Shot Put webinars available on Youtube

Two recently broadcast shot put webinars can be found on Youtube.

The first is on the glide shot. It was hosted by me and originally offered this past June:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-FfK2z8iXo&t=922s

The second is on the rotational shot. It was hosted by Jeff Rebholz of Towson University and originally broadcast earlier this month:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YB4_BKzgXy4&t=19s

More webinars are in  the works, so stay tuned!

Former Coach Lynden Reder debuts Velaasa

As a result of the “foul or no foul” scandal in the men’s shot at the recent World Championships, throws obsessives are a lot more familiar with Joe Kovacs’ feet today than they were a couple of weeks ago.

That’s Joe above. Those are his feet below.

And if you took a moment from trying to figure out if that really was a foul to ask yourself “What in the heck brand of shoes is that man wearing?” I can provide an answer to the second of those two mysteries.

Joe is wearing a prototype of a shoe that he is developing under the auspices of a company called Velaasa, which was founded by former University of Minnesota throws coach Lynden Reder.

Lynden started working at Minnesota in the fall of 2008, and stepped down after the 2016 outdoor season tired of  the travel demands of DI coaching.

After taking a month off to ponder his future, Coach Reder decided to start a business. His love for the sport of track and field dictated the direction of that business. A desire to solve a series of problems he had run into as a coach dictated the focus.

The first problem he decided to take on was, as he put it, “a lack of attractive, highly-functional, Olympic lifting shoes on the market.”

Having once considered a career in graphic design, he decided to use his long dormant artistic skills to design “the most athletic-looking lifting shoe of all time.”

The result was a product that Lynden dubbed the “Strake.”

 

Besides being a sharp-looking shoe, this product will come with three different heights of wooden heel that can easily be interchanged, and which can be decorated with a school logo.

The next problem Coach Reder decided to tackle was the inconsistency in diameter among shots and hammers of varying weights. He explained that “at Minnesota, we did a lot of training with light and heavy implements, but it could be awkward for the thrower as a sixteen-pound shot might be 129mm in diameter but a six-kilo shot might have a diameter of 110mm.”

Lynden’s favorite implements at Minnesota were those manufactured by Polanik, so he flew to Poland for a meeting and came home with an agreement to be a dealer for Polanik products including a newly designed line of training implements with consistent diameters.

For example, they will offer women’s shots in the 3k to 5k range in 0.25k increments, with all implements from 3k to 4.5k having the same 113mm diameter.

On the men’s side, they will offer shots from 14 to 18 pounds in 1lb increments, all with a diameter of 135mm.  Additionally, they will produce a 125mm 6k shot and a 9k at both 135mm and 154mm.

A similar variety of training implements for the weight, discus, and hammer will also be available.

A final problem that Coach Reder hopes to address through Velaasa is the difficulty that post-collegiate throwers in this country face in supporting themselves while continuing their careers.

He thinks he has a solution that will help grow his business while offering post-collegians a chance to make some money.

That solution is the Velaasa Track Club.

Club members, such as the aforementioned Joe Kovacs, will  use their contacts (social media and otherwise) to promote Velaasa products. When a customer purchases an item from Velaasa, they can designate Joe to receive a commission.

As mentioned above, Joe has been working with Velaasa to develop a rotational shot put shoe, and may collaborate with them on other products as well.

According to Lynden,  “One of the biggest things that differentiates us is that if you sign with the Velaasa Track Club, you will own your personal brand, we will partner with you to design a shoe or other products, and it will lead to a long term commitment with our company,”

And, rather than being at the mercy of a certain behemoth athletic wear company which has been known to giveth and taketh away sponsorship deals with little regard for the well being of the athlete, Lynden wants to give Velaasa reps “the opportunity to leverage their network to bring in revenue. And, since we are a small company, we can give lots of support and personal attention.”

For more information, visit https://velaasa.com/

 

 

 

 

A Q&A with Coach Dale Stevenson

You know how when someone loses an election or an Academy Award they always say they’re happy for the winner, but you know in their head they’re really thinking, “I hope that blankety-blank falls into an empty well or gets dengue fever”?

Well, there were for sure some bitterly disappointed competitors at last weekend’s men’s shot put competition at the London World Championships, but none of that bitterness was directed towards gold medalist Tom Walsh of New Zealand, one of the true gentlemen of the sport.

And it turns out that Tom’s coach, Dale Stevenson, is a great guy as well. The day after Tom’s win, he took a few minutes off from a celebratory visit to a London pub to talk about Tom’s career, his unusual off-season pursuit, and the challenges of grinding out a win at a major championship.

McQ: Congratulations, Coach. That was a huge win for Tom.

DS: Thanks. Tom is a great athlete and more importantly, a great human being. It is a fun journey to work with someone like that. We are both aspiring to be good at our craft, and it’s an exciting time for Tom and for the throws in New Zealand in general.

McQ: How long have you been Tom’s coach?

DS:  Officially since 2014. Prior to that we were competitors. I stopped competing in 2012, and was sort of mate/mentor to Tom for a couple of years. We officially formalized it in 2014 when I moved to New Zealand and started working there, and the rest is history.

McQ: Are you employed by the New Zealand federation?

DS: Yes, I’m the head throws coach for Athletics New Zealand.

McQ: You said you moved to New Zealand. Where did you move from?

DS: I’m originally Australian. Born and raised in Melbourne and competed for Australia. My wife and I moved to New Zealand in 2014. It was a major checkpoint for our lives, and here we are three years later and loving it.

McQ: What does your wife do?

DS: My wife was originally in real estate. Now she works in recruitment. She is incredibly supportive. They say behind every good man is an even better woman. I want to thank her…she supported me right through my throwing career and now as a coach in a job that requires extended time on the road and is not a nine-to-five job. I love her with all my heart, and she is a huge part of this result here in London, as are the other members of our team.

McQ: How does Tom maintain such a high level of performance over the long season from indoors to the end of the outdoor season? Last year, for example, he was World Indoor Champion then still threw great at the Olympics five months later. How do you keep him at that level for such an extended time?

DS: It is a bit of a different philosophy than in the US model. We don’t have the collegiate system, so there is not a huge amount of pressure on our athletes to be at their peak when they are seventeen/eighteen/nineteen years of age. Tom is twenty-four now, and we’ve had a long term plan with incremental improvement. We don’t take crazy risks to make fast gains. I guess it’s a bit more measured from other philosophies out there. There are guys who are super strong five, six, seven years younger than Tom just blowing crazy numbers up, but they tend to have more erratic series in meets like major championships. I was fortunate to have spent a lot of time under the mentorship of Don Babbitt (longtime throws coach at the University of Georgia) and spent a lot of time training with Reese Hoffa. And that’s probably something that Reese did well across his career, and as a result he’s one of the greatest shot putters of all time. Improve by small increments over time, and brick by brick you end up building an impressive career. We’ve got the luxury of taking that kind of approach in New Zealand because we don’t have the rigor of the hard selection trial like the US Championships every year. And we get support from the federation. We are trying to leverage our advantages, and as a result it has been a long, steady road, and we are now at the point with Tom that his bad days are still enough to get him through qualifying rounds.

McQ: Is his good health partly due to the slow progress in training that he’s made over the years. To the fact that he wasn’t rushed?

DS: Absolutely. Tom was incredibly fortunate. His first coach when he was a young boy was a really wise man who lives in a small, rural town in New Zealand. He taught Tom that no one competition was worth sacrificing your health and well-being. He planted the seed at a young age, but it requires a certain kind of demeanor and Tom has it. Some guys like to get really fired up and go out and chase that one huge throw, whereas Tom is more prepared to say “What am I going to do to get one percent better today?” Eventually, that adds up. That incremental improvement is something that we are looking for.

McQ: Is it true that Tom does construction work in the off-season?

DS: Yes, he does. In October, November, and December he works three hard days a week depending on training and where he is at physically. He’s got a good relationship with his employer. They basically let him pick his own hours. And it is an important part of his development as a shot putter. We feel this is crucial for his development as a good human being and a good athlete.

McQ: Do you feel that it is mentally healthy for him to go back to being a “normal person” for a couple of months a year?

DS: Totally. We want our athletes to be balanced. We want them to be smart and to feel grateful for the opportunity of getting paid to do sports for a living. When you’re up at 5:30am and you’re laying bricks, you’re laying a foundation, or you’re digging holes or whatever you are doing on the construction site it gives you a really gracious mindset when you come into training. Training feels like a privilege. It is good for Tom to have something in his life other than throwing. For his development as a young man, it’s crucial.

McQ: Will he go back to working construction this October?

DS: Yes, We’ve got a short turnaround this year with World Indoors in March and then the Commonwealth Games, which is a reasonably big deal in New Zealand, in April. So, he may have a shorter time on the job, but we’ll have a conversation about that when the season in Europe ends.

McQ: Let’s talk about the Worlds. Tom had a perfect day in qualification. One throw. Killed it. (22.14m to be exact). That had to feel good.

DS: Absolutely. It doesn’t matter whether you throw 20.75m, the auto, or 24.75m as long as you get the qualifying out of the way. It gives you the peace of mind to go ahead and line it up the next day.

McQ: Watching the competition, it seemed like it took everybody several throws to find their timing.

DS: That’s not unusual for a major championship. Guys like Ryan Crouser and Joe Kovacs, they’ve been there and done it before and they still get challenged by that. It’s not unusual for them to take a couple of rounds to get into their work. You’ve just got to work through it and deal with it and bring your way into the competition. Get into the top eight to guarantee yourself six throws. And guys started to free up towards the end. But to be honest, those were funny results. But it is what it is. Championships do funny things to people.

McQ: Even with super-experienced throwers, do you feel like the atmosphere at a World Championships or Olympic Games can be hard to manage?

DS: It’s just so infrequent. The exposure to it three times every four seasons. And guys like David Storl, Ryan Crouser, Ryan Whiting, Joe Kovacs, Tom…they want to be regarded as among the handful of throwers who are the best who ever picked up a shot. They are vying for their legacy, essentially. The first things that people look at are the Olympic Games and World Championships, and you’ve got to perform well there if you want to be considered among the best. When it means something, it does funny things to us as human beings. It is strange that we pin our self-worth and our meaning as a human being on an arbitrary kind of competition where you pick up a metal ball and throw it, but hey, we all do it.

McQ: During competition, I know a  lot of throwers like to  check in with their coach between throws. Do you and Tom do that?

DS: No, we don’t. I’m there, but my end game is to make myself redundant, so we are working towards Tom becoming more and more independent and not needing me. I’m trying to work towards being more of a safety net. It’s probably going to take a little more time, but I’m pretty content Tom’s got a good feel for what he’s doing now. He knows what he has to do and when he has to do it. My role is kind of like the bumpers in ten pin bowling. If he goes too far one way, I sort of give him a nudge back the other way. He’s getting better and better at bowling strikes, so my role is probably becoming more and more redundant, which is fine with me.

McQ: Did you say anything to him during the final in London?

DS: Yes. There were a couple of technical things he needed to iron out. He was throwing early in the order in the first three rounds, then last in the order for the final three rounds, so that meant that he had twenty or twenty-five minutes between throws from the third to the fourth round, so I think more than anything just to break up that time he came over and we had a few words. It was mainly to get out of the heat of the battle, because you’ve got twelve guys pacing around in a fairly confined arena. Sometimes just getting out of that and going and seeing a different face helps you to reset.

McQ: Was your heart beating like crazy when some of those guys were taking cracks at twenty-two meters?

DS: Absolutely. It would have been foolish to think that the competition was sewn up at any point when you have guys that can throw well over twenty-two on any given day. We knew it would come down to the wire and we were prepared for that. I was probably more calm than I have been at any other major championship because I knew Tom was in good shape. We’d done all the work that could be done. But, the heart rate does go up. When it was all done and Tom came over, I found myself jumping the fence and running out on the track to give him a hug.

McQ: But you kept your clothes on, right? Unlike the guy on Saturday night?

DS: Say again?

McQ: You kept your clothes on, unlike the streaker on Saturday night?

DS: I did keep my clothes on. Security was keeping a close eye on me. I managed to shrug a few of them off I was so pumped for him. Tom’s an amazing athlete and he deserves everything that comes his way. I just wanted to affirm that for him, and it’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

McQ: I know people in the sport really like Tom.

DS: I was talking to Art Venegas (coach of Joe Kovacs) last night about this. We talked about how important it is to mentor athletes into becoming good human beings. I’d rather coach a lesser athlete who is a good person than a medal winner who is an asshole. But you can have good athletes who are also good people, and certainly Tom is one of them as is Joe and Ryan and many of the other guys. As we speak, I’m out having a drink and Ryan Whiting has come to join us to help celebrate Tom’s victory. That speaks to the character of Ryan and to his selflessness. We are incredibly thankful to everyone who has helped us around the world. We’ve got great friends in the US and they continue to welcome us and have us back every year. I’d like to say thanks to everyone who has helped us along the way.

McQ: One last question. Were you surprised that Stipe Zunic (the bronze-medalist from Croatia) was able to put Tom on his shoulders during the victory lap?

DS: No. Stipe is probably the strongest guy throwing at the moment. He is a beast. Stipe could probably pick up three guys and put them on his shoulders. He’s a large man who can move. He competed in the martial arts and was a fine javelin thrower. I wouldn’t want to get in his way, but fortunately, he’s a great guy too. He seized his opportunity to get on the podium, and good on him.

 

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.