A lot, actually.
First of all, she is immensely competitive, which makes her fun to watch.
The first time I saw her throw in person was in 2010 at the Adidas Grand Prix Diamond League meet in New York. She was only nineteen then, and had not won any big meets but you could tell she was going to be something special. It was a humid day, and the other discus throwers seemed to sag in the damp air.
She blasted every warmup throw like she was in the Olympic final. One whanged off the cage so hard that I’m surprised it didn’t knock down the support pole.
She only threw 61m that day, with a 65m foul, but she exhibited definite beast-like tendencies.
The next time I saw her compete in person was back in New York in 2013. This time she came in as reigning Olympic Champion but faced a major challenge from some bizarre Memorial Day weekend weather. The air was damp again, not with humidity but with freezing rain. I don’t know what the temperature was, but between the wind and the rain it felt like eleventy below.
That’s me in the blue trying not to die of hypothermia while eavesdropping on Perkovic as she confers with her boyfriend and coach Edis Elkasevic (the former NCAA shot champion for Auburn). Unfortunately, they were speaking Croatian so I understood what they were saying about as well as my daughter understands me when I try to explain to her that we can’t live at Disney World.
But language barrier aside, it was very clear that Perkovic had come to New York to win and not by a little bit. She opened with 64m, and even though it was a Diamond League meet featuring a pretty strong group of throwers, I’d have bet my house, my car, and my entire collection of 1990’s throwing videos that in those conditions 64m would hold up for the win.
So when the automated measuring system went on the fritz after the first round resulting in a thirty-minute delay in the competition I figured she’d withdraw or at least start throwing like crap as any normal, immensely frustrated, half frozen human being would.
When she is competing, Perkovic reminds me of another great athlete of Eastern European heritage–the hall of fame Chicago Bears middle linebacker Dick Butkus.
If you’ve never seen video of Butkus in his prime, check this one out:
When Butkus tackled someone, he didn’t just want to hit them hard. He wanted to kill them.
And I think Perkovic approaches discus competitions the same way.
So she did not withdraw after that ridiculous delay. Nor did she throw like crap. Instead, she took a couple of rounds to get her bearings, then launched one 68.48m . Bam!
Here is a vid of that competition:
And here is Sandra in the interview tent afterwards. Sorry the camera keeps shaking, but my core body temperature was -2 at that point.
Anyway, more on Perkovic next time, including some thoughts on her technique.