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Matt McGrath shows the raw nature of the weight throw. He held the world record with the 56-pound version. In the hammer he became the oldest American track and field medalist at age 48 in 1924, a record which still stands.

Bring Back the Weight

In a major coup for American track and field, a group led by Vin Lananna won a last minute bid to host the 2016 IAAF world Indoor Championships in Portland. This will be only the second time the US has hosted a world championship, the last time being the 1987 World Indoor Championships in Indianapolis. Nearby Eugene will also host the IAAF World Junior Championships next summer. Both American indoor track meets and the hammer throw have been moved to the sport’s fringes over the past few decades. But the World Indoor Championships in Portland presents a great opportunity to add excitement to the meet and help throwers by introducing a new event to the world scene: the weight throw.

Indoor track and field is a dying sport in America. Some of the best meets in the country used to form the indoor circuit. But the number if meets have dwindled, and even the historic Millrose Games has abandoned the Madison Square Garden for the much smaller Armory. Now most top professionals skip the indoor season, which causes the remaining meets to move even further to the fringes of the average person’s attention.

There are some ideas to give some spark to the sport. The indoor 400-meter hurdles has been gaining popularity due to the added drama and lane changes with banked curves. But adding the weight throw to the meet’s program gives a fresh new event and puts Portland’s unique stamp on the championship. The event is raw: it has athletes hurl a hammer-like object that, at 35-pounds, is more than twice the weight and only 16-inches long. An even heavier version of the weight was an Olympic discipline in the early 20th century, so it is more than ripe for a comeback and no place is better for it than on the soil of the event’s adopted country.

Matt McGrath shows the raw nature of the weight throw. He held the world record with the 56-pound version. In the hammer he became the oldest American track and field medalist at age 48 in 1924, a record which still stands.

Matt McGrath shows the raw nature of the weight throw. He was a 7-time US champion with the 56-pound version. In the hammer he became the oldest American track and field medalist at age 48 in 1924, a record which still stands. In a training guide about the weight throw he once wrote: “Weak men, and especially those with defective kidneys, should never bother with the big weight.”

The weight throw has been an American sport since the modern Olympic era began and the whole time throwers across the country have wondered if we are naturally great at the sport, or simply the best because we are the only ones left throwing it. At one time we were clearly the best against the world as we won won 4 of the 6 Olympic medals awarded in the event. Now that the rest of the world retired from the event hammer throw Olympic medalist Lance Deal holds the world record, but he only ranks 24th all-time in the hammer and most of those in front of him never even touched the weight. The technique is basically the same, but the different weight and rhythm can make a big difference. Would he have beaten Yuri Sedykh in the weight throw? Throwers debate whether who would win a matchup of historic hammer throwers with the same intensity that track fans argue who would win between Bolt and Mo Farah over 600 meters.

It’s true that I once wrote an article detailing how the weight throw hurts our sport due to its negative training effect. But an event like this I can support. For once the event could bring some benefits to our sport in the form of publicity. Portland was also the host of the successful Hammer Time event in 2012, where 3,000 fans showed up to watch the hammer throw Olympic Trials at the Nike headquarters. That’s 3,000 fans for just one event. The turnout for the last world indoor championships was only double that. If the weight throw can help our sport, more power to it.

It is likely too late to get the bureaucracy to add the weight as an official event for 2016. But nothing is stopping it from being an exhibition or promotional event. It could even be put in the city center at Waterfront Park. Or a block from Niketown at. Pioneer Square. Or even a parking lot in the trendy Pearl district. All optioned would help promote the event in the days leading up to the world championships similar to how Weltklasse Zurich has used the shot put competition as a teaser for the main event and the Karlstad Grand Prix’s use of the river hammer throw event. With the lack of prize money in most hammer throw events, a small purse could entice the top names to try out the new event in an exhibition. We could finally end the debates, get a niche event some great publicity, and showcase some American talent. Kibwé Johnson ranks as the world’s 4th best weight thrower of all-time before giving it up to focus on the hammer. With an opportunity like this perhaps he’d even make comeback too.

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2013 US Championships Hammer Throw Guide

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For many American throwers the season will already come to an end at this weekend’s US Championships in Des Moines, Iowa. However, for a select few the competition will also serve as a chance to extend their season through August by qualifying for this year’s World Championships in Moscow, Russia. The men will start the action on Friday afternoon, and the women will follow things up on Saturday afternoon. Below you will find a preview of both competitions, as well as an overview of the World Championships qualifying procedures, and an summary of which athletes have met the international qualifying standards so far this year.

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She may be trying to smile, but we all know Heidler wasn't satisfied with a bronze in London and will be looking for more this year. Photo by Getty Images.

10 Reasons to Watch the Hammer in 2013

Are you ready for the hammer season? Ready or not, elite throwers around the world are getting ready to enter the ring if they haven’t done so already. On Saturday, the first major US meet of the season will take place at the Mt. SAC Relays with throwers like Kibwé Johnson, Libor Charfreitag, Drew Loftin, Mark Dry, Sultana Frizell, Jessica Cosby, Sophie Hitchon, Sarah Holt, Britney Henry, and several other elites. The IAAF Hammer Challenge kicks off in a few weeks in Tokyo. I’ve had six months to speculate, talk about, and analyze the upcoming season. So without further ado here are the 10 reasons why I think everyone should watch the hammer this year. And feel free to comment below with what you are looking forward to in 2013.


1 – 80 meters still has to be right around the corner. It was first on my list last year and remains first on my list this year. I want to see the women’s world record broken with the first throw over 80 meters. A half dozen women are within striking distance and just one of them needs to get there. Betty Heidler has to be the favorite to reach the mark first. Not only is she the current world record holder at 79.42 meters, but her recent inconsistency plays to her advantage in this regard. Throwers like Lysenko have been so consistent that I would be more surprised by a big personal best. But with Heidler anything is possible and a big throw of 80 meters is definitely one of them. Read more

Sergej Litvinov Jr., one of the top throwers in the world is not a fan of short hammers.

On Short Hammers

Throwing light and heavy hammers should be a major part of hammer throw training. But in addition to playing around with different weights, many throwers also add variety to the length of the hammer. This is another way to add variety to training, but one method I am not a fan of.

In most of Western Europe, short hammers and heavy hammers go hand in hand. I have never met a Swiss or German coach that has thrown a normal length 10-kilogram hammer for men, and few that even utilize a normal length 9-kilogram. The theory is that heavy hammers can develop bad technical habits, but shortening a heavy hammer makes the hammer feel lighter and easier for the athlete to throw with proper technique.
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Kibwe's old technique.

In Defense of Kibwe’s Technique

Kibwe's old technique.

Kibwé’s old technique. For newbies, the bent arm is a bad thing.

When you ask people who are the best technical throwers currently throwing they will likely throw out the name of Koji Murofushi or Primoz Kozmus. Few would likely name Kibwé Johnson. The reason for this is that people tend to focus on what people do wrong rather than what people do right. For years, Kibwé did a lot wrong. As an example, take a look at the picture to the right. But now many of those errors are gone, and his strengths are even better. While his technique is still very much a work in progress, and he would be the first to say that, I feel it needs a defense since many people overlook the many things he does well.
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Krisztián Pars remember his late coach Pal Nemeth after his victory in London.

Looking Back at 2012: Men’s Rankings

Krisztián Pars remember his late coach Pal Nemeth after his victory in London.

Krisztián Pars remember his late coach Pal Nemeth after his victory in London.

Track and Field News will release their annual rankings soon, which are considered the international benchmark. Once again I can’t wait that long, so I’ve compiled my own year-end rankings.

My criteria is subjective, so let the debate begin. Feel free to post your own thoughts in the comment section below. If you want some stats for the season, check out the IAAF’s performance lists. Because both Ivan Tikhon (BLR) and Kirill Ikonnikov (RUS) have pending doping suspensions, I have not included them in the rankings.


1. Krisztian Pars (HUN) – While picking Pars as number one last year might have been a litte controversial, he is the clear number one this year. After years of frustration he not only won his first international title, but he did so twice by utterly dominating the competition at both the European Championships and Olympics. He won 15 or 16 finals and had seven of the nine best marks of the year (seven of the best eight if you excluding Tikhon). His season’s best of 82.28 meters might not rank him among the all-time greats, but even non-throwers agree his season was one of the best in track and field this year.
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Bondarchuk and Dylan Armstrong. Photo by Kamloops This Week.

Ask Martin Vol. 17: In Defense of Bondarchuk

Question: I know you’ve written in the past about some of Dr. Bondarchuk’s concepts. Let me share two arguments that could be made:

  • For: Bondarchuk understand the science of throwing after decades of coaching and research. The periodization cycles that you discuss of being up, down, etc. are all based experience and data and have been proven through results.
  • Against: The general hammer community gets trickles of Bondarchuk’s wisdom, but it all seems vague and hard to grasp. Fuzzy science. It’s a community of people who have drank the cool aid. His record can’t be argued with, but he doesn’t walk on water as some may say. If I had access to some of the best athletes in the world, I’d look pretty smart too. At the end of the day, sound training theory, good technique, strength training, and special strength, etc. will determine performance. It doesn’t have to be as mysterious as it has been presented.

Discuss. -Coach Lynden
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Harold Connolly's 1956 Olympic victory was just the first of many successes.

Harold Connolly: Grit Personified

Harold Connolly’s 1956 Olympic victory was just the first of many successes.

Psychologist Angela Duckworth has done some interesting research into what personality traits can be used as predictors for success in school and other ventures. IQ, for example, is actually a poor indicator of how high a student’s GPA will be. Duckworth’s early research showed that self-control was a much more reliable predictor, but even that was not a good predictor of higher successes. As a lengthy New York Times piece summarized “People who accomplished great things, she noticed, often combined a passion for a single mission with an unswerving dedication to achieve that mission, whatever the obstacles and however long it might take. She decided she needed to name this quality, and she chose the word ‘grit.'”

When I think of grit, I think of one man: 1956 Olympic Champion Harold Connolly. Read more

Wenlock, the Olympic mascot, grew on me throughout the Olympics.

Reflections on the London Olympic Games

I may represent Switzerland, but I still cheer for my friends first.

Last evening the Olympics officially came to a close, but not after ten days of exciting athletics action. From David Rudisha’s solo 800m world record to 19-year old Keshorn Walcott surprise victory in the men’s javelin, the week was full of amazing feats, surprises, as well as some disappointments. The hammer throw was no exception. Here are five thoughts I have on the hammer throw in London after watching the greatest show on earth.

1. The atmosphere was electric

When I approached Olympic stadium on the first morning of athletics, I was expecting a somewhat groggy crowd interspersed with empty blocks of seats. After all, the morning sessions rarely receive a capacity audience to watch various qualifying rounds. But as I made it up to my seat not only was the stadium packed, but they all had arrived earlier than me. The sold out crowd of 80,000 fans watched impatiently as 40 shot putters slowly progressed through qualifying and 35 women’s triple jumpers meandered into the stadium. And they were enjoying it more than me. Their energy spiked, however, at the sight of British heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis; when her name was announced and again as she crossed the finish line the volume would have blown off the roof it their had been one.

The energy continued throughout the session and throughout the week. The only thing I have witnessed comparable was perhaps a college football rivalry game, except the level of intensity in London was maintained for eight hours a day, ten days in a row. London brought an energy to this competition that made it one of the most memorable competitions in a generation for both the athletes and fans there. Athletes often complain that the world only pays attention to us every four years. It’s true, and it’s a valid complaint. But we also have to admit other competitions can rarely match this atmosphere. If track can somehow bring this energy to more competitions it would definitely spread its appeal. Read more