Everyone agrees Pars (center) is the favorite. But everyone has different picks for the podium this year.

2013 World Championships Preview: Men’s Hammer Throw

Everyone agrees Pars (center) is the favorite. But everyone has different picks for the podium this year.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.


Coaching Roundtable: Julia Ratcliffe Video Analysis

Back in February I launched a new series on this site, the Coaching Roundtable, by inviting three of the world’s best coaches to analyze the technique of top US thrower Chris Cralle. Now it’s back for the second edition with an up and coming international thrower. Once again the Coaching Roundtable series brings together top coaches from the around the world to give their different perspectives on the same topic. Subjects for the coaching roundtable are chosen exclusively among members of this site. I plan on doing a rotational shot put roundtable in the near future as well as another men’s hammer roundtable, so if you are a member looking for an analysis of yourself or your athlete , please contact me.

The Subject

Julia Ratcliffe was born and raised in New Zealand and started hammer throwing under the guidance of her father, Dave Ratcliffe. On her 19th birthday last year Ratcliffe threw a senior national record and Oceania junior record of 67.00 meters at the World Junior Championships in Barcelona. Her mark earned her fourth place and was the best mark ever to miss the podium at the meet. This September she enrolled at Princeton University in America where she has continued her success. In April she broke her national record again with a throw of 68.80 meters and was one of the top throwers in the NCAA as just a freshman this season.


Ask Martin Vol. 21: Favorite Technique

1988 Olympic Gold Medalist Sergey Litvinov is probably my favorite thrower to watch video of.Question: Which thrower’s technique do you like watching the most? – Gary

At the beginning of my career I watched video to learn. Now I watch video to help visualize my own throw. While throwers like Balazs Kiss, Igor Nikulin, or even Koji Murofushi have very good technique, their styles are so different than mine that they are lower down my list. Both then and now I tend to watch video that I hope to emulate and I list a few of my favorites below. You might notice that I do not mention any women below and this is for the same reason. Female throwers typically do not have, or need, the same amount of countering in their throw as men. Since I am trying to visualize myself in the throw it is easier to do that with a male thrower.

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.

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.
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.


London Olympic Preview: Men’s Hammer Throw

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.

The highlight of 2012 will no doubt be the Olympic Games in London.

10 Reasons to Watch the Hammer in 2012

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…

Everyone knows Litvinov's real secret to his success was the headband.

The Litvinov Workout Revisisted

As many of you realized, yesterday’s post was an April Fool’s joke. I have never done the Litvinov workout, but neither has Litvinov. In talking with his son last year, current world-ranked hammer throw Sergej Litvinov Jr., he only heard about the workout in 2007 from another thrower that had tried it. When he explained it to his father “He laughed and said that he had never done it.” I have a lot of respect for Dan John, the person who first wrote about the Litvinov workout. But he never witnessed it first hand which makes me think the story boils down to a case of mistaken identity or a tall tale that has grown over the years. In any event, the workout is out there and a popular choice for many athletes. Just type “Litvinov Workout” into a YouTube search if you want to see some examples.

There are so many reasons why this workout is wrong. For starters, not one article I have read about the workout ever mentions what sport the workout is good for. Most describe the workout using adjectives like “cool”, “tough”, or “grueling”. But none describe it as effective because in order to determine if it is effective you have to know what sport you are trying to get better at. It may indeed break up monotony, increase mental toughness, or give you a good locker room story. But it has little relation to the hammer throw.


The Litvinov Workout

I spend a lot of time on here talking about special strength, one topic I rarely touch on is special endurance. While special strength is overlooked by some throwers, special endurance is overlooked by nearly everyone. Training for three or four hours a day is no easy task and you need to develop some endurance to get through the grueling workouts. Cardio training can help, but we are throwers and not marathoners so we don’t want to stray too far from what we are best at. Is there a way to mesh these two worlds?

For the answer, we don’t have to look very far: just take a glance at the training of former world record holder and Olympic champion Sergey Litvinov. Litvinov was known for being an amazing athlete and much of that came in no small part from his ability to combine his strength training with endurance training. Rather than explain it myself, I’ll quote renowned strength and throwing coach Dan John‘s explanation of Litvinov’s simple yet effective training program, as observed by former discus world record John Powell at the 1983 World Championships:

Hammer throwing over a river.

More on New Throwing Formats

Over the past few days I have had a few more thoughts on the Athletics Weekly article I posted earlier this week. One thing I edited out of the article was a section on why both of the events I featured happened to take place in the same country. Neither had any huge local star to showcase, and Sweden doesn’t even have a particularly strong throwing tradition when compared to nearby Finland and Germany. Everyone I interviewed attributed it to the Swedish way of thinking, whatever that is. No matter what the cause, I find it interesting that the event was such a success despite the fact that only a handful of the fans could likely name even one of the stars. This proves to me the throwing events can appeal to almost anyone if they are packaged the right way.

This is one situation where a picture is indeed worth a thousand words, so I’ve compiled a few videos to give you an idea of how the events looked. The Big Shot competition in Sweden was replicated here in Zurich in 2010 and 2011. I put together a video profile of the event this year that takes a behind the scenes look at it. For a video of the original version in Stockholm, click here.