Obrigado! After a season that started well with 64.26m early on and a lack of competition thereafter, I decided to hang up the shoes for the season and rest. Never have I been is such good shape and competed so little. The USA national championships made only my sixth meet of the year! It was my fourth if you don’t include the competitions that only had five or so throwers (thanks Tim Miller and Jerrod Cook) , which were gracefully put together to give a few of us a chance to compete in May and June. Actually since April 12th, USATF nationals would be my third “real” meet with competitors in other events with exception to my final competition in April while boasting a hefty sinus infection. Along with the lack of competition, I was largely focused on the possibility starting a career in a new field. 2014 was the weirdest and most spread out season of my career, but from it I still learned a lot.
The European Championships are not even over, but since my competition finished yesterday I’m already looking back on it. And I can’t help but feel mixed emotions. There was lots of good. I placed 21st in Europe. The support of my friends, family, and throwing community was amazing. I got to represent my country in front of a home crowd, and I helped more people learn about the hammer throw. I will write more about the positives in the future. But unfortunately there was also some bad. Mainly: the media coverage.
Yesterday the Swiss Championships took place in Frauenfeld and I captured my sixth straight title. And while I again had little competition, this victory felt a extra special. The crowd was small, but with my parents arriving the day before the meet I knew I had fans. The European championships organizers also used the meet to fine tune their preparations.
I always have the tendency to want to “man up” and train through an small injuries and pain. By my recollection I have missed only one day of training due to injury over the past decade and I’m quite proud of that. I have a very high pain tolerance that lets me put the little aches and pains in the back of my mind and push through. But just because I did train doesn’t mean I should have. Looking back there are many days where taking the day off would have been a much better decision. Just because the pain has been moved to the back of the mind doesn’t mean that it has disappeared. The body adjusts and copes to avoid the pain. And when the pain finally disappears, the body still reacts like a trained dog, bracing itself for the pain it expects to arrive.
I haven’t blogged about my season so far because, frankly, the results weren’t worth writing about. Had I been throwing personal bests, you’d be the first to know. Had my training gone in the crapper, I’d be dissecting it right here before your eyes. But instead I’ve been stuck in a middle ground: great training but bad meets.
The start of the 2010 season was huge for me. A personal best of just over two meters in some great wind conditions led me to many competitions over 65m. I still feel that my all time best performance thus far was at the Prefontaine Classic (Eugene Diamond League), where I threw 66.95m and was third just behind the likes of Zoltan Kovago and Piotr Malachowski. This allowed me some Diamond League points but for some reason immediately exiled me from two other Diamond League meetings to come? I had passed on the opportunity to compete in Monaco, as my wife and I where dead set on getting pregnant that summer. After being snubbed from 2 contests which I had already been invited, I competed after a 6 week layoff at the Zurich Diamond League Final, and in addition my season best of 69.90m qualified me for the Continental Cup (World Cup) in Split, Croatia.
After taking two weeks off at the end of September, I have already jumped back into training for 2014 and the first week is now behind me. During my time off I took some time to reflect on the last season. Whether I make this public or not, this is something I do every year. Some things are more clear in hindsight than they were at the time and everyone must must learn from these moments in order to continue to improve in the future.
I had just two goals to start out the season. Unlike many athletes, I do not define my goals in terms of how far I want to throw or what place I want to finish. I simply identify what I need to do to get better and then focus on that. After the 2012 season I was physically in the best shape of my life but I couldn’t translate that into the throw. Therefore my first goal was clear: my technique needed to get better. My only other goal related to my priorities for competitions. Rather than trying to hit a peak for the Swiss Championships, I wanted to shift my peak to the Jeux de la Francophonie this year. Having a later peak allowed me more time to prepare and hopefully reach better performances. With those two goals I started out towards the 2013 season.
You can learn a lot about a country based on what others notice about your country. For example, someone from a flat place might first notice the mountains when visiting Switzerland. Often our house guests from Seattle first comment on the graffiti they see in Zurich. It is only natural that we notice what is different.
I arrived in Nice on Sunday for the Jeux de la Francophonie and my chatty chauffeur from the airport talked about her own experiences visiting Switzerland. In Switzerland, she said, one thing stood out above all others: “the time is the time.” Perhaps she noticed this since the speciality here is definitely not organization. But unlike other places they can get away with that by providing such a warm and beautiful location on the French Riviera.
I am writing from the comforts of the Pacific Northwest, but on Friday night I was 5,000 miles away in Luzern competing in blistering heat at the Swiss Championships. As usual, I came in as the strong favorite and a mediocre first throw was good enough to secure the win and my fifth straight Swiss title. While the end result was not much better, it was a fun competition as always.
The day started off with some fireworks from some other throwers. Junior javelin thrower Lukas Wieland broke his own junior national record four times and ended up with a massive throw of 75.11 meters which puts him among the ten best junior throwers in the world this year. Simultaneously, the women’s hammer throw also produced some amazing results. Nicole Zihlmann also secured her fifth national title, but in doing so broke a number of barriers. Most importantly, she broke the Swiss record twice in the competition. Her throw of 61.54 meters also was her first time over 60 meters, just the second Swiss thrower ever over 60 meters, and qualified her for September’s Francophone Games in Nice. When it was time for the men’s competition, we also raised the level a bit. For the first time since 2007 we had five men over 50 meters. This might sound unimpressive, but considering that Swiss hammer throwing reached its low point in recent years (the silver was won with just 46 meters last year) it is promising if small step forward. Even more promising is that one of our youngest throwers, Robin Santoli, threw a personal best and his first podium finish.
There are two Irish sayings I became intimately familiar with this weekend. Our national javelin coach Terry McHugh, an Irishman himself, first warned us before the competition that if we didn’t like the weather we just had to wait five minutes since it would surely change. The second saying came when we asked a meet official if they thought it would rain on Saturday. He responded by quoting another Irish saying: “You see that hill over there? If you can see it, it will be raining soon. If you can’t see it, it’s already raining.” The conditions this weekend proved that both sayings are more than just jokes.
The Swiss team travelled to Dublin for the European Team Championships over the weekend. With nations like Hungary and the Czech Republic in our group, I expected a strong hammer competition and based on my season’s best I entered the meet ranked just 10th among the 12 throwers. But our team needed every point it could get to avoid being relegated to a lower division for next years competition and I knew I was capable of climbing up the rankings with a good throw.