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A reflection on Berlin

My sister-in-law lives in the old East Berlin, and every day when she walks out of her door she sees this statue in a park across the street from her apartment:

That fellow was a German communist who was executed by the Nazis. His bust is one of many statues that the Soviets erected across East Berlin after World War II to remind the Germans who was in charge.

One of the most popular parks in that half of the city was converted by the Soviets into a mass grave and memorial for thousands of their soldiers who were killed in the assault on Berlin:

As you can tell by how tiny the people sitting at its base look, that is one hell of a big statue.

But that’s typical of totalitarian architecture. That’s the aesthetics of intimidation.

And you can see those aesthetics at work on a stroll around the Olympiastadion, which hosted the recent European Championships.

This is a picture  of my daughter inside the stadium during the recent European Championships:

Can you see that tower rising up beyond the opening in the far end?

That’s a structure that looms over the grandstands of a giant parade ground built, along with the Olympiastadion, in the 1930’s by the Nazis.

Here’s a closer look at it:

This picture does not do justice. There are twenty-five acres of grass in front of those grandstands.  That’s about the size of twenty American football fields. And the entrance is bordered with statues like this:

When you walk around those grounds, you can’t help but feel the sense of grandeur that the architects of this vast facility intended to convey. Then, you remember who those architects were.

That’s a heavy load for the Germans to bear. How do you forget the horrors of those years, and at the same time, how do you remember so as never to go down that path again?

That’s the difference between attending a track meet in Berlin and attending one in Zurich or Eugene or Des Moines. I’ve been mulling this over quite a bit, and I think I’ve finally got it figured out. It’s not the quality of the beer and chocolate. Those are just as good in Zurich. It’s not the enthusiasm of the fans. The folks in Eugene get just as nutty. It’s not the quality of the competition. Lots of the marks posted at the US Championships in Des Moines this summer would have earned medals in Berlin.

It’s the weight of history.

The ghost of Hitler. The shadow of Jesse Owens.

And it’s the grace with which the Germans bear that weight.

My sister-in-law told me that the Germans have left many of the Soviet-era statues intact because they don’t want to forget the cost of being seduced by fascism. I assume that they have let the Nazi parade ground outside the Olympiastadion stand for the same reason.

But it’s more than just letting a bunch of old structures stand as memorials to human folly. It’s what they’ve done with those structures.

One of my daughter’s favorite novels is Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. When she heard that we would be visiting Germany this summer, she asked if we could travel to Dresden, where Vonnegut was held as a prisoner during WWII. He and his comrades were used as laborers throughout the city by day, and were kept at night in the basement of a slaughterhouse, hence the novel’s title.

One night, the city of Dresden was bombed and at least 30,000 civilians were killed. Vonnegut and his mates, saved by their subterranean sleeping quarters, emerged to a scene of unspeakable destruction.

We did travel to Dresden, and engaged a tour guide to show us sights related to Vonnegut and his novel.

It turns out that the actual slaughterhouse five is still intact.

This cow marks the entrance:

But they don’t  process animals there anymore. The very spot where Vonnegut and the other POWs sheltered from the bombing is now a coat check room.

Above, the huge open halls of the slaughterhouse now host concerts and exhibitions. People gather there to drink and to dance and to remember never to forget.

 

A sweaty and glorious night in Berlin

Have you ever watched the video of the men’s shot competition at the 1988 Olympics? The one where Randy Barnes throws 22.39m on round six to take the lead,  then Ulf Timmerman answers with 22.47m to grab the gold. That throw of Ulf’s is famous (at least among throws nerds) because he raises his fist in triumph even before he sees where the throw lands.

There is one other memorable aspect of that video. The stands are almost completely deserted. The average Saturday morning freshman football game in the US  attracts more spectators than showed up at the stadium in Seoul that day to witness maybe the greatest shot competition ever.

Last night, at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, the situation was a bit different.

One reason was that the gentleman pictured above, the incomparable Robert Harting, was making his final appearance as a member of the German national team. He has a couple more competitions on his schedule before he hangs up his throwing shoes, but this was his last night representing the Fatherland, and it meant a lot to him and it meant a lot to the fans packed into that end of the stadium.

Here’s a video I took when Robert was introduced last night. The quality is not so good, but the sound is what matters. Take a listen.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ftI7Q-g9Kg

Compare that to the sound of crickets that probably greeted Ulf’s winning throw in Seoul, and you’ll understand why every single thrower I ‘ve spoken with at these European Championships loves competing in Germany.

And if Robert’s fairwell appearance wasn’t enough to get folks fired up, just a few meters away in that same end of the stadium, the 2015 women’s shot World Champion Christina Schwanitz was competing as well.

As much as the Germans love Robert, I doubt many considered him a candidate to win the men’s discus title last night. After four years spent battling knee injuries, a bronze medal finish was probably the best that Dee Harting could hope for.

Not so with Schwanitz. After taking off the 2017 season while giving birth to twins (Dear God, please let her move to the US so that I can coach those children some day), Christina has returned to twenty-meter form, and in the absence of Hungarian rival Anita Marton, appeared to be a lock to win the gold.

And if that still wasn’t enough to get everyone excited, there were Germans in contention in the men’s long jump and decathlon, which took place concurrently with the throws.

Hence the noise. Hence the madness.

Surprisingly, Schwanitz was unable to feed off the  energy of the crowd to produce a big throw. She tossed right around 19.00m in warmups, opened with 19.19m and never improved.

But, for most of the competition, none of her competitors appeared capable of surpassing her. Poland’s Paulina Guba opened with 18.77m but did not add to that over the first five rounds.

Aliyona Dubitskaya of  Belarus pounded away at the high 18.00m range the entire competition, eventually settling for a best of 18.81m in round five.

The oppressive heat that has settled over much of Europe this summer seemed to take the life out of most of the putters. They had, after all, been through qualification in that same heat the day before. And on this night, they had taken their early warmups under a blazing sun at the throwing area outside the stadium.

Maybe they were all exhausted, and Christina would walk away unhappy with a subpar performance but happy to have won in front of an adoring crowd.

Then, things got a little nutty.

The Polish mojo that has been wreaking havoc in the men’s throws (so far, Poles have taken first and second in the men’s shot and hammer) appeared and lifted Klaudia Kardasz to an U23 national record of 18.48m.

Guba must have gotten a whiff of it as well. She stepped in as the final competitor with a chance to unseat Schwanitz and promptly…well…unseated her with a throw of 19.33m.

Here is a vid of Christina’s final throw. Again, the quality is pretty awful but it will give you an idea of the noise level in that stadium.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Qa8P6RIlFEs

Schwanitz could manage only 18.98m on her final attempt, and as Guba celebrated another triumph for the Polish throws crew…

…a disappointed crowd turned its full attention to the men’s disc.

Humid air. No wind. Enclosed stadium.

These are not the conditions which generally produce big discus throws. And for the first couple of rounds, it looked like anyone who could somehow reach 66.00m would have a good chance at winning.

Apostolos Parellus of Cyprus must love him some dead air, as he opened with a PB of 63.62m. No one else was close to their best.

Daniel Stahl, second at the 2017 Worlds opened with a foul. Andrius Gudzius, the defending World Champion started with, for him, a pedestrian 65.75m.

Gerd Kanter, who had hit the automatic qualifying mark of 64.00m on his first throw the day before, could manage only 59.30m in round one.

Robert, meanwhile, hit 61.09m, a distance that was not likely to buy him the full six throws.

In round two, Gudzius fell to 62.89m but maintained his lead when Stahl fouled a big one—at least 67.00m.

Robert pleased the crowd if not himself with a 63.45m toss, which at least prevented him making an early exit from the competition.

Stahl, facing an early exit himself, went 64.20m in round three. Gudzius answered with 67.19m, an impressive display of horsepower in these conditions.

For a moment in round four, it looked like Robert might be able through sheer toughness and force of will to seize a medal. His 64.33m put him into second place.

The moment did not last.

Stahl, exhibiting his own reserves of grit, blasted one 68.23m to take the lead and knock Robert into third. Gudzius replied to Stahl with another big toss, this one 67.66m.

Then, in round five, Lucas Weisshaidinger of Austria, who had struggled mightily in the qualifying, came through with a toss of 65.14m to oust Robert once and for all from medal contention.

A final round 64.55m from Sweden’s Simon Pettersson and a 64.34m by Kanter pushed Robert further back in the standings.

Here is Robert’s final throw as a member of the German national team.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Hj2VksB-yJs

Meanwhile, Stahl and Gudzius still had to settle the matter of who would go home with the gold.

Daniel fouled his final attempt, so Gudzuis entered the ring needing to surpass 68.23m.

Gudzius is a large man, and he is remarkably fast for his size. Sometimes, he seems a bit out of control, and this may be why he struggled in qualifying. He did not hit the auto mark until his third toss on Tuesday.

But when he hits one right, he generates an astonishing level of power. It took that kind of power to launch a 68.46m final throw for the win.

Afterwards, the competitors were exhausted, drenched in sweat, and very grateful to have experienced a competition in this environment.

Alin Alexandru Firfirica, a twenty-three-year-old Romanian who finished seventh was totally spent.

This European Championships was his first major international meeting at the senior level (he was European U23 champion in 2015) and the experience was a bit overwhelming.

”The stadium is great,” he said.  “And I am in good shape, but today I was tired. It is hot! I start with fifty-eight meters! Every time they stop us when a race starts. It was disturbing. I try to ignore because I don’t have anything else to do. My next meet will be throws only meet here in Germany. It will be fantastic! I hope there to throw sixty-six meters again. Here was hard because we don’t have wind; with wind is possible to throw sixty-seven meters.”

Alin recently wrapped up his studies, and is excited about his future as a thrower.

What did he study?

”Sports, of course!”

Simon Pettersson, who entered the meet with a PB of 65.84m and finished fourth with is sixth round 64.55m effort, said that he loved the energy in the stadium.

“It was very fun. The atmosphere was unbelievable, kind of like Worlds last year. I even like when they run the 200 and everybody is like ‘whoa!’It gives me energy. Sometimes I get too hyped!”

That was apparent tonight, as Simon fouled four of six throws, once literally falling down out of the front of the ring. But, his ability to regain his composure and drill a near PB in the final round bodes well for his future in meets of this caliber.

Daniel Stahl, the Swedish giant, was exhausted, proud, and defiant after the competition.

I asked him how he was able to keep his cool sitting on two fouls going into round three.

“It was mental strength.  I’m really happy. It was great conditions, and I’m very happy. I was focused all six throws. My goal was to win, but I’m really proud of 68.23m. This was great atmoshpere. Germany is really good to track and field. It was a great audience, great people. I really Like Germany. Now, I prepare to win in Doha.”

Unknown to me, these European Championships will also be the final international competition for Gerd Kanter, one of the true gentlemen of the sport.

Though the attention of the crowd was understandably focused on Robert, Gerd was happy to have made his farewell in this stadium.

”As expected, the environment was very good, I remember from 2009, and today everybody focused on the discus. When I was planning my retirement I wanted to have it here. Next year at Doha, I don’t think will be very exciting. This was where I wanted to have my last Championships.”

I told Gerd that the first time I ‘d seen him throw was in Zurich in 2005, and asked him if he remembered being overtaken by Virgilius Aleena in the final round there.

“Yes, but he fouled it! The winner got a nice watch, and he got it. He still owes me that watch.”

“We had just came from Helsinki, the World Championships. I was leading until last round there, too, and he threw a championship record to beat me!”

As long as we were on the subject of the ones that got away, I asked him about the 2012 Olympic Games where he came within one discus length of taking a second consecutive gold medal.

“It was reallyemotional,” he recalled. “But it wasn’t like losing a gold medal, it was like winning a bronze medal. Compared  to Beijing, I was not the favorite. And it was first time I set my season best at a major championships, so I am very proud of that bronze medal.”

The last sweaty giant I spoke with was Lukas Weisshaidinger, who was about as happy as a man on the verge of heat exhaustion can be.

 

“It was my first time at European Championships, so to come home with a medal, I’m extremely happy,” he told me. “My whole family is here, so this is an awesome moment.”

Lukas had struggled in the qualifying rounds, going Foul, 59.48m, and then finally 62.26m which got him in the final. I asked him how he had been able to get his act together after almost failing to qualify.

“This was a new day. And also, I know that Alekna once placed eleventh in qualification and ended up with gold medal, so I knew I could make a medal today.”

Lukas also credited the atmosphere in the stadium for elevating his performance.

“It was awesome! They clap for everyone, not just the Germans. And there  were a lot of Austrian fans. That gave me power!”

I couldn’t resist asking Lucas how he had developed his rather unique setup at the start of his throw. If you’ve never seen it, he has his left foot back like Tom Walsh in the shot, and he winds the disc very high before beginning his entry.

“I’m not the biggest guy,” he explained. “Or the tallest guy, so I have to make something different, so we try this.”

Is his setup an attempt to increase the path of acceleration? Does it have something to do with creating a certain orbit of the disc?

“That I cannot tell you. It is top secret.”

Not wanting to offend a man that beefy, especially at the happiest moment of his life, I changed the subject and inquired about the future. Was he thinking ahead to Doha?

“It is really hard with the World Championships in October, then followed by the Olympic Games. It is really hard to make a perfect plan for those two competitions.”

I have asked a few coaches recently how they plan to handle their training schedule next year with the Worlds coming so late. But talking to Lucas, I realized that it wasn’t just next year, but the following year as well (when everyone will want to peak for the Olympics) that will be thrown off by the odd schedule.

Torsten Lönnfors, coach of Chris Harting, told me that Chris will be in an exceptionally difficult situation as he is required to put in four weeks of police training at the end of each season. So, if he competes in the 2019 Worlds in October then takes a break then has to do his four weeks with the police, that makes for a very late start for his Olympic preparation.

But those are matters for people much smarter than me to figure out.

This was a night to celebrate giant, sweaty men who devote their lives to throwing things far.

Speaking of which, after all was quiet I stood with a group of journalists waiting for a final word with Robert Harting. But the hour was late, and I had a long train ride ahead of me, so after a while I gave up and began the long walk up the stadium steps towards the exit.

And there he was. Signing autographs, Surrounded by fans. Happy and sad and probably wishing that this long, humid Berlin night would never end.

It’s not so simple, this qualification business

 

Tuesday morning at the European Athletics Championships featured an embarrassment of riches for throws fans. Two rings full of women shot putters vying for the automatic qualification mark of 17.20m that would advance them to Wednesday’s final. And, running concurrently with the women’s shot, two rounds of men’s discus featuring some of the best throwers in the world, among them 2016 Olympic Champion Chris Harting and 2017 World Champion Andrius Gudzius. The qualification line for the men’s disc was 64.00m, which many of these athletes had thrown in previous competitions. But, as it soon became apparent, 64.00m can seem awfully far if something knocks you off your rhythm. The early hour. The unusually hot conditions (Germany, like much of the rest of Europe, is in the middle of an historic heat wave). An unusually fast or slow throwing surface.

Some made qualification look easy.

Christina Schwanitz, much to the delight of the crowd (as she is German and the favorite to snag the gold here) went 18.83m on her first attempt. Thank you, and good day.

Daniel Stahl, the silver medalist at last year’s World Championships in London,  also launched his first throw well past the qualification line (it turned out to be 67.07m) raised his arms in triumph and headed off to rest for Wednesday’s final.

On his way out, I asked Daniel if he generally takes something off a first round throw in order to avoid fouling.

“No,” he replied. “Always 100 percent.”

This approach seems to suit the big man’s personality. Stahl is the kind of guy who, if you were a kid, would be your favorite uncle. Large. Easy going. Always smiling.  Not the kind of person whose confidence would be ruined by a first round foul.

For some, though, it was not so simple.

Poland’s 2015 World Champion Piotr Malachowski would appear to be cut from the same mold as Stahl.  He comes across as very even-keeled, and has been through many, many qualification rounds at major competitions.

Somehow, though, after warming up at 65.00m, Piotr simply could not find his timing when the throws counted. He walked out on his first attempt (it looked to be about 57.00m), caged his second, and misfired badly on his third, ending up without a mark and without an invitation to the finals.

Afterwards, he seemed perplexed.

“My shape today was very good,” he said. “My practice throws were good, then…I don’t know. I don’t know what happened.”

Piotr seemed ready to shake off this experience though. When I asked if he planned to continue throwing through the Tokyo Games, he replied, “Of course. It is my dream. A gold medal!”

While Piotr was suffering his inexplicable meltdown on one end of the stadium, two young shot putters came away from their first ever qualifcation rounds at a senior international competition smiling and utterly delighted to have made the final.

One, British Champion Amelia Strickler, threw a PB of 17.31 on her second attempt.

”I ‘m so excited!” she said afterward. “It was amazing being out there because this is such a big venue, and that’s what you want. You want the big stage. Even though the stadium wasn’t quite full, you could still feel the atmosphere. I can’t wait for the final!”

Like Amelia, twenty-year-old Alina Kenzel surpassed the qualifying line on her second attempt.

Her throw of 17.46m was the seventh best among qualifiers.

She told me afterwards that she was “very excited because it was my first big international event. I was very nervous at the first attempt, but the second it was like ‘okay just do your thing just like training’ and it was the standard for the finals!”

“After my first throw, everybody was saying ‘Alina go on!’ I was like okay,okay, keep going, keep going. Then, it was like boom! I ‘m done, so now I can go to the hotel and have some rest and tomorrow the final.”

Another competitor who seemed just as excited by his success in qualification was the great veteran Gerd Kanter. He threw 64.18m on his first attempt and was positively giddy after.

”I’m old,” he joked. “So, in this heat I have to do it on the first throw. Out there, we were like chickens in ovens.”

After all the success he’s had, including winning the gold at the Beijing Olympics, Gerd still prepares conscientiously for qualification days.

“I would say the qualification procedure is most difficult at these competitions. If you are in the final, it is already like regular competition, but in qualification, you only get two warm-up throws, it is the early morning, it’s not comfortable. So, in training, we practice making a safety throw.”

“We call it a safety throw because you don’t need to go full out. You don’t need 67.00m or 68.00m. The line is 64.00m, so that’s what you need. So, in a safety throw you take less risks. You are not going to go as far back in your backswing, you just make it very simple to avoid errors. One part of training for a championships is we always make two or three throws where the coach says ‘Okay, you need to do a safety throw.’ So not a maximum effort, but you must throw maybe 63.00m.”

The most surprising moment of this qualification day came when defending Olympic champion Chris Harting failed to advance.

Chris showed that he was in good shape two weeks ago by winning the German Championships with a toss of 66.98m, and most observers would have considered him a candidate to challenge Stahl and Gudzius for the title here, in the city where he lives and trains.

But, one chink in Chris’s armor is that his natural release point often sends the discus down the right side of the sector, and depending on the type of the cage, he sometimes has trouble getting off an unimpeded throw.

His coach, Torsten Lönnfors, told me later that the type of cage used for this year’s  European Championships makes it difficult for Chris to throw in his natural slot because it is shorter than cages normally used in international competitions, with the front support standard jutting out in just the spot where Chris’s throws often travel. Notice the difference between the cage in the photo above at a different competition, and the one below in a photo from yesterday’s qualification round.

I highlighted the front standard to make it easier to see. Torsten told me that they had tried (and apparently succeeded) in practice to get Chris comfortable throwing with this type of cage, and in warmups he was able to throw a nice, clean 65.00m toss. But, Olympic champions are humans, too, and maybe once that first competition throw ricocheted off the cage…maybe all of a sudden throwing in your home town with all eyes on you and the music turned loud each time you entered the ring…maybe it just got to be too much.

After three throws off the cage resulted in three fouls and a humiliating exit from the competition, Chris had to face a very disappointed German media.

Afterwards, he graciously spoke with me for a few moments. Heartbroken, he struggled for words to describe how this had come to pass.

”It took less than 63 meters to qualify,” he said, shaking his head in amazement. “I can throw that from a stand.”

Just one of those days?

“Yes,” he replied. “That’s a good way to put it. Just one of those days.”

 

 

 

 

Torsten Schmidt Lönnfors Discus Webinar Coming Tomorrow!

On December 9th at noon Central Standard Time, Torsten Schmidt Lönnfors, Coach of Rio Olympic Champion Chris Harting, will present a webinar on the German method of training young discus throwers.

Here is an outline of the topics he will cover:

  1. German Support Systems for Young Athletes

sports school

sports clubs

Olympic support center

the role of the German federation

2. Long Term Education Concepts

3. Possibilities for Training During Youth/School Years

4. Planning a Season for Youth Athletes

main training resources

build-up, progression, shaping

condition training

5. My Philosophy on Youth Training

general training

weight lifting/special strength training

training technique/motor learning

6. My Personal Coaching Principles

The cost for this webinar is $30. To register, first follow this link to pay on Paypal.

Next, follow this link to register on Zoom.

You will then receive an email invite allowing you to access the webinar.

Anyone who registers and pays will also be given access to a video of the webinar on Coachtube.

 

 

Just rehearsed with Torsten Schmidt Lönnfors for next Saturday’s discus webinar

After the 2004 Olympics I somehow got my hands on a CD with clips from the men’s discus competition, and I often watched it with my throwers. That was the year that the great Virgilius Alekna opened with a titanic 69.89m toss (still the Olympic record) and walked out of the ring looking pissed because he knew that his arch nemesis Robert Fazekas was capable of beating that mark.

Fazekas did, in fact, surpass Virgilius’s record toss (what did he throw, just under 71 meters, wasn’t it?) but then ran into a bit of trouble with the anti-doping folks when they insisted on watching very carefully as he…ummm…prepared to provide a urine sample. The testers had been tipped off that Fazekas had been pulling the old switcheroo and submitting someone else’s clean urine in place of his own.  Much vexed that the testers would not get out of his grill, Fazekas stormed out of the testing room and into infamy.

Also on that CD were clips of Franz Kruger showing off his long-levered fixed-feet style, the super smooth Aleksander Tammert, and a very tall young German named Torsten Schmidt.

Fast forward ten years, and I just happened to be walking through the lobby of a hotel near the Zurich airport when I spotted that tall, still remarkably fit German ambling towards the elevator.

He was in  Zurich coaching 2012 Olympic champion Robert Harting and Julia Fischer (now Julia Harting) at the 2014 European Championships. Another thrower in his stable, Chris Harting, was not competing in Zurich that week, but would go on to win discus gold in Rio.

I accosted him and unleashed a barrage of questions about discus  technique, which he patiently answered then and continues to patiently answer to this day.

Now married to a wonderful woman named Sanna Lönnfors (Torsten has since taken on Sanna’s last name) Torsten has agreed to share his insights on the German method of developing young discus throwers via a webinar to be offered Saturday, December 9th at noon Central Standard Time.

Roger Einbecker (my partner in crime with this website and with our webinars) and I rehearsed Torsten’s webinar yesterday, and I can tell you, it is going to be fascinating to anyone who trains teenage discus throwers.

One clip that Torsten shared with us was of a young thrower he is currently training performing discus steps in a gym while holding a small weight plate. It is the kind of drill that many of us have our athletes do, but Torsten has an approach to it that coaches will find really, really interesting.

Roger and I agreed afterwards that we could have spent the better part of an hour just asking Torsten questions about that clip.

And that is just one segment of what promises to be a super informative presentation.

The cost to attend this webniar is $30. I invite you to join us by following this link to Paypal, and then following this link to register for the webinar.

Attendees will be able to submit questions throughout the webinar. It will last somewhere between 90 minutes and 2 hours.

Afterwards, a video of the presentation will be posted to Coach Tube, where those who have paid the $30 registration fee will be given access to it at no additional charge.

The webinar will be limited to 100 attendees.

I hope you can join us!

 

Preparing your training plans for 2018? Get ideas from German Federation coach Torsten Schmidt.

Part of the fun and challenge of coaching throwers is figuring out how to organize their training over the course of the season. How much time should your athletes spend lifting weights? Which lifts are the most essential? What other types of exercises are important to a thrower’s development? How do you blend everything together into a training cycle, a training week, a single practice?

On Saturday, December 9th at noon Central Standard Time, throws coaches can get some expert advice on those matters from German Federation coach Torsten Schmidt.

Torsten was an Olympian himself in 2004, and in the years since he has coached many fine throwers including Rio men’s discus champion Chris Harting.

Torsten’s December 9th presentation will be available as a webinar. Here is an outline of the topics he will cover:

  1. German Support Systems for Young Athletes

sports school

sports clubs

Olympic support center

the role of the German federation

2. Long Term Education Concepts

3. Possibilities for Training During Youth/School Years

4. Planning a Season for Youth Athletes

main training resources

build-up, progression, shaping

condition training

5. My Philosophy on Youth Training

general training

weight lifting/special strength training

training technique/motor learning

6. My Personal Coaching Principles

7. Questions/Discussion

The fee for this webinar will be $30.

To register, follow this link to pay on Paypal.

Then, follow this link to sign up on Zoom.

After completing both of these steps, you will receive an email invitation giving you access to the webinar.

This webinar will be limited to the first 100 registrations.

 

Torsten Schmidt Webinar “German Discus Training for Young Throwers” to be presented December 9th

Torsten Schmidt, the coach of Rio Olympic gold medalist Chris Harting, will present a webinar on  “German Discus Training for Young Throwers” on Saturday, December 9th at noon Central Standard Time.

This is an unprecedented opportunity to get an inside look into the system which has produced many World Championship and Olympic medalists.

Torsten’s presentation will focus on the training of discus throwers under the age of twenty.

Here is an outline of the topics he will cover:

  1. German Support Systems for Young Athletes

     sports school

     sports clubs

     Olympic support center

     the role of the German federation

2. Long Term Education Concepts

3. Possibilities for Training During Youth/School Years

4. Planning a Season for Youth Athletes

     main training resources

     build-up, progression, shaping

     condition training

5. My Philosophy on Youth Training

     general training

     weight lifting/special strength training

     training technique/motor learning

6. My Personal Coaching Principles

7. Questions/Discussion

After making the discus final at the 2004 Olympics, Torsten transitioned to coaching and gained valuable experience mentoring young throwers at the Federation Training Center in Neubrandenburg. While there, he helped develop  outstanding young athletes  such as Anna Ruh, Patrick Muller, and Henning and Clemens Prufer,

For the past several years he has been based in the Federal Training Center in Berlin. In 2016, he coached Robert Harting, Julia Fischer Harting, and Chris Harting to the Rio Olympics where Chris won the gold medal.

The cost for this webinar is $30.  Attendees will be able to submit questions throughout Torsten’s presentation. This webinar (the presentation and the Q&A segment) will last somewhere around 90-120 minutes.

Unlike our previous webinars, a video of Torsten’s presentation will not be posted to Youtube.

Registration for this webinar requires two parts. First, fill out this registration form.

Next, use this link to pay the registration fee on Paypal.

You will then receive an email invitation to attend the webinar. This invitation will be sent by December 1st.

If you have any questions regarding this webinar, please contact Dan McQuaid at daniel.mcquaid@cusd200.org

 

London Predictions: Women’s Shot

There has been a recent development.

Just last week, China’s Lijiao Gong

…cracked the 20-meter barrier for the first time this season. Her 20.11m put in Bohmenkirch, Germany vaulted her into the world lead by a substantial margin over Raven Saunders, whose 19.76m blast at the USA Championships in June announced her as  a serious  gold medal candidate.

After finishing a disappointing fourth in Rio with a 19.39m toss (she had thrown 20.22m to take silver at the London Games) Gong appears to be in excellent trim as she seeks a fourth outdoor World Championships medal.

Standing in her way is a formidable female foursome.

The aforementioned Saunders has been something of a riddle during this long collegiate indoor into collegiate outdoor into World Championships season.

She won the NCAA Indoor meet with a massive 19.56m effort, then sank to 4th at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.

Buried in fifth place as she stepped in for her final  throw at the USA Championships, she detonated that 19.76m bomb. (You  can read more about that incendiary moment here: http://mcthrows.com/?p=1820)

The question is, which Raven will show up in  London? The confident butt-whipper who PR’d in Rio and came up big in Sacramento, or the foul prone, sulking Raven who could not find her bearings in Eugene?

And how about Dani Bunch?

She is exhibit A for those who argue the superiority of the rotational technique. Certainly, her switch to the spin (detailed here: http://mcthrows.com/?p=1829 ) has paid off.  She went from a really good Big 10 shot putter as a glider to one of the top throwers in the world as a spinner.

The question is, will her technique hold up under the pressure of her first really, really, I mean really big meet?

And what of the most decorated female rotational thrower of the past few years, the Hungarian Anita Marton?

She was fourth in  the Beijing Worlds.  Second at last year’s Indoor Worlds in Portland. Third in Rio with a 19.87m PR.

With that track record in major competitions,  there is no question about Anita keeping her stuff together in London.

Her best throw this year is 19.63m, but it came on April 30th. Has she slipped a bit since last year, or has she simply been biding her time all summer, waiting to shine on the big stage as she did in Rio?

And let’s not forget the defending Olympic and Indoor World champion Michelle Carter. 

Her best this year is the 19.34m that got her third in Sacramento. That’s more than a meter less than her gold-medal-winning toss in Rio, but considering that she won her World Indoor and Olympic titles with titanic sixth round chucks, there will be no such thing as a safe lead in London until she’s  had her say.

Aside from these five, I  see no one who has  a reasonable chance at getting on the podium. So, it is time for some predictions.

Trofimuk

Gold: Carter.

Reason: Even after Gong’s recent twenty-meter toss, Trofimuk has not lost faith in Carter’s ability to rise to any occasion. She is, according to him, “Much in the clutch.”

Silver: Marton

Reason: Trofimuk’s gut tells him that Marton is ready to go big, and he suspects that Raven’s loooong season will make it tough for her to rise to the occasion.

Bronze: Saunders

McQ

Gold: Gong

Reason: If the women’s shot consisted only of Gong versus Saunders, it would still be enough to set this man’s heart aflutter. The world’s best glider against the world’s best spinner. China against the United States. Monolithic communism against Coach John Smith.

Forget NBC Gold, this match-up should be available only on pay-per-view.

And if I were NBC, I’d arrange a bunch of Mayweather v. McGregor style press conferences with lots of posturing and Mandarin cuss words.

Anyway, as  much as I love the pure, sometimes malevolent energy that Raven has brought to the sport, I’m giving the nod to Gong based on her extensive international experience.

Either way, don’t miss it.

Silver: Saunders

Reason: From a fan’s point of view, the great thing about Raven is that every time she enters the ring, it is possible that something amazing might happen. She might foul a huge throw then go headbutt Coach Smith, then get back in the ring and throw 20 meters. It’s like watching Nascar. You don’t want to see somebody get into a huge wreck, but the fact that it might happen really keeps your attention.

I’m guessing that Raven will avoid a ten-car pileup in London, but if Gong is as fit as she appears, it will be hard to match her consistency.

Bronze: Marton

Reason: God knows I love and respect Michelle Carter. She has personally made the United States a dominant force in women’s shot putting. But it might take 19.70m to medal in London, and based on the year she’s had, I just don’t see her getting there.

Same for Dani. She has had an amazing year, and on a given day she can outgun Marton (as she did at the Shanghai DL meeting) but when it comes to the Olympics and World Championships, experience can make a big difference.

London Predictions: Women’s disc

Could anyone blame Sandra Perkovic for being distracted or just plain tired?  Traveling all over the  world doling out ass-beatings for years on end has got to take something out of you.

And I’m not being facetious.

I interviewed Valerie Adams a few years ago when she was near the end of a fifty-meet undefeated streak, and though clearly determined to maintain her domination, she also seemed worn down by the effort it took to stay on top for that long.

Same for Robert Harting when I spoke with him in the summer of 2014, while everything was still going his way. He was three-time World Champion. Defending Olympic Champion. The next day, at the New York stop on the Diamond League circuit, he smashed a 68-meter throw on a humid morning with the smell of garbage in the air. (Apparently, Icahn Stadium was built over a landfill.)

Robert was at the height of his uber mensch phase, capable of willing the disc 68 meters whenever he wanted, and yet…talking to him you could tell that like Val, he was weary of the  grind and looking ahead to retirement.

So when I started seeing photos like this…

…posted by Sandra on Instagram early this year, I began to wonder if maybe she was a little bored with the incessant training and travel, with maintaining the laser focus necessary to win two Olympic and one World Championships gold.

She had always been in great shape, but in the pictures she posted this summer she seemed to be noticeably thinner than in the past.

Could it be that looking glamorous had become more important to her than winning medals?

Uh….no.

Two weeks ago, she hammered a PR of 71.41m, thus serving notice on any knuckleheads out there who might have doubted her that they were mistaken.

Yes, Sandra, that sound you hear is me munching on crow.

A quick digression. I fear that my remarks on Sandra may come across as  sexist. What, can’t a woman look good in an evening gown and still throw 70 meters?

But another fine thrower, the American shot putter Jordan Clarke…

…also had me wondering this winter when he frequently posted images of himself powering through high volume, cardiac-heavy workouts–not the kind of training one would  indulge in if one’s main goal in life was to make a sixteen-pound ball go far.

The  slimmer Clarke became from those workouts, the more I wondered about his intentions for the upcoming season. And, as it turns out, he did retire from the sport.

Anyway, I just want everyone to know that I’m an equal opportunity doubter.

And Jordan, I know that it has always been your dream to appear in an article about female discus throwers. so…you’re welcome.

That said, if Sandra Perkovic is indeed in top form, does anyone have a chance of beating her in London?

How about Cuba’s Jaime Perez?

Built like a long jumper, she is an ardent practitioner of the “haul ass and knock the crap out of it” approach to discus throwing.  And she has had a sensational year, hitting a PR of 69.19m and beating Sandra head-to-head on more than one occasion.

How about Australia’s Dani Stevens (formerly Dani Samuels)?

After winning the 2009  Worlds in Berlin as a nine-year-old (that’s what it seemed like, anyway) her best finish in an Olympics or Worlds since is fourth in Rio.

But she threw 66.78m as recently as March, and she has tons of big meet experience.

How about Melina Robert-Michon of France?

Her tenth-place finish at the Beijing Worlds in 2015 prompted me to leave her out of my Olympic preview last year. She responded to that slight by belting a PR 66.73m in Rio to nab silver.

Her best throw so far this year is 63.63m, good for 14th on the world list. At the age of 38, she might be over the hill but she also might be lying low in an effort to make me look ridiculous again.

How about Gia Lewis-Smallwood of the United States?

She is the same age as Melina, but a very nasty back issue prevented her from even competing in Rio. It is something of a miracle that she is once again in fighting trim and currently ranked fourth in the world with a toss of 65.81m.

A throw like that wouldn’t win in London, but would likely get her on the podium.

The best of the German women this year is the veteran Nadine Muller.

A two-time World Championships medalist, her season best of 65.76m has her tied for fifth on the world list. As far as I can tell, she did not compete at the German championships this month, which made me wonder if she was injured, but she is on the team for London, and if healthy surely a threat to medal.

The best of the Chinese is Xinyue Su, currently ranked eleventh in the world with a season’s best of 64.08m.

She finished fifth in Rio.

Time for predictions.

Trofimuk

Gold: Perkovic

Reason: I quote: “She is the best there ever was and ever will be.”

Silver: Perez.

Bronze: Stevens.

McQ

Gold: Perkovic.

Reason: When Cuba’s Denia Caballero defeated Sandra in Beijing, she did so by dropping a 69-meter hammer on  her in round one.  At the time, Sandra was dinged up and 69 meters was beyond her range, so the competition was essentially over after one round. Perez would like nothing better than to follow her teammate’s example and kill one early, but Perk’s recent 71.41m suggests that she’s got the stuff to match anything Jaime can muster.

And, if it comes down to a battle of will, nothing against Perez, but…good luck.

Last year in Rio, Sandra showed her mettle when she walked into the ring for her third throw during the rain-soaked prelims sitting on two fouls. She threw 64.81m to advance.

The next morning, she opened the finals with…two fouls. A lesser person might have pooped the pants at such a moment. Sandra coolly drilled a 69.21m bullet that snagged her the gold.

A few years ago, I had the privilege of watching Sandra compete up close and personal at the New York Diamond League meeting. For some reason, the TV people wanted the discus out of the  way before the rest of the meet started, so I want to say warm-ups began at 9:30am.  Something like that. And it was fah-reeeezing out! Forty degrees with rain and a nasty wind. In late May. I like to have died.

Anyway, due to the early start and the conditions, I think Sandra’s coach Edis Elkasevic, my friend Peter Trofimuk (brother of Pat who helps me with these predictions) and I were about the only spectators in the stadium when the discus started, We stood where we could get the best view of the discus cage, and between every warm-up and competition throw Sandra came over to confer with Edis. I couldn’t understand what they were saying because they were not speaking English, but I could tell that in spite of the conditions, Sandra was jacked about competing that day.

She struggled on her first two or three attempts, and after one of them an official tried to block her from crossing the track to check in with Edis. Mind you, this was a couple of hours before the running events began, and the track was deserted, so I’m not sure what this guy was thinking, but no matter.  Sandra strode right past him, and when he protested she turned and said “You shut up, you!”

He did shut up, and a couple of throws later, Sandra got into that slick ring with a cold mist blowing sideways and knocked out a 68-meter throw to take over the world lead.

I wish I could say that the crowd roared in appreciation, but Edis, Peter, and I were too frozen to move our mouths.

Anyway, you get the idea.

Whatever happens in London, whatever Jaime or Mother Nature throw at her, Sandra will respond.

Silver: Perez.

Reason: She’s got more pop than anyone in the field aside from Perkovic. That will be enough to keep her ahead of a tightly packed group in which less than two meters separates those ranked numbers five thru thirteen in the world.

Bronze: Gia.

 Reason: Oh, why the hell not? If millions of Game of Thrones fans can convince themselves that there were dragons and people with perfect teeth running around during medieval times, why can’t I believe that a thirty-eight-year-old recovering from a serious back injury can conjure up  the performance of her life to win her first World Championship medal? I have one thing to say to those who doubt her. “You shut up, you!”

 

 

 

London Predictions: Men’s Discus

As with the men’s shot put, the men’s discus competition in London will feature a giant dude who has spent the summer dropping bombs.

That would be the big Swede, Daniel Stahl, who has four competitions over 68 meters this season including a 71.29m blast on June 29th at the Folksam Grand Prix meeting.

In London, Stahl will seek to exorcise memories of an awful performance in Rio where a best effort of 62.26m did not get him to the final (this, after finishing fifth at the  2015 Worlds in Beijing with a toss of 64.26m).

Oddly, Stahl’s main competition in London will come from three other athletes whose experiences in Rio were also at least semi-disastrous.

Frederick Dacres produced a groan-inducing best of 50.69m in Rio, but has looked fast, powerful, and confident on the Diamond League circuit this summer, hitting 68.36m in Stockholm, 67.10m in Oslo, and 66.66m in London.  Also, like Stahl, he performed well at the 2015 Worlds, finishing 7th with a toss of 64.22m and thus proving that he has the ability to make the final at a big meet in a big stadium.

Philip Milanov staked his claim as next great thrower on the horizon by taking silver at Beijing in 2015, then bit the weenie in Rio where he finished ninth. He has looked sharp this season with his best effort of 67.05m coming in Stockholm.

Robert Harting, arguably the best big meet thrower since Al Oerter, looked ready to  pull off a major comeback in Rio after blowing out his knee in the fall of 2014 and missing the entire 2015 campaign. He won the German championships in 2016 with a 68-meter effort, but suffered a back spasm the night before the Rio prelims while bending over to turn out a light. His best mark this year is 66.30m, but if the young bucks tighten up a bit and those Rio memories start to nag, can he be counted out?

Three of the top four finishers in Rio will not be competing in London. Neither gold medalist Chris Harting, who suffered an early spring back injury that threw him completely out of kilter, nor bronze medalist Daniel Jasinski made the German squad. Fourth place finisher Martin Kupper managed a season’s best of 62.86m.

Last year’s silver medalist, however, will compete and in spite of a lackluster 2017 campaign must be considered a threat to make the podium.

That would be Beijing champion and perennial victim of various Hartings, Piotr Malachowski. His best of 65.90m puts him tenth on this season’s performance list, and for the first time in about a hundred years he did not win the Polish championships, but his experience and toughness make him a contender.

Speaking of contenders, there are twenty-two throwers who have gone beyond 65 meters this year, among them Gerd Kanter (65.87m) who even Malachowski probably refers to as “Gramps,” Robert Urbanek (66.73m) who  defeated Malachowski at the Polish nationals, and the Lithuanian Andrius Gudzius (68.61m).

That said, let’s make some picks.

Trofimuk

Gold: Milanov

 Reason: As Trofimuk humbly puts it, “He is the only sensible pick. His performance at Beijing gives him the edge over the guys throwing the best this season.”

Silver: Malachowski

Reason: “He always performs well at the World Championships.”

Bronze: Stahl

Reason: “He’s having a great year. He’s young and  hungry for a medal at a major championship. Plus, he’s bigger than a refrigerator.”

McQ

Gold: Harting

 Reason: When the young bucks Milanov, Stahl, and Dacres start warming up in London, everything had better go right for them or Rio-inspired self questioning might be tough to suppress. Those guys are only human, right? Harting might be too, but he’s that odd, Michael Jordan kind of human who performs best in situations where others would be mired in doubt. In 2009, Malachowski throws a national record 69.15m in round five at the Berlin World Championships putting Harting in the position of having to conjure up a PR in  round six. We all remember how that turned out. At the London Olympics, he felt like crap. At the Moscow Worlds, he had a back injury. He still found a  way to win. If nerves or what have you keep the best throwers in the 67-meter range next week,  he’s my pick to squeeze out a winner.

Silver: Stahl

Reason: Like Trofimuk, I respect a man who could punch out a dinosaur. Even if he has a kind-of-crappy day, he’s going  66 meters.

Bronze: Malachowski

Reason: Sentiment. Watch this ESPN vid and tell me you won’t be rooting for him:

http://www.espn.com/videohub/video/clip?id=19906682&categoryid=null