The making of a champion starts at a young age with the athlete’s family, youth coaches, and community. The champion’s mindset then grows from there. Kevin McMahon won two US titles in the hammer throw and competed in two Olympics and four World Championships. He joins this week’s podcast to share how he started out as a thrower, the San Jose throws community he came of age in, and the inspiration he took from that. In addition, we look a bit at what it takes to be a champion in the hammer throw, and more. Read more
Biomechanists can break down how the hammer is accelerated, but one thing they can’t do is determine what is going on in an athlete’s mind to perform the actions they see. What does the athlete think about? How do they try an initiate the movement? This is an area that intrigues me and I’ve been chatting with elite hammer throwers recently to find out their approach. There is no one right answer here, but hearing different viewpoints gives you more tools you can use as a coach. Read more
Looking back on this site, I can’t believe I have never covered the topic of the so called “work-life balance.” In interviews I am often asked how I balance everything I do, but I have never sat down to write about it. Part of the reason is that I am hardly alone. Just as I do, Nick also works, coaches, trains, contributes to this site, and devotes a lot of time to family. Unless you are top 10 in the world, this is the life of a modern thrower. Another reason I have not written about it is that there are many others that do it better than I do. One of those people is Kevin McMahon. McMahon was a two-time Olympian and top American thrower for more than a decade despite working a full-time job, coaching, and being married. We invited him on this week’s podcast to discuss his experiences in finding the right balance, priorities, as well as some of the advantages that we all have noticed can come from this balancing act. Read more
In part one and part two of my training talk with throwing great Ed Burke, we discussed his long journey to 1984 in which he retired after making two Olympic teams and then came back to throw a personal best at age 44 and qualify for his third Olympic team in 1984.
The last part of our training talk centers around that pivotal time. We start by talking about what the youth program he set up immediately after his second retirement that ended up producing hundreds of throwers and multiple Olympians. It started off as a simple idea and can serve as a template for helping growing the sport. Then we also talk about 1984 itself and what it was like to be selected and actual carry the American flag at the Olympic Opening Ceremonies.
Part 3: Youth Development and Carrying the American Flag
Martin: You had been away from the sport nearly 30 years before you came back as a masters athlete. Did you not throw the hammer at all during that time?
Ed: Oh no. Well, I shouldn’t say that. In 1985 I started the Explorer’s Post club with Mac Wilkins. I would demonstrate to the athletes and probably hold the world record for throwing the hammer in Rockport walking shoes.
If you create a list of the best and most influential hammer throwers in American history, Ed Burke is at the top along with Harold Connolly, John Flanagan, and other greats. As a thrower, coach, and visionary he has had a lasting and continuing impact on all of track and field.
Our three-part training talk will look all these parts of Burke’s career, including the moment he is most well know for: carrying the American flag for the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984:
But while that may have been a highlight of his career, part one of our talk focuses on how it all began 24 years earlier. By the time of the Los Angeles Olympics, Burke was 44 years old and the oldest member of the Olympic team. His first Olympic appearance came in 1964 where he placed seventh. By competing again 20 years later he became the first American to have an Olympic career spanning so long. During that time Track and Field News ranked him among the top four in the world and in 1967 he ranked second and produced the farthest throw in the world, a new American record that broke Harold Connolly’s longstanding mark.
While Burke retired after Los Angeles, he was far from finished. He founded and coached a successful youth training group in the 1980s and 1990s that produced Olympians Kevin McMahon and David Popejoy. And he started throwing again at age 65. Since then he has set many age-group world records in the past decade. However these are stories for later in our talk. To start with Burke recalls how he discovered the event and developed into a world class thrower.
Question: Which thrower’s technique do you like watching the most? – Gary
At the beginning of my career I watched video to learn. Now I watch video to help visualize my own throw. While throwers like Balazs Kiss, Igor Nikulin, or even Koji Murofushi have very good technique, their styles are so different than mine that they are lower down my list. Both then and now I tend to watch video that I hope to emulate and I list a few of my favorites below. You might notice that I do not mention any women below and this is for the same reason. Female throwers typically do not have, or need, the same amount of countering in their throw as men. Since I am trying to visualize myself in the throw it is easier to do that with a male thrower. Read more
Last week I posted the first part in an interview with Kevin McMahon, a two-time Olympian in the hammer throw and one of the top throwers in the history of American hammer throwing. In Part 1, he discussed how he started out in the sport and the coaches that helped him along the way. In part 2, he goes on to discuss his approach to training and technique.
Martin: When you started out, you were able to progress quite quickly and reached nearly 70 meters before you turned 20. That is a level that many throwers already plateau at. What do you think helped you to continue to improve to almost 80 meters, while others never get beyond that mark?
When people think of American hammer throwing in the late 1990s, silver medalist Lance Deal is often the first name that comes to mind. But right behind him was a thrower with arguably the best technique in American history: Kevin McMahon. When I started out in the hammer throw, Kevin was one of the throwers I looked up to the most. Not only was he still active and at the top of his game, but he was a pleasure to watch. The rhythm of his throw was the antithesis to the grip and rip style of some of his competitors like John McEwan. But Kevin’s throws weren’t just pretty, they also went far. His personal best 79.26 meters (260-feet) stills ranks fifth all-time in America. He was two-time Olympian (1996 and 2000), two-time US Champion (1997 and 2001), and a silver medalist at the 1999 Pan American Games. Since then his career has finished, but he has continued to stay connected to the sport through coaching at both the high school and collegiate level.
Kevin obviously understands technique, and listening to him talk about training always brings me a new insight into my throw. There is no doubt his eloquence comes in part from having some amazing mentors and coaches throughout his career, but it also is a testament to his approach to the event. In this first part of our interview, Kevin discusses how he got started in the event and what he learned from the likes of his former coaches Mac Wilkins, Ed Burke, Harold Connolly, and Dan Lange. Be sure to continue reading the next installment of the interview where Kevin discusses his training and approach to technique.
The first time I was introduced to the Soviet approach to the hammer was not through Bondarchuk, but through world record holder Yuri Sedykh. As a high school student I watched his instructional video and already began to incorporate some of his special-strength exercises into my training. At age 19, in the winter 2003, I had the first chance to meet him in person by attending a clinic in the Bay Area. It was an eye-opener. Read more