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The top four finishers at the 2013 Swiss Championships.

Five in a Row

The top four finishers at the 2013 Swiss Championships.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.

It shouldn't be such a big deal, but it's always fun to throw in the stadium.

Meet Recap SVM and Training Update

It shouldn't be such a big deal, but it's always fun to throw in the stadium.I reached the end of my latest training program on Friday and was feeling in great shape heading into this weekend’s annual club championships, the Schweizer Vereinsmeisterschaften (SVM). The SVM is normally not the ideal setting to throw far with just four throws, one flight of 25 or more throwers, an early morning start, and no one near my level. But some great weather and a chance to throw in the Stade Olympique de la Pontaise, home of the Lausanne Diamond League meeting, was motivating to me and I was able to put together another solid meet with a throw of 64.38 meters. In addition to winning the hammer, I contributed some more points with a fifth-place finish in the discus. However it was not enough as our injury-plagued men’s team took second place by just three points.

With the meet behind me, it is time to start my next training phase and also a good time to reflect on the last training program. I had been training under the old program since the European Cup Winter Throwing at the end of March and it had obviously worked well since I improved more than four meters over the last two months and am way ahead of where I was last year at this time. However not everything went as planned since my best competition results came a month before the end of the program and I never really felt like I put everything together with the competition weight hammer.

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Meet Recap: European Champion Clubs Cup

Logo_ECCCOne travel tip I forgot to include last week was the most important: be prepared for anything and be patient with those things you cannot prepare for. Even after years of traveling for competitions, there are still surprises and this weekend’s meet was no exception.

On Friday, I traveled together with my clubmates at LC Zürich to Dubnica nad Váhom in Slovakia for the European Champion Clubs Cup. As the Swiss club champions for both men and women, our club had the opportunity to represent Switzerland in a competition against the national champions of other nations. The Dubnica competition was the second league and a top two finish would lead to a promotion to the top league next season.

The whole weekend turned out to be a comedy of errors. After a plane delay, our bus was then pulled over by the police, turning a four hour journey into an eight hour adventure. Veteran discus throw David and I were given our room key after arrival and then headed upstairs to find an expansive room nearly empty except for one small solitary double bed.

Thankfully the winter throwing competition did not have winter weather.

Meet Recap: 2013 Zurich Winterwurf

Thankfully the winter throwing competition did not have winter weather.
Yesterday’s competition, LC Zürich’s second annual winter throwing competition, was a tale of two people: Martin the coach and Martin the athlete.

Martin the coach couldn’t have had a better day. Six of my youth throwers were entered in the competition and all six set personal bests. All six also met their qualification standards for their respective Swiss age-group championships. The group has been throwing the hammer once or twice a week for the past four and a half months. While most competed in other events indoors, this was their first chance to measure their progress in the hammer throw. Each one has reached new bests in training, so I just hoped the competition results would reflect that and motivate them even more as the real season approaches. The next meets for them are not until May and their championships are not until September, so there is plenty of time for improvement. After setting a personal best of nearly 10 meters, I reminded one athlete that this does not happen every day. I have to remind myself that too. Not every day can I see so many of my throwers celebrating a personal best at once.

I only wish I were this ripped.

The Clark Kent of Hammer Throwing

I have the glasses and suit, now I just need some more muscles and the ability to fly.[/caption]I have been featured in a lot of magazine and newspaper articles over the years, but my recent interview with my club’s magazine was a little more fun since I had a photographer who wanted to experiment a little. I knew it would produce something unique when I received the photo to the right as an MMS from photographer Adrian Bretscher of Hangar Ent. Group. Bring your suit, he told me. You can see the results below.

I guess I put the me in Team. I missed the hammer throw medal ceremony and left our youngest member up there alone.

A Few Swiss Championships to End the Season

With the international season wrapping up last weekend, it is also time for the domestic season to come to an end in Switzerland. Rather than just slowly coming to a close, it is custom in Switzerland to end the season with various Swiss Championships. Throughout September we have the Swiss Relay Championships, Swiss Multi-Event Championships, Swiss Team Championships, and the championships for various youth age-groups.

The LCZ team at the 2012 Swiss Club Championships.

Meet Recap: Swiss Club Championships

Let me start with the good news: I’m finally feeling healthy again. My rib has slowly reached a nearly pain free state thanks to help from my massage therapist and physiotherapist. The bad news is that this small problem set me back more than I thought it would.

I assumed I would return to the same level once I felt fit again since I hadn’t missed any training. My first chance to test this theory was on Saturday at the Swiss Club Championships in Bern. Back in 2010, my first year with LC Zürich, our club swept both the men’s and women’s titles for the 20th time in history. But last year was a different story after two clubs in Bern formed a partnership (and flew in some foreign athletes) to move up the podium. Stronger, healthier, and motivated to recapture our titles, LC Zürich kicked some ass this year, easily winning the women’s title and also coming from behind in the last event to win the men’s title. The Zurich hammer throwers placed first and third, tying for the most points by any club in one event at the entire meet.

Sporthalle Sihlhölzli in 1935

Cribs Meets Hammer Throwing

Back in November our historic hammer throw training facility here in Zurich officially closed and turned into skatepark. While it was a huge loss, luckily we had another option to move to: Sportanlage Sihlhölzli. Sihlhölzli is a dedicated track and field facility and sport hall located less than a mile from the city center in Zurich.

There are advantages and disadvantages to the move. The old facility had a long throwing tradition, offered perfect seclusion, and we could train whenever we wanted since we didn’t have to share it with anyone. The new facility is used by three track clubs and can get a little busy, but it also is more lively since Zurich’s best athletes train here. The sport hall has a good weight training facility and short indoor track and jumping pit. Plus there are lights installed so I can even throw at night if I have to work late.

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Meet Recap: Zurich Winterwurf

The European outdoor season begins much later than the North American season, and that is especially the case here in Switzerland where most athletes do not start throwing until the end of May. But for athletes competing in the long throws, this can be a frustratingly long wait. I’ve competed at the European Cup Winter Throwing the past few years and will do so again this year. In addition, this year my club organized our own winter throwing cup here in Zürich today. Combined, these meets make up my pre-season; I get some feedback on how training is going and then have the opportunity to focus entirely on training again for two months before the real season starts.

We wanted to host our own meet for several reasons. Personally, I like to have a chance to knock off the rust before I throw against international competition. The rhythm of a competition, the stress of a competition, and actually throwing from a 7-foot ring are all things I don’t encounter when training alone. In addition, I have slowly started to build a youth training group here in Zurich and I wanted them to get a chance to set a new personal best after a winter of training indoors. And the meet also gives us a chance to slowly strengthen and bind together the Swiss throwing community since we do not have a winter throwing championship like most other European nations do.

World champion Koji Murofushi demonstrating the toe turn.

Should beginners use a toe turn?

Tonight I had my second training session with my club’s under-16 group. Twice a month I am given a chance to teach them a little about the hammer throw and I try to make the most of the limited opportunity. If I had my way, I would have them throwing hammer much more, but these kids are still rotating through all the events to find what they like the best (and what they are the best at). In our first 90-minute session together a few weeks ago each thrower was able to do a one turn throw. Today they started to perfect that and I think they will be ready to move on to a full throw in their third session. In addition to coaching these youth throwers, I also have a few junior throwers that train more regularly this year. All of this has had me thinking the coaches perspective a bit more this year.

For the past 18 months I have been regularly trading emails and ideas with another coach, Mike Morley of England. He is also a student of Bondarchuk and this has led to some fun exchanges. Last summer he sent me a draft of an article that had me thinking about the coaching process. In the article, he proposes that we should teach beginners to throw with a toe turn, rather than a heel turn. His point: typically we teach a thrower to start with a heel turn, only to change it after a few years. Why waste that time learning a entry that will not be used in the future?