I remember the first time I saw video of Jüri Tamm throw the hammer. A big round man with a mustache and a fluffy head of hair lumbered into the ring. Compared to his compatriots Yuriy Sedykh and Sergey Litvinov, he seemed to move like a sloth through the circle. His feet flailed around as he completed three turns. It wasn’t the prettiest throw until the hammer left his hand and it flew. And kept flying. And kept flying. Tamm, who passed away on Thursday, set the world record and won two Olympic medals. His best mark is still among the top 10 all-time. Yet still, when I watch him throw, I can’t help but think: what did I just see?Read more
Typically distance runners have trained via two methods: either putting in the miles or running fast intervals. But, back in the 1930s, Swedish coach Gösta Holmér developed a new method called fartlek training that combined the two. The fartlek – Swedish for speed play – simply combined periods of fast running mixed with periods of slower running. It proved to be a quick success. Read more
In this final part of our training talk with Jüri Tamm we turn to another important topic: the health of our sport. As a former hammer thrower, Tamm has a deep love for the hammer throw. He is intimately involved in the politics of our sport and well positioned to analyze the precarious position we are in and provide some insight on how we can improve the position of the sport. Currently Tamm is the chief of staff for Sergey Bubka. In addition to being setting 35 world records as a pole vaulter, Bubka now serves as president of the Ukranian Olympic Committee, a member of the IOC Executive Board, and senior vice president of the IAAF. It is widely expected that he will soon announce his candidacy for the IAAF presidency. In working with Bubka, Tamm is well connected to the changes happening in athletics and the Olympic movement. Read more
We began our second training talk with two-time Olympic medalist Jüri Tamm. After discussing training methods and training as an older athlete, we now turn our focus towards hammer throwing and technique. Stay tuned for more later in the week and in the meantime you can read more in our previous interview from a few years ago.
I’ve had the chance to talk with many elite athletes and coaches for this blog, but hands down my favorite interview was with two-time Olympic medalist Jüri Tamm several years ago. We had a wide ranging discussion about the decline of Soviet dominance, talent identification, technique, training, and many other topics. But what made it so interesting is that I knew so little about him before we met. When he told me he would be in Switzerland again recently, I took a three hour train ride just to meet him for a coffee.
The wife, Crystal, has just returned from an Ido Portal Movement-X course. In it, the instructors spoke a lot about making pragmatic choices that work for you and your body. The idea being that there is not one specific way for an individual to do what’s required. I already had most of this post written, but decided to add to it because that’s an important point that I think needs to be taken more seriously within the throwing community.
A new Olympic cycle has begun and already the next round of young stars have emerged. In America, Mary Cain has broken nearly every single age-group middle distance and distance record in route to qualifying for the US World Championships team in the 1500m as just a youth athlete. In the UK, junior Jessica Judd blazed a sub-2 minute 800 meters to win a Diamond League race on Sunday. And in Japan, 17-year old Yoshihide Kiryu broke the world junior record over 100 meters. I get as excited about these athletes as the next fan, but I also get frustrated when I fear the word talent mentioned so often without the slightest pause to consider what it actually means.
Last year I spent some time looking at talent identification and I came away with two main conclusions: (1) talent in the hammer throw is a complex combination of factors that is hard to measure in a test; and (2) even in the most straightforward test, throwing the hammer, isn’t a great predictor since few of the top youth and junior athletes continue on to be the best adults. But while both of these discussions try to explain why it is so hard to define talent, even I did not offer a definition of what exactly talent is.
After two lengthy posts earlier this week, we have finally arrived at the final part of my training talk with two-time Olympic medalist Jüri Tamm. In the first parts, Tamm discussed his own training and thoughts on the sport. In this final part, Tamm focuses on more inspirational matters including how he thinks any male thrower can break 70 meters and how his father was able to find a way to succeed in the pole vault despite having just one hand. Also at the very end you will find a video of his 82.12-meter throw to win the 1985 World Cup in Australia.
Earlier this week I posted the first part of my interview with two-time Olympic medalist Jüri Tamm. After talking about why hammer throw results have fallen off in the former Soviet nations and around the world, he proceeded to talk more about technique, talent identification in the Soviet Union, and his own training with his coach Dr. Anatoliy Bondarchuk. Come back later in the week to read the final part of our interview.
The first two names that come to mind when you think about Soviet hammer throwing are Yuriy Sedykh, and Sergey Litvinov. Often overlooked on the podium is Jüri Tamm. Tamm, who also briefly held the world record, won the bronze medal at both the 1980 and 1988 Olympics and the silver at the 1987 World Championships. His personal best of 84.40 meters ranked third all-time during most of his career and still ranks in the top eight and is the Estonian national record nearly 30 years later. In summary, there is no reason he should be overlooked. If he threw in any other era he would have more gold medals and accolades than anyone in history.
Unlike Bondarchuk and Sedykh, who remain active as coaches, Tamm has drifted away from hammer throwing. Since retirement he has found success in business, politics, and sports administration. He served in the Estonian parliment for 12 years and also previously served as the vice president of the Estonian Olympic Committee. This year he began a new role as the chief of staff for world pole vault record holder Sergey Bubka. Bubka is the president of the Ukranian Olympic Committee, a vice president of the IAAF, and a member of the International Olympic Committee’s Executive Board. Tamm travelled with Bubka to a recent IOC meeting in Lausanne, where I had the chance to meet the legend in person and get him talking about the glory days for a few hours. The first part of the edited interview is below. Visit later in the week to read the rest.