It’s been 12 years now since Olympic champion Harold Connolly passed away and every year since I’ve written a memorial about him about his contributions to the world. I’ve talked about his grit, his love, his principles, and much more. But as the stories get bigger and bigger sometimes we lose focus on the man himself.
For this year’s memorial I wanted to share something that gives you a taste of the flesh and blood that was Harold Connolly. Back in 1987 Connolly was commissioned by the IAAF to make an instructional video about the hammer throw. If you think few people know what the hammer throw looks like now, back in an era before YouTube most of the globe had no chance to see the event, let alone learn how to throw. This is what he put together:
Watching the video again today gives me goosebumps. You can read all you want about his passion for the hammer, but seeing him talk about it and explain it gives more life to the story. And watching him throw is a joy as well. Yes, the technique is horrible by today’s standards. But he has fun. And at 56 years old his right bicep still looked ready to do some damage.
My mind quickly drifted back to the first time I saw the video. In 2013 I visited Connolly in Virginia and we spent one night going through his VHS collection, including an epic ballet documentary, some classic throwing competitions, and this instructional video. Most of the technical points in the film are basic and still hold up. But he didn’t show me this video for that. He showed it to me to highlight the two kids in the film: his son Adam and his little Japanese friend with a backwards baseball cap. Less than 2 decades later that kid, Koji Murofushi, would become Olympic champion. (Side note: Koji’s father throws at the end using what would still hold up as a technical model today.)
It’s a trip down memory lane and the type of scene that makes you comment on what a small world it is. But this seems natural somehow in the hammer throw. In a sport that requires so much passion and grit to keep with it long enough to see some success, we all seem to cross paths at some point.