Many of the other authors on HMMR Media have taken a look back at the world championships. Vern looked at what led Ashton Eaton to a new world record. Kibwé reflected on his own performance. And Martin looked at an interesting connection between first round fouls and making the finals. I wanted to answer a simple question: which country performed the best. So Martin and I compiled some statistics to help answer that question. Read more
Germany is the top throws country in the world. Other countries may have more depth, but Germany has developed an unmatched elite throws team. Despite being a fraction of the size of rivals like the United States and Russia, it is the only country in the world that has a legitimate medal contender in all eight throwing events.
This past weekend I travelled to the Kienbaum national training center outside of Berlin for the German federation’s annual throwing conference. The training center is already a heaven for throwers. Add in 100 energetic coaches and you start to see why the country has so much success. But as good as thing are, the Germans face the same problems every country does. There was much heated debate about how to get kids started in the sport earlier, retain them longer, and provide better support for elite athletes.
But this debate is also key to their success. Rather than being antagonistic, everyone was on the same page because they were working towards the same goal. That teamwork and structure forms the foundation of their success. Despite being the best, they want to improve and learn from the best in Germany and around the world in order to do so.
It’s been a busy weekend. Over the past 48 hours I have competed twice and racked up nearly 600 miles on our rental car. I’ve competed at one of the best speciality meets in the world, won the hammer throw and a watch at the only Swiss Meeting that includes it, caught up with many friends, and returned home with enough time to do laundry before I have to return to work tomorrow. It was exhausting, but it was fun.
The first big event of the weekend was the Fränkisch-Crumbach international hammer meet in Germany. This is my fifth year at the event, which packs thousands of fans into the town park to gossip, grab a beer, and, of course, watch hammer throwing. I’ve written about how great the meet is every year, so there is little to add this year. Once again the meet management and fans did not let me down and I tied for my my highest ever finish at the meet.
This is the first post in the new Coaching Roundtable series, which will bring together top coaches from the around the world to give their different perspectives on the same topic. The first roundtable brings together three of the top hammer coaches for a video analysis session. In addition, feel free to also leave your comments below. Subjects for the coaching roundtable are chosen exclusively among members of this site.
Chris Cralle seemed to come out of nowhere last year with a personal best of 74.36 meters to place second at the U.S. Olympic Trials. While he was off of most people’s radar before the meet, he still had a strong resume including NCAA All-American honors while attending Sam Houston State University and a gold medal at the 2010 NACAC Under-23 Championships. Since graduating in 2011, he has continued to live in Huntsville, Texas where he is self-coached, although he does seek occasional advice primarily from coaches Freddie Hannie and Shaun McGinley. Cralle started throwing hammer just before starting college at age 18, and just turned 24 days before the Olympic Trials.
Michael Deyhle is the German national coach, as well the coach at the Eintracht Frankfurt club where he guides women’s world record holder Betty Heidler.
Derek Evely served most recently as Director of the UK Athletics Loughborough National Performance Centre. In addition, he has guided several hammer throwers including Sophie Hitchon, who at age 21 set a national record to become the youngest Olympic finalist last summer. Evely is strongly influenced by Anatoliy Bondarchuk, who he recruited to and worked alongside with in Kamloops, Canada.
Vladimir Kevo is the former Yugoslavia national champion in the hammer throw who is best known for guiding Primož to Olympic and World Championships in 2008 and 2009. Since then, Kevo has continued to train a small group of throwers in Brežice, Slovenia including European Junior Champion and World Junior Championships runner-up Barbara Špiler.
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.
Martin: Recently you had to withdraw from the German championships after you fell and hit your head during a throw at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene. Do you have any prognosis yet? Do you plan on still competing at the European Championships and being in top shape for London?
Kathrin: Thanks for asking. It has been a tough time since my accident in Eugene. First I thought I would still be able to train because I didn’t have any headaches but all of a sudden I started feeling dizzy when throwing and increasing speed during my four turns. I’ve been to four doctors and five physiotherapists now. It seems to be a complicated problem but I feel we are slowly getting there. Now I can lift and throw up to 60-70% of my normal speed. My plan is to throw at Europeans and of course at the Olympic Games. My federation wants me to prove my fitness on the upcoming Friday. If I pass the test I’m going to Helsinki next week.
London is still a ways away. I’m going to challenge myself, go all in and give the best I can. [Note: This interview took place just after the German championships in mid-June. Since then she placed fourth at the European Championships and just this week has been able to start training normally again.]
For the fourth year in a row I ventured north for the memorable Fränksich-Crumbach Hammermeeting in small-town Germany. I’ve been explicit in stating that this is my favorite hammer meet around. Attendance looked a little higher at this year’s tenth edition of the meet, but the results were a little down and so was the excitement. I think everyone was expecting a world record and some mere international calibre results left them wanting; Betty Heidler defeated perhaps the best women’s field the meet has ever had, and Markus Esser convincingly won the men’s title. There is still just something unique about the meet. Nearly every one of the fans embraces the event in a way that makes the athletes feel like we have been adopted by a family. To take an example, I stepped into one of the local hotels to look for Sultana. I had never been there before, but as soon as I walked in the proprietor said: “You must be Mr. Bingisser.” He then explained to his wife that I had written a great article about Fränkisch-Crumbach on the internet.
Throwing in the winter can present all sorts of challenges, but as I keep repeating on this site, it is important to throw the hammer year-round. The weight throw might look like the hammer throw, but nothing can replace the real thing. Throwing outside is the best option since you can get more feedback from your results, and I posted some tips for doing that last month. But it isn’t possible for everyone. In some places the winter is just too extreme to have a productive training session outside. Elsewhere, you are constrained by limited sunlight. If you work a normal job, or even a part-time job, it can be difficult to find daylight hours to go throwing (luckily our new facility this year has some lights since that was the major issue for me last season).
You know a meet is great when you throw badly and still enjoy it. That is how I’ve felt after competing at the Sparkassen Fränkisch-Crumbach Hammermeeting the past two years. After returning to the meet this year I can tell you it feels even better when you walk away with a great result.
I have a great sense of direction, but I’ve been to Fränkisch-Crumbach three times and I still don’t know exactly where it is. In general terms, the town of 3,000 people lies about an hour south of Frankfurt. But the great American invention of straight roads have yet to arrive to the area so I end up taking a new route each time. When you finally arrive, you feel like you’ve set foot in hammer throwing mecca.
It’s hard to find good competitions this time of year, so I’ve actually spent a lot of time lately searching for good hammer rings. Showing up to a competition in Europe can be a bit of a gamble in this department. For instance, check out this ring fellow UW grad Aretha Thurmond had to throw out of in July. I’ve already found one great ring in Locarno and visited it for four meets this year. This week I had a chance to explore another ring with my former roommate, Sultana Frizell, who took a break from her training camp in Germany to visit me. On Wednesday, we found a good ring at a meet in Löffingen, a pint-sized town in the Black Forest of southwest Germany.
I’m not sure whether to call it complacency or having perspective, but I threw horribly this weekend and am fine with that. I could search for reasons why I didn’t throw far and I could find the small victories that came from this meet; there are plenty of each. But, I’d rather not spend my time doing that. This is all that matters: I was in great shape two weeks ago, yet I only threw 62.53m on Sunday. Five meters of distance doesn’t just, like they say in the Shawshank Redemption, up and vanish like a fart in the wind. The distance is still in me: I just need the technique to bring it back out. I was talking with my friend Sergej Litvinov Jr. after the meet and he told me that “Everyone must have both good and bad meets every season.” I agree. But unlike him, I’m not able to win a meet on an off day and still throw over 77 meters.