Track and field and bobsled have ties that go back a long ways. The bobsled requires a fast and explosive start, something that sprinters, throwers, jumpers, and hurdlers all possess. I highlighted some of the track stars entered in the men’s bobsled earlier in the week. And while the women’s bobsled is a relatively new sport added to the Olympics in only 2002, it has also quickly developed a connection to athletics. This year the US team has a very strong contingent of track athletes on the women’s bobsled team. Former summer Olympians Lolo Jones and Lauryn Williams have been making most of the headlines, but they are not alone. Five of the six women on the US team have track backgrounds. Brakemen Aja Evans was a shot putter and sprinter at the University of Illinois and competed for the US and won bronze at the North American, Central American and Caribbean (NACAC) Championships. USA 2 pilot Jamie Greubel competed in the heptathlon for Cornell and USA 3 pilot Jazmine Fenlator was a thrower at Rider University. Overall track and field is the most popular background for athletes, with over a third of competitors from all countries coming from the sport.
The Olympic spirit is once again in the air. Many track athletes often forget that the Olympics also take place when it is cold outside, but on Friday the 2014 Winter Olympics will officially kick off. Not all track athletes forget though, since some will actually be there compete.
John Candy’s character in the movie Cool Runnings was correct in his assessment that sprinters have natural talent for the bobsled. While the Jamacian team is ironically one of the few sleds qualified for the Olympics without a track and field athlete on board, nearly every other country features a sprinter, thrower, or decathlete. And with sixty sleds from 22 countries competing in two events, that means a lot of track and field athletes are in Sochi.
The one thing the men’s hammer throw final on Monday taught us was that anything can happen in the hammer throw. Krisztián Pars was the clear favorite and none of the leading athletics publications picked Pawel Fajdek to win a medal, let alone win gold. But the young Polish thrower lead the competition from start to finish and his dominance never looked in doubt. In hindsight, the result wasn’t a complete surprise. As I noted in my preview, the top ten throwers all had a season best within two meters of Pars which left him vulnerable.
With the men’s competition over, the women now take center stage and once again anything can happen. The women’s hammer throw is not as deep as the men, but the top five entrants are all within two meters of each other creating a similar situation to the men’s competition. Added to this is the unpredictability of the event. Tatyana Lysenko entered both the 2011 World Championships and 2012 Olympics having suffered significant losses at the hands of her rivals, but both times overcame the underdog role to win gold. Predicting this year’s winner is equally difficult. And, as is always the case when the top women come together, the world record will once again be under threat. When all these factors come together the women’s competition will likely be even more exciting than the thrilling men’s final.
As usual, the hammer throw will be starting off the action at this year’s world championships. The men’s qualifying round will take place on Saturday afternoon, where 29 athletes will battle to make it on to Monday’s 12 person final. Coming off of a dominant Olympic title, Krisztián Pars is the name to watch. On the one hand it might appear like he will have things easier this year since, as is expected after an Olympic year, the level of hammer throwing has receded slightly. This year saw just 11 throwers over 79 meters and 36 over 76 meters, compared with 16 and 47 throwers respectively in 2012. But on the other hand Pars is barely ahead of the competition. All of the top ten entrants have a season’s best within two meters of Pars. In other words, the competition should be close and the pressure will still be on Pars.
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.
Get ready for the best women’s hammer throw competition of all time. On Wednesday, the top seven throwers of all time will step foot in the hammer ring at the London Olympic Stadium. This includes three throwers over 78 meters, eight throwers over 76.50 meters, and 11 over 75 meters! Not only will the throws likely be far, but the competition should be close as the front runners closely packed together through the season. Even the experts cannot agree on a favorite. Below you will find an overview of the competition format, profiles of the top athletes, start lists, 2012 performance lists, and predictions.
In normal years the hammer throw is already an event where you never fully know what to expect. This year it is even more so. Not only does the exclusion of the hammer throw from the Diamond League mean that the top names have rarely (if at all) faced each other this year, but three of the favorites have only competed in a combined four meets this year. This makes it incredibly hard to see how everyone stacks up and even more interesting to see how it all unfolds starting on Friday. Below you will find an overview of the competition format, profiles of the top athletes, start lists, 2012 performance lists, and predictions. I’ll also be traveling to London and hope to provide even more updates and a preview of the women’s competition in the coming week.
For the first time in more than a decade, a truly world-class hammer throw competition will take place in Switzerland. Switzerland has a long history of hosting elite competitions. The small country already has just as many Diamond League meets as the US, including the finale in Zurich. But the hammer throw has disappeared from these competitions. Ever since the Weltklasse am Rhein throwers meet was canceled around 2000, it has been rare for more than a few 70 meter throwers to show up at the same time. Things got worse after Switzerland’s own two 70 meter guys retired after the Athens Olympiad.
Perhaps the event with the best chance of setting a world record at this year’s world championship is the women’s hammer throw. Betty Heidler nearly became the first woman in history to break 80 meters earlier this season with her impressive throw of 79.42 meters in Halle. With that throw, she broke the second of Anita Wlordaczyk’s world records. Before Wlordaczyk was Tatyana Lysenko, who held the mark from 2006 to 2009. While Heidler and Lysenko have already met this year, Daegu is the first time this year that all three will face each other. It is rare for three world record holders to be in the same competition, but it is rarer still that they are all in the prime of their careers. At age 27, Lysenko is the oldest of the trio. The exciting men’s final produced season’s bests by all of the medalists. A similar result will create some some early fireworks as the women’s hammer takes place on Sunday, the final day of the meet. Below you will find a preview of these three women and the other contenders for medals.
While the men’s hammer throw likely won’t produce any headline-making distances at this year’s world championships, it should be one of the closest competitions in Daegu. The is no hiding that the level of the event fallen along with with the stock market since 2007. Back in Osaka, the field was deeper than ever and it took more than 78 meters to place in the top ten. In Berlin, 79 meters somehow took silver and this year the A-standard of 78 meters is enough to win some of the IAAF Hammer Challenge meets (image the A-standard of 10.18 winning a Diamond League 100m event). There are now fewer A qualifiers in the hammer than any event at the championships.
The bright side is that the lower level has opened up the competition. Any of a dozen athletes could realistically stand atop the podium. A throw of just over 80 meters should win and, at the very least, will guarantee a medal. Of the 35 competitors, nearly half (16) have broken that barrier in their career. The sparse schedule for the IAAF Hammer Challenge means that many of the best were last tested more than six weeks ago in Madrid. Six weeks is a long time. It’s ample time to either fix mistakes or get rusty. World leader Aleksey Zagorniy has now withdrawn due to injury, leaving the twelve throwers I profile below as the top contenders. As you might notice, the field is so deep that I had to leave out an Olympic medalist.