Earlier in the week we began our training talk with Vésteinn Hafsteinsson. Hafsteinsson runs the Global Throwing team and was best known the personal coach of 2008 Olympic discus champion Gerd Kanter. The first two parts of our chat centered on training and technique. For this final part we look a little at the politics of track and field and a few issues that are keeping the throwing events from growing even further.
The IAAF Hammer Challenge will come to a close on Sunday with a stop at the Rieti Meeting in Italy. The women’s competition is all but decided as a late season surge of three straight competitions over 77 meters for Anita Wlodarczyk gives her an insurmountable 6.90-meter lead heading into Rieti. The men’s competition, on the other hand, couldn’t be much closer. The top two throwers are only separated by 6-centimeters. However a unique aspect of the IAAF Hammer Challenge means that the final competition might not count at all.
Two weeks ago the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene proved once again that, despite the fears of meet directors, the hammer throw can be included in the Diamond League without any problems. The Prefontaine Classic has regularly hosted the hammer throw, and this year the event also became an official stop of the IAAF Hammer Challenge, making it the first Diamond League meet to join the IAAF Hammer Challenge circuit. which are included in at least half of the Diamond League meets and are eligible for the season ending jackpot, the hammer throw has been excluded from the sport’s premier circuit. While the prize money offered to hammer throwers at the Prefontaine Classic still falls behind the other events, just being included in a Diamond League meet is a sign of progress for an event that is often been denied a seat at the table.
But all this just begs the question why the Prefontaine Classic the only one of the 14 Diamond League Meets to hold the hammer throw. The same thought crossed my mind on Saturday as I threw the hammer at a competition in the Stade Olympique de la Pontaise in Lausanne. If we could throw hammer then, why can’t we throw in July when the Diamond League comes to Lausanne? The Diamond League has cited “infrastructure” as the problem and Weltklasse Zurich meet director Patrick Magyar elaborated on that last year to say that the Diamond League stadiums just cannot handle the hammer throw. The damage to the grass is supposedly too much, and the cages required are too big.
Unfortunately the Diamond League officials have jaded memories. It is not just Eugene and Lausanne that are capable of hosting the hammer; almost every Diamond League stadium has held the hammer throw in the past decade. Below I compiled a quick overview of the hammer throw at each Diamond League meet and stadium. Below I compiled a quick history of the hammer throw at each Diamond League meet and Diamond League stadium. Of the fourteen meets, twelve have a strong hammer throwing history. It is time to get past the excuses and look at the facts: the hammer throw could be successfully included in the Diamond League and such an exciting event would add a lot to each meet.
Since the IAAF Hammer Challenge was announced after the 2009 season the format has remained unchanged. That means that the flaws it had when it started still remained after its third season finished in September. Hammer throwers have been aware of the many problems, coaches have been aware, fans have been aware, and even the IAAF was aware. Over the past few weeks only people with the power to do anything quietly announced that several more meetings have been added to the series. This helps improve the series by bringing it up to 16 total meets and the World Championships. Not every meet will host both men and women, but the new schedule still almost doubles the number of competitions. Men will now have eleven chances to start and women ten. However while the changes solve two of the problems facing the Hammer Challenge, it falls far short of fixing the major issues confronting the circuit.
The third season of the Diamond League has come to an end, and once again the hammer throwers have had to watch from the sidelines. As the only track and field athletes excluded from the Diamond League, hammer throwers have always protested the current state of affairs. Through the efforts of those like Kathrin Klaas, the movement has slowly gained more publicity. And, after three years, the Diamond League has still never given an official statement as to why the hammer throw has been excluded; the closest thing to that was a footnote to the initial press release stating that the hammer throw would be excluded for “infrastructure reasons”, whatever that means.
As time has gone on, Patrick Magyar, the outspoken director of the Weltklasse Zurich Diamond League meet, has let out some snippets of his views on the hammer throw.
The shot put once again returned to the spotlight on Thursday at Zurich’s main train station. In front of thousands of fans, the shot putters put on a memorable show to kick off this year’s Weltklasse Zurich Diamond League meeting. Reese Hoffa continued his post-Olympic dominance and redemption tour with a convincing victory over Olympic champion Pawel Majewski and the rest of the world’s best throwers. The intensity was also high for the women’s competition. Cleopatra Borel was so focused on her celebration dance that she inadvertently fouled two throws by walking out the front of the ring mid-dance. But while the women were amped up, the competition itself lacked any compelling moments. The victor was clear from the start and most of the field posted mediocre results. Unfortunately, this is what shot putting may look like in a post-Ostapchuk world.
Kathrin Klass may be smaller than her competitors, but she certainly isn’t quieter. The two-time German Olympian is one of the most vocal advocates for the hammer throw and is leading an effort to get the hammer throw included in the Diamond League. Her recent writings have garnered the support of the German athletic federation. Klaas also is as aggressive in the ring as she is outside it, with a personal best of 75.48 meters (16th on the all-time world list) and a fourth place finish at the 2009 World Championships. While she is now clearly focused on London, she took time to answer a few questions in June about training and the current state of hammer throwing.
The international season starts up this weekend with the first leg of the IAAF Hammer Challenge in Kawasaki, Japan. Until the hammer throw is added to the Diamond League, the hammer challenge will remain the top circuit of throwing meets. And with so few competitive opportunities many of the best are jumping right in. The field in Kawasaki will feature five 80-meter throwers (see the full start list here).
By the end of the year, my wish list from last season was mostly fulfilled. On the eve of the 2012 season I’ve thought of the top 10 things I’m looking forward to this year. Feel free to share yours in the comments section below.
1 – A woman over 80 meters. This was high on my list last year and Betty Heidler came within two feet of the barrier in the earlier season. There were rumors that she threw over it in training during the summer, but it never materialized at a meet. A few women may be capable of hitting the mark (even my old training buddy Sultana Frizell threw her name in the mix with a 75 meter bomb in March), but Heidler has to be the frontrunner now. Not only has she thrown the furthest, but she is also motivated to improve even more after she only claimed silver at last year’s world championships…
I normally try to keep my posts here positive about the hammer throw and the future of our sport. We have a great event that is loved by many and one of my biggest aims on this page is to keep writing about it so more people can discover it. My favorite thing to do is highlight successful meets so that meet directors and sponsors can reap the benefits of their investment in the hammer throw. But every once in a while I have to stop and draw people’s attention to some of the injustices in the world of hammer throwing. Let’s be clear, the hammer throw faces a chicken and egg problem: are we excluded from so many competitions because we aren’t as popular, or are we not popular because we have been excluded from competitions? Answering that question is futile since the real solution simply lies in looking forward and bringing more attention to our sport. We have to push for the hammer throw and let those in power know that we will not just roll over if we continue to be excluded. I mentioned a small concern of mine earlier this week and there has already been progress on that front. But the biggest injustice for the hammer throw is the Diamond League.
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.
For hammer throwers, competing the day before the main event and outside the stadium is the norm. But when Swedish champion Mattias Jons found himself in this position again at last August’s Karlstad Grand Prix he had other issues on his mind during warm-ups. As Jons said, “It took one or two throws before I started to get used to throwing three meters above a running river without fear of falling in.”