As I’ve blogged about before, the hammer throw will be the one discipline excluded from the IAAF’s new Diamond League circuit. Last November, the IAAF announced that it would instead create a Hammer Throw Challenge series. Today, more details were released, including the schedule and prize money structure of the new series.
On the plus side, hammer throwers should be thankful that there even is a Hammer Throw Challenge. Momentum has been pushing the hammer throw outside of the stadium over the past decade. The Hammer Throw Challenge assures hammer throwers a spot in track and field, even if it is not on the world’s biggest stage.
The new Challenge will consist of eleven meetings. Three of the meetings will host both the men’s and women’s hammer throw. The remaining eight meetings will host either the men’s or women’s hammer, giving each gender seven total competitions. The complete schedule is as follows:
- Dakar, Senegal – 24 April – Women
- Osaka, Japan – 08 May – Men
- Daegu, South Korea – 19 May – Women
- Rio de Janiero, Brazil – 23 May – Men & Women
- Ostrava,Czech Republic, 27 May – Men & Women
- Hengelo, Netherlands – 30 May – Men
- Madrid, Spain – 02 July – Men
- Athens, Greece – 12 July – Women
- Berlin, Germany – 22 August – Women
- Rieti, Italy – 29 August – Men & Women
- Zagreb, Croatia – 01 September – Men
While none of these competitions are a member of the IAAF Diamond League, all the prestigious meetings that are part of the second-tier IAAF World Challenge. These meets will allow athletes great exposure for hammer throwers and the opportunity to compete in some wonderful venues. For example, Rio will host the 2016 Olympics, Daegu will host the 2011 World Championships, Berlin hosted the 2009 World Championships, and Athens hosted the 2004 Olympic Games. Some of the meets have also been proud supporters of the hammer throw in the past and always make every effort to bring more recognition to the sport. Ostrava, which will be hosting both men’s and women’s hammers, has seen some of this century’s furthest throws and the Zagreb meeting is organized by former world championships hammer throw finalist Ivana Brkljacic.
The headline of today’s IAAF press headline trumpets the $200,000 purse given throughout the Hammer Throw Challenge. While this is a large sum, it is relatively little when it is divided among the top dozen men and women in the world over the course of 11 meetings. This amount also makes the disparity in track and field all the more evident since Usain Bolt is commanding appearance fees greater than this amount for less than 10 seconds of entertainment.
The prize money will be distributed at each competition, and again at the end of the season. Top finishers at each meet will receive prize money ranging from $2,000 for first place to $400 for eight. At the end of the season, finishers will add up their three best results and can earn bonuses of $30,000 for first through $500 for 12th. This prize money is nothing to laugh at, but it is a step back for elite hammer throwers. The $30,000 jackpot is equal to the jackpot of the now defunct IAAF World Athletics Final. The IAAF simply moved the prize money from one meeting to another. The $2,000 prize for winning a meeting is also less than half what was offered at some of the top meetings last year like Doha and Eugene, both of which are now members of the Diamond League.
Despite what the IAAF says, the organization is not throwing much weight behind the new Hammer Throw Challenge.
The hammer throw will be part of just seven of the world’s major one-day meetings this year. American hammer throwers will definitely feel the pain of the new format since their opportunities to compete internationally are already limited by proximity to the competitions (none will be in North America) and by the fact that there is no international championship available to them this year. Europeans will have the European Championships and Canada will compete in the Commonwealth Games, but America will only have the IAAF Continental Cup, and only two athletes from all of North and South American can qualify for that meet. This means that the American women, who have been the most competitive on the international stage, will have to beat out Olympic silver medalist Yipsi Moreno and World Championship Finalist Arasay Thondike of Cuba, Canadian record holder Sultana Frizell, and South American record holder Jenny Dahlgren of Argentina just to get to the starting line.
The best throwers in the world will still be able to make a living throwing hammers, but their incomes will likely drop and sponsors may be less willing to throw money at them since their exposure will be reduced. Throwers sitting just inside the world’s top 20 will have to struggle even more to make ends meet. Five-hundred dollars for 12th place in the jackpot standings will do little to pay the rent.
If you want to read more about how the Diamond League and other changes in the Grand Prix circuit with affect throwers in all events, read my article in the most recent copy of Long and Strong Throwers Journal.