilize the major championships as a stage. This is one of the best opportunities to have a level field (besides some of our friends who disappear and reappear better in the last 3 weeks). Everyone gets acclimated and physically you can be at your best. This is the opportunity to break through. It is very hard and takes lots of competitive practice. Getting a great throw with 3 opportunities can be tough. I feel that this is they key to the whole system’s success and I feel that many USA throwers have the talent including myself to get over this hump but many will never really get a chance to. I will examine this issue in part III- Mid Range Domestic Pro.

I would like to say congratulations to a few people that I thought about while writing this…. My former athlete and training mate Julian Wruck for getting the Olympic A standard in the discus! And for Jill Camarena-Williams for jumping the same type of hump that we have in the men’s discus this summer and grabbing bronze at the world champs. Great job Jill, Dustin and Coach Carter!

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