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2014 US Championships Women’s Throws Guide

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PrintIt’s less than a week until the US Championships begin in Sacramento. With no world championship to qualify for this year, some big names might be missing from other events. But for throwers it is business as usual. All of the top American throwers will be there. Even without a spot on Team USA up for grabs, they will be fighting for bragging rights, bonuses, and personal bests.

USATF will be streaming the meet online for free. You can watch it live online here.

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10 Reasons to Watch the Hammer in 2014

The month of May traditionally marks the start of the international season. The top North American throwers have already started to knock off the dust and the IAAF Hammer Challenge kicks off next weekend in Tokyo. Ready or not, the season is starting.

Some view this as a lost year as there is no World Championship or Olympics. For American athletes it could indeed be hard to find a challenge, but there is plenty to look forward to this year. As is my annual tradition now, here are ten of the things I am most looking forward to. Feel free to leave a comment below about what you are looking forward to this season as a fan of the sport at any level.
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Track Stars in Sochi for Women’s Bobsled

Track and field and bobsled have ties that go back a long ways. The bobsled requires a fast and explosive start, something that sprinters, throwers, jumpers, and hurdlers all possess. I highlighted some of the track stars entered in the men’s bobsled earlier in the week. And while the women’s bobsled is a relatively new sport added to the Olympics in only 2002, it has also quickly developed a connection to athletics. This year the US team has a very strong contingent of track athletes on the women’s bobsled team. Former summer Olympians Lolo Jones and Lauryn Williams have been making most of the headlines, but they are not alone. Five of the six women on the US team have track backgrounds. Brakemen Aja Evans is profiled along with Jones and Williams below, but USA 2 pilot Jamie Greubel also competed in the heptathlon for Cornell and USA 3 pilot Jazmine Fenlator was a thrower at Rider University. Overall track and field is the most popular background for athletes, with well over a third of competitors from all countries coming from the sport.

The women’s bobsled competition will take place Tuesday, February 18th and Wednesday, February 19th. Twenty sleds from 13 countries will be competing. Unlike the World Cup circuit, where results are decided after two runs, the Olympic champion is determined by adding up the results of four runs. Below are 11 of the women’s competitors that have already reached an international level in track and field, in a rough ranking of their success off the ice. With two world champions, three Olympic medalists, and four World Championship medalists, these are athletes at the highest level. And as I mentioned earlier, they are just a few of the track and field athletes that will be competing in Sochi.


Brakemen

Jamie Greubel and Lauryn Williams have a great shot at a medal and both were former track standouts.

Jamie Greubel and Lauryn Williams have a great shot at a medal and both were former track standouts.

Lauryn Williams (USA 2), World Rank: 3
Sprint sensation Lauryn Williams has a chance to be fifth athlete and third woman to win a medal at both the summer and winter Olympics. As a brakeman in USA 2, she enters the Olympics ranked third in the world. She has already paired with her pilot, Greubel, several times on the World Cup circuit this year. At the last top in Austria they won and they also finished second together earlier in the season. In the summer Olympics she struck silver in the 100 meters at age 20 back in 2004. The next season she was world champion. With a personal best of 10.88 seconds, she was also a two-time world champion in the 4×100-meter relay, world championship runner-up in the 100 meters, three-time Olympian, and four-time World Championships competitor. Most importantly, she has an Olympic gold medal after running in the prelims of the 4×100 meters at the 2012 Olympics.
Update: Team USA made some changes in their lineup and shifted Williams to the USA 1 sled with pilot Elena Myers. As Myers is currently ranked second in the world, this further improves her medal chances and could make her the first woman ever to win gold at both the summer and winter Olympics.

Jana Pittman (AUS), World Rank: 18
Pittman has a resume just as impressive as Williams, however her medals chances will be slim in Sochi as Australia is far from a bobsled powerhouse. Pittman is a two-time world champion in the 400-meter hurdles with a personal best of 53.22 seconds. She also has a best Olympic finish of fifth.

Lolo Jones (USA 3), World Rank: 7
While she has the most name recognition of anyone competing in the bobsled, she has just the third best track credentials of those that have switched over to sliding. Still, there is a reason everyone knows her name. With a personal best of 12.43 seconds in the hurdles, she is a two-time Olympian and two-time World Championships competitor. Indoors she was also a two-time world champion over the 60-meter hurdles. Her best Olympic finish was fourth at the London games, however in 2008 she was ranked first in the world by Track and Field News and was leading the Olympic final before stumbling at the end of the race. In Bobsled Jones was on the podium already this year with other pilots on the World Cup circuit, but her chances of repeating that are less in Sochi since she will be in USA 3 and pilot Jazmine Fenlator. Their best finish together on the World Cup circuit this year was seventh but in a close race anything is possible.

Hanna Mariën (BEL), World Rank: 10
Mariën was a 200 meter specialist and holds the Belgian 200 meter indoor record. Her outdoor personal bests in the sprints are 22.68 seconds and 11.41 seconds over the 100 meters. In addition to making the European Championships semifinals over 200 meters, she competed extensively on the Belgian relay squad, earning a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics, bronze at the 2007 World Championships, as well as numerous other international appearances.

Judith Vis (NED), World Rank: 9
As a former 100m hurdler and heptathlete, Vis won four national titles. She also also competed at the 2003 World Championships in the former event after posting a personal best of 13.05 seconds.

Aja Evans (USA 1), World Rank: 2
Evans never qualified for a World Championship of Olympic team, but she was a standout shot putter and sprinter at the University of Illinois. That combination showed her great combination of speed and power which got her on the USA 1 sled. He best results were in the shot put, where she competed for the US and won bronze at the North American, Central American and Caribbean (NACAC) Championships. She was also a five-time NCAA All-American and had a best was 17.08 meters (56’0.5″). In the bobsled she has already been on the World Cup podium five times this season. She has also been in bobsled longer than Williams and Evans, which gives her a bit more experience. Another interesting fact is that her brother is seven-year NFL veteran lineman Fred Evans of the Minnesota Vikings.
Update: As mentioned above, Lauryn Williams was moved to the USA 1 sled. As a result, Evans was bumped down to USA 2. However her podium chances are not changed that much since USA 2 pilot Jamie Greubel is also ranked third in the world.

Rebekah Wilson (GBR), World Rank: 13
Wilson is quite young and only left athletics recently, but in 2010 she competed as a member of the UK sprint relay team at the 2010 World Junior Championships.

Andreea Grecu (ROU), World Rank: 26
Even younger than Wilson, Grecu competed in the 100 meters at the 2011 World Youth Championships.

Pilots

Olga Stulneva (RUS 3), World Rank: 12

As I said earlier in the week, brakemen tend to bring the better athletic backgrounds to the table, but a few pilots have also had elite track careers. Competing under her maiden name, Fyodorova, the Russian driver Olga Stulneva was an Olympic and World Championship medalist in the 4×100 meter relay. With personal bests 11.21 seconds in the 100 meters and 23.19 seconds in the 200 meters, Stulneva was able to contribute to the Russian relay squad that finished second in the Athens Olympics and third at the 2005 World Championships. She also competed in the open 100 meters at the 2005 World Championships.

Nadezhda Sergeyeva (RUS), World Rank: 27

Sergeyeva was an impressive heptathlete before starting bobsled. She placed third at the 2009 European Under-23 Championships and had a best of 6118 points.

Elfje Willemsen (BEL), World Rank: 10
Another pilot from track and field is Willemsen. As a junior she was a two-time world junior finalist in the javelin in 2002 and 2004. She posted a best of 52.70 meters (172’10”) as a junior.

Track Stars in Sochi for Men’s Bobsled

The Olympic spirit is once again in the air. Many track athletes often forget that the Olympics also take place when it is cold outside, but on Friday the 2014 Winter Olympics will officially kick off. Not all track athletes forget though, since some will actually be there compete.

John Candy’s character in the movie Cool Runnings was correct in his assessment that sprinters have natural talent for the bobsled. While the Jamacian team is ironically one of the few sleds qualified for the Olympics without a track and field athlete on board, nearly every other country features a sprinter, thrower, or decathlete. And with sixty sleds from 22 countries competing in two events, that means a lot of track and field athletes are in Sochi.

Below are the those with the most success and international experience in the sport. This includes former World Championships medalist, Olympians, and age-group standouts. But many more athletes have backgrounds in the sport that did not make my list. For example, Beat Hefti, the Swiss pilot currently ranked second in the world, was never a track and field specialist but dabbled in athletics as a secondary sport and has dropped a 6.70 seconds over 60 meters. The time becomes even more impressive once you learn that his name is no misnomer: he weighs nearly 250 pounds. And many others have produced good times in the sprints or field events. Here are the best of the men, with statistics provided by the indispensible Tilatopaja Oy. Read the profiles of the the top female track stars competing in the bobsled here.


The Sprinters

Joel Fearon (GBR 1, 4-Man), World Rank: 12th
Sprinters are represented more than any other event group and the fastest man in the field is Joel Fearon. You may not recognize Fearon’s name since he had his big breakthrough only last season when he posted a 10.10 second time over 100 meters. But after false starting in the semifinals at the UK Championships he was not able to secure a spot at the World Championships. He has made the national team in the past and competed over 60 meters at the 2011 European Indoor Championships. He will be teamed with John James Jackson, a veteran driver. Together they just placed fourth at the last World Cup event, but many of the top sleds were absent. But he has a good shot at a top 10 finish in Sochi.

He is no Lolo Jones, but Craig Pickering leads a pack of track athletes in the bobsled in Sochi.

He is no Lolo Jones, but Craig Pickering leads a pack of track stars in Sochi.

Craig Pickering (GBR 1, 2-Man; GBR 2, 4-Man), World Rank: 20th 4-Man and 29th 2-Man
Another Brit is the most successful track athlete in the field. With a personal best of 10.14 seconds in the 100 meters, Beijing Olympian Craig Pickering switched to the bobsled a little more than a year ago. He left behind a great record, including World Championship bronze in the 4×100 meter relay at the 2007 World Championships, silver at the 2007 European Indoor Championships over 60 meters. He was the 100 meter World Youth bronze medalist back in 2003 and
won European U23 gold with the UK relay team in 2007.
Update: Pickering was forced to withdraw due to injury.

Bryan Barnett (CAN 2, 2-Man; CAN 3, 4-Man), World Rank: 10th in both 4-Man and 2-Man
Barnett is one of a few sprinters in the Canadian sleds. With personal bests of 10.22 seconds in the 100 meters and 20.31 seconds in the 200 meters his best individual result was making the World Championships semifinals in 2007. He had even more success in the 4×100 meter relay, where he competed at three World Championships and won silver at the Pan American Games.

Neville Wright (CAN 2, 4-Man), World Rank: 9th
On the track Wright had a personal best of 10.30 seconds. He competed at the 2007 World Championships on the Canadian 4x100m meter relay team. That same season he won bronze at the World University Games. Wright is teamed with driver Lyndon Rush, who won bronze in the 4-man event at the last Olympics. The team has been less consistent this season, but just placed third in the final World Cup last month.

Hisashi Miyazaki (JPN 1, 2-Man and 4-Man), World Rank: 25th 4-Man and 28th 2-Man
Miyazaki is one of the top Japanese sprinters. As a World Championship competitor in the 200 meters, he had a best of 20.53 seconds and also 10.28 seconds over the shorter distance. At 2009 Worlds he was also on the sixth place 4×100-meter relay squad.

Sebastien Gattuso (MON 1, 2-Man), World Rank: 24th
There are faster sprinters in the field that are not listed here, but veteran Gattuso was able to compete at the World Championships since he hails from Monaco. What is quite impressive is that his best of 10.53 seconds over 100 meters came at the age of 37.

The Throwers

Marko Hübenbecker (GER 1, 4-Man; GER 3, 2-Man), World Rank: 1st 4-Man and 11th 2-Man
The start is as much about power and explosiveness as it is about speed since the long 4-man sled weighs nearly 600 pounds empty. Throwers, therefore, also have a strong presence in the sport and the Germans use a few of them. Hübenbecker has one of the best background and also is the best medal threat among former track and field athletes. He competed in the World Youth Championships in the shot put back in 2003. After throwing the light shot put 19.03 meters he eventually improved to over 18 meters with the senior shot put as a young thrower. His sled is also the top ranked in the world for the 4-man event. Together with pilot Maximilian Arndt Hübenbecker already won the World Championships last summer.

Alexander Rödiger (GER 1, 4-Man), World Rank: 1st
Another former thrower for Germany is Alexander Rödiger. He competed at the World Junior Championships in the shot put back in 2004 with a personal best of 18.92 meters with the 6-kilogram shot put. Like Hübenbecker, he is on the strong Germany 1 sled that is one of the favorites. Unlike Hübenbecker, Rödiger will only be competing in the 4-man event.

Janis Strenga (LAT 1, 4-Man), World Rank: 7th
Strenga will be pushing for the strong Latvian sled driven by Oskars Melbardis. The Latvians are known for strong starts and won the recent St. Mortiz World Cup event. Strenga is a former javelin thrower. He competed at the World Junior Championships and had an impressive best of 71.96 meters as a junior.

The Decathletes

William Frullani (ITA 1, 4-Man), World Rank: 17th
Another popular background is in the decathlon. Frullani placed ninth at the European Championships in the event and had a best of 7984 points. Indoors he placed even higher with a sixth place at the 2009 European Indoor Championships. He also claimed bronze at the European Under-23 Championships in 2001.

Thorsten Margis (GER 3, 4-Man), World Rank: 8th
Margis placed fourth at the World Junior Champions in the decathlon with a best of 7555 points. He eventually hit 7707 points with the senior implements.

Edwin Van Calker (NED 1, 2-Man and 4-Man), World Rank: 14th 4-Man and 26th 2-Man
The crewman end to bring the better athletic backgrounds to the table than pilots, but one of the top pilots is Edwin Van Calker. Calker placed fifth at the World Junior Championships way back in 1998. As a junior he hit 7089 points back when they used senior implements at that age.

2013 World Championships Preview: Women’s Hammer Throw

The medalists from London have shown they are once again the clear favorites in Moscow.

The medalists from London have shown they are once again the clear favorites in Moscow.

The one thing the men’s hammer throw final on Monday taught us was that anything can happen in the hammer throw. Krisztián Pars was the clear favorite and none of the leading athletics publications picked Pawel Fajdek to win a medal, let alone win gold. But the young Polish thrower lead the competition from start to finish and his dominance never looked in doubt. In hindsight, the result wasn’t a complete surprise. As I noted in my preview, the top ten throwers all had a season best within two meters of Pars which left him vulnerable.

With the men’s competition over, the women now take center stage and once again anything can happen. The women’s hammer throw is not as deep as the men, but the top five entrants are all within two meters of each other creating a similar situation to the men’s competition. Added to this is the unpredictability of the event. Tatyana Lysenko entered both the 2011 World Championships and 2012 Olympics having suffered significant losses at the hands of her rivals, but both times overcame the underdog role to win gold. Predicting this year’s winner is equally difficult. And, as is always the case when the top women come together, the world record will once again be under threat. When all these factors come together the women’s competition will likely be even more exciting than the thrilling men’s final.
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2013 World Championships Preview: Men’s Hammer Throw

Everyone agrees Pars (center) is the favorite. But everyone has different picks for the podium this year.

Everyone agrees Pars (center) is the favorite. But everyone has different picks for the podium this year.

As usual, the hammer throw will be starting off the action at this year’s world championships. The men’s qualifying round will take place on Saturday afternoon, where 29 athletes will battle to make it on to Monday’s 12 person final. Coming off of a dominant Olympic title, Krisztián Pars is the name to watch. On the one hand it might appear like he will have things easier this year since, as is expected after an Olympic year, the level of hammer throwing has receded slightly. This year saw just 11 throwers over 79 meters and 36 over 76 meters, compared with 16 and 47 throwers respectively in 2012. But on the other hand Pars is barely ahead of the competition. All of the top ten entrants have a season’s best within two meters of Pars. In other words, the competition should be close and the pressure will still be on Pars.

If you are interested in an overview of the other throwing events, check out the House Of Run Podcast where I previewed all of the throwing events a few weeks ago. Jesse Squire of the Daily Relay has also put togehter a short overview of the men’s throwing events.
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2013 US Championships Hammer Throw Guide

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For many American throwers the season will already come to an end at this weekend’s US Championships in Des Moines, Iowa. However, for a select few the competition will also serve as a chance to extend their season through August by qualifying for this year’s World Championships in Moscow, Russia. The men will start the action on Friday afternoon, and the women will follow things up on Saturday afternoon. Below you will find a preview of both competitions, as well as an overview of the World Championships qualifying procedures, and an summary of which athletes have met the international qualifying standards so far this year.

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London Olympic Preview: Women’s Hammer Throw

The hammer cage at the London Olympic Stadium.

Get ready for the best women’s hammer throw competition of all time. On Wednesday, the top seven throwers of all time will step foot in the hammer ring at the London Olympic Stadium. This includes three throwers over 78 meters, eight throwers over 76.50 meters, and 11 over 75 meters! Not only will the throws likely be far, but the competition should be close as the front runners closely packed together through the season. Even the experts cannot agree on a favorite. Below you will find an overview of the competition format, profiles of the top athletes, start lists, 2012 performance lists, and predictions.
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London Olympic Preview: Men’s Hammer Throw

In normal years the hammer throw is already an event where you never fully know what to expect. This year it is even more so. Not only does the exclusion of the hammer throw from the Diamond League mean that the top names have rarely (if at all) faced each other this year, but three of the favorites have only competed in a combined four meets this year. This makes it incredibly hard to see how everyone stacks up and even more interesting to see how it all unfolds starting on Friday. Below you will find an overview of the competition format, profiles of the top athletes, start lists, 2012 performance lists, and predictions. I’ll also be traveling to London and hope to provide even more updates and a preview of the women’s competition in the coming week.
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Elite Hammer Throw Comes to Switzerland

For the first time in more than a decade, a truly world-class hammer throw competition will take place in Switzerland. Switzerland has a long history of hosting elite competitions. The small country already has just as many Diamond League meets as the US, including the finale in Zurich. But the hammer throw has disappeared from these competitions. Ever since the Weltklasse am Rhein throwers meet was canceled around 2000, it has been rare for more than a few 70 meter throwers to show up at the same time. Things got even worse after Switzerland’s own two 70 meter guys retired after the Athens Olympiad.

Szymon Ziólkowski, who will headline Luzern 2012, is seen striking a pose for sponsor Polanik.

Therefore tomorrow’s Spitzenleichtathletik Luzern meet will be somewhat historic as many of the world’s best hammer throwers will be coming to Switzerland. Four throwers with season’s bests over 78 meters will headline the event, including 2000 Olympic champion Szymon Ziólkowski. While Ziólkowski just turned 36 a few weeks ago, he has shown he is still among the world’s best by winning bronze at the 2012 European Championships. The field is also very deep and includes some up-and-coming young throwers such as 2010 World Junior champion Conor McCullough and 2011 German junior champion Tristan Schwandke. Nearly all of the throwers are having the best season of their lives as shown by the fact that Oleksiy Sokyrskyy and Lukáš Melich, two throwers who have been under the radar for awhile, just placed second and third at the Madrid IAAF Hammer Challenge event. Luzern will serve as a final Olympic tune-up for many of these throwers and they will have an extra incentive to throw far in the form of a diamond for the winner and a share of a special $20,000 jackpot for anyone throwing over 79.50 meters. Read more