We’re changing things up on this week’s episode. Rather than sharing a coaching perspective, we’re looking at sport through the eyes of a former athlete, sports businesswoman, and daughter . . . not just any daughter, Vern’s daughter. Kristen Gambetta Anderson joins this week’s podcast to discuss her own under rated path through sport, her work in sports business, and provides a new perspective on Vern as a coach and father.Read more
We are less than a week from the start of the Olympics. But rather than talking about the athletes, the main story continues to be doping. More specifically, the topic is the failure of the current anti-doping systems. On this week’s podcast we bring on guest Pierre-Jean Vazel. As both a journalist and elite sprinting coach, Vazel has a unique perspective on the topic. We discuss how we got into this current mess, issues with the current system, and what hope we have for moving past these mistakes. Read more
The concept of accountability should be right at home in sports. Accountability requires two things: knowing the results of a performance, and acting upon those results. We have no issue knowing an athlete’s results. Sport gives us those answers in black and white: an athlete wins or loses, they run faster or slower. And in sports there is no hesitation in acting upon the results. If you don’t perform, the next kid is waiting in line to take your place. Even if the underperformance is explainable, as in the case of an injury, you might still be kicked out on your butt. Read more
After the first year of the Diamond League I wrote some very simple suggestions to improve the league as a whole, such as a consistent day on the sports calendar or more head-to-head matchups. Track and Field News again wrote about the need for the latter point this month. But now it is time to talk about how the field events can be improved in the series.
Patrick Magyar is the most powerful track and field figure in Switzerland and one of the most connected worldwide. As the director of the Weltklasse Zurich meet and CEO for the recent European Championships, he helps guide the sport in Switzerland. He also is working on the international level as the vice chairman of the Diamond League. He puts together a good meet, I’ll give him that, but I must say I do not feel entirely safe if the future of the sport is in his hands. Speaking to the German magazine Leichtathletik last week, Magyar didn’t hold back his thoughts on the future of athletics:
Long qualifications, competition procedures, complicated events – how do we want to have athletics in future? Must all events be held? We cannot avoid discussions about deleting some elements.
In case you aren’t aware, the Diamond League was first announced in 2009 as the future of the sport’s prestigious and lucrative one-day meets. It was an ambitious plan to include all of the track and field events … except the hammer throw. The makeshift IAAF Hammer Challenge was set up with many meets that already supported the hammer, but that “solution” has turned from bad to worse over the first two years of the Diamond League despite the efforts of some supportive meet directors. In the meantime, the Diamond League continues to exclude the hammer throw and virtually no progress has been made on that front (except the news that the Prefontaine Classic will host the women’s hammer as an exhibition event for the second time in three years). Unfortunately it is the only Diamond League meeting to do so.
My criticisms of the Diamond League’s decision have not changed over the past three years (you can read my original post here) and there is no need to rehash them now as Kathrin Klaas put together an even better analysis this winter. The burden still rests on the Diamond League to explain why they have excluded the hammer throw. After three years they have yet to do so. And we are prepared to refute every one of their claims. The hammer is a safe and exciting sport. Including it in the Diamond League will improve track and field. And after years of talking, Kathrin finally was able to get some of the right people to listen. Kathrin’s activism recently received the official support of the German federation and Prof. Dr. Helmut Digel, the former president of the German federation and a member of the IAAF Council since 1995. After a roundtable discussion organized last week, she is now preparing a thesis paper that will be submitted to IAAF President Lamine Diack.
So what do we do now? Continue to keep the topic public. The more we discuss it in public, the better. Talk about it, share this post, share Kathrin’s posts, “like” her new project Wir Sind Hammer (a play on words meaning both “we are hammer” and “we are awesome”). But most of all make sure the athletics community knows that this problem exists and it will not go away. As with the USATF issue, both sides can benefit with the right solution.
I had mixed feelings when the U.S. Olympic Trials organizing committee officially announced its plan for “Hammer Time” last October. Moving the Olympic Trials hammer throw competition from Eugene up to the Portland area could very well highlight the event, but without the right support it also means that the hammer could further vanish into obscurity.
Over the past few days I have had a few more thoughts on the Athletics Weekly article I posted earlier this week. One thing I edited out of the article was a section on why both of the events I featured happened to take place in the same country. Neither had any huge local star to showcase, and Sweden doesn’t even have a particularly strong throwing tradition when compared to nearby Finland and Germany. Everyone I interviewed attributed it to the Swedish way of thinking, whatever that is. No matter what the cause, I find it interesting that the event was such a success despite the fact that only a handful of the fans could likely name even one of the stars. This proves to me the throwing events can appeal to almost anyone if they are packaged the right way.
Last week I published my second article on the throwing events in the UK publication Athletics Weekly. It focuses on the Karlstad Grand Prix event I featured last August and some of the innovative shot put formats I have mentioned before. Athletics Weekly is the best track and field print publication in the world and they have been a great supporter of the throwing events by publishing articles such as this one. Their magazine combines all the great analysis and insight you often see in Track and Field News with original coaching articles and in-depth profiles. In addition, it is much more timely since it arrives weekly. I subscribe to their great iPad app which lets me view each issue as soon as it comes out without waiting for international shipping. They have been kind enough to let me post the article here for non-subscribers, and a PDF version with the print layout is available after the text.
As I wrote last year, the throwing events need to be imaginative and think outside of the box in order to gain in popularity. This is easier with the shot put since it can be hosted anywhere there is a small slab of concrete. The hammer throw can be more difficult since it requires a big cage and ample landing area. Simply put, while they can host the shot put inside Zürich’s main train station, that would never work with the hammer or discus throws.
World discus throw champion Robert Harting is always one to grab headlines and this April he announced that he would love to have a discus throw competition over the Spree river in Berlin. That never materialized, but the Swedes did one better yesterday. As a prelude to today’s Karlstad Grand Prix, the city hosted a hammer throw competition on the banks of the Klarälven river. And by banks, I mean the opposite banks. They installed a hammer throw ring on one side of the river and attempted to throw to the other side. Fans surrounded the cage and lined up on the bridge to watch.