Today was the day Swiss athletes have been waiting for as the federation named its final team for the home European Championships later this month. I’ve had more stress over the last two weeks waiting for this announcement than I can ever remember having. So it was a huge relief to scroll down the press release and see my name on the list. I’m going to Zurich!
I always have the tendency to want to “man up” and train through an small injuries and pain. By my recollection I have missed only one day of training due to injury over the past decade and I’m quite proud of that. I have a very high pain tolerance that lets me put the little aches and pains in the back of my mind and push through. But just because I did train doesn’t mean I should have. Looking back there are many days where taking the day off would have been a much better decision. Just because the pain has been moved to the back of the mind doesn’t mean that it has disappeared. The body adjusts and copes to avoid the pain. And when the pain finally disappears, the body still reacts like a trained dog, bracing itself for the pain it expects to arrive.
You can learn a lot about a country based on what others notice about your country. For example, someone from a flat place might first notice the mountains when visiting Switzerland. Often our house guests from Seattle first comment on the graffiti they see in Zurich. It is only natural that we notice what is different.
I arrived in Nice on Sunday for the Jeux de la Francophonie and my chatty chauffeur from the airport talked about her own experiences visiting Switzerland. In Switzerland, she said, one thing stood out above all others: “the time is the time.” Perhaps she noticed this since the speciality here is definitely not organization. But unlike other places they can get away with that by providing such a warm and beautiful location on the French Riviera.
There are two Irish sayings I became intimately familiar with this weekend. Our national javelin coach Terry McHugh, an Irishman himself, first warned us before the competition that if we didn’t like the weather we just had to wait five minutes since it would surely change. The second saying came when we asked a meet official if they thought it would rain on Saturday. He responded by quoting another Irish saying: “You see that hill over there? If you can see it, it will be raining soon. If you can’t see it, it’s already raining.” The conditions this weekend proved that both sayings are more than just jokes.
The Swiss team travelled to Dublin for the European Team Championships over the weekend. With nations like Hungary and the Czech Republic in our group, I expected a strong hammer competition and based on my season’s best I entered the meet ranked just 10th among the 12 throwers. But our team needed every point it could get to avoid being relegated to a lower division for next years competition and I knew I was capable of climbing up the rankings with a good throw.
Lots of countries can claim to have the strongest tradition in hammer throwing. The United States has the most all-time Olympic medals, but has only won two medals in the past 60 years. The Soviet Union has the second most medals all-time, yet many of those were likely aided by pharmaceuticals. Hungary has a strong nine medals, which is outstanding considering its size.
Often overlooked, however, is Ireland. The country is arguable the historical home of the ancient hammer throw and was at the forefront of the event when the modern Olympics began more than a century ago.
This weekend I participated in the European Cup Winter Throwing for the third straight year The idea of the meet is to provide a winter championship for events, such as the hammer throw, that cannot compete indoors. Since we throw outside a warmer location is ideal, yet this is the first time in three years that this goal was actually accomplished.
This year’s edition of the meet was held in Bar, Montenegro, a small Adriatic port town in Montenegro. With picturesque mountains, a ring just 100 meters from the sea, and warm weather, the conditions were perfect. After a strong opening meet last weekend I was hoping to throw 65 or 66 meters this weekend especially after being motivated by Sultana‘s massive Canadian record yesterday of 75.04 meters. Alas it was not to be.
The European Team Championships is one of my favorite competitions of the year. Switzerland selects one athlete per event to compete against eleven other countries. Each European country is split among four levels. Switizerland is in the second level competition and travelled to Izmir, Turkey to compete in our group of twelve (no one seemed to mind that Izmir was technically located in Asia). Our goal was to maintain our position and after the first day of competition we are well positioned to do just that.
The European Team Championships is always one of the highlights of my calendar. Not only do I get a chance to compete against some of the best throwing countries (Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, etc.), but I get a chance to put on the Swiss uniform. For four days, all of the nation’s best athletes spend time together, cheer for each other, and hang out with each other. It reminds me of the annual UW/WSU dual meet I competed in at the University of Washington, just on an ever bigger scale and including free access to massage for the entire weekend.
I am the type of thrower that normally throws several meters further in competitions. My all-time training best is just 66 meters and I’ve been throwing between 62 and 64 meters in training recently. My goal for the competition was a result around 65 or 66 meters, so that was very realistic based on my training results. Instead I threw 62.48m. The main problem today was that I forgot to tell my body that it was a competition rather than another training session. After the meet I felt like I had just taken six throws at 80% intensity. My technique was decent, but I just didn’t accelerate the hammer much. It has been more than six months since my last competition, so I guess I just had to knock off a little rust. Since training has been going well, I am not going to panic about this one. I also was able to finish in a pack just behind some other 70 meter throwers and I had no foul trouble at all (although I had one foul overturned by an official).
The Swiss national team travelled to Belgrade last Thursday with one goal in mind: get promoted back to the first league with a top two finish at the European Team Championships. The European Team Championships are kind of like the conference championships for European countries. Each country sends a team with one male and female athlete per event, and the meet is scored. The top and bottom teams in each league move up and down a division. We were relegated last year and were hoping to move back up again this year.
The men’s hammer field was great and included the world leader and two of the top four throwers in Europe this year. Unfortunately, the weather was not as good. My training improved a lot in the week leading up to the meet and I felt ready to throw 65-66 meters. However, after warming up, reporting to the call room, and being escorted onto the field, a torrential downpour arrived and the hammer was delayed by more than an hour. After the weather improved, we warmed up again and I managed a decent throw (63.11m), but was not as fresh as I would have liked. Still, I am quite happy with the result. I place fifth and scored valuable points for the team and threw my best result in Europe so far this year. My technique also felt better and I had no fouls. I know that in better conditions I can throw several meters further and plan to do so at my next competition. The team also did outstanding. After the first day we were in second place and improved to first on Sunday to capture the win and achieve our goal.
Right now I’m sitting in the Amsterdam airport waiting to catch my flight home to Seattle. The first leg of my flight gave me some time to reflect on yesterday’s competition. While there were positives and negatives from the meet and I may not have thrown as far as I wanted to, I did achieve much of what I wanted. I started the competition with a lot of energy. My first attempt flew out of my hand and landed at 65.75m. Unfortunately, it also landed just outside of the sector, as did my second attempt. After making a few adjustments, I got a legal throw in the third round and improved again in the fourth and fifth rounds before having a questionable foot foul on my final attempt. My best throw measured 64.72m.