Perkovic at the Euro Championships

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In an earlier post, I started to write about what makes Sandra Perkovic such a great thrower. Then I got sidetracked by my affection for Betty Heidler.

Time to get back to the Croatian Sensation.

The picture above is one I took at the European Championships in Zurich last August.  That’s Sandra conferring with her boyfriend and coach Edis Elkasevic just before her one and only prelim throw.

That throw of 63.93m easily surpassed the automatic qualifying mark ( 60m, I think) and was a great example of what an elite thrower needs to do in the preliminary rounds: Get it done early without expending much energy.

The weather on the day of the finals was fantastic, and as this was the biggest competition of the year for Sandra (there being no Olympics or World Championships) I anticipated a big throw from her.

My ticket for that session was behind the cage probably 30 rows up, but after my experience with the men’s discus final (the television cameras blocked my view from that angle) I staked out a standing room spot to the right of the cage where I could actually see the throwers throw.

While waiting for the women’s disc to begin, I happened to notice a rather large gentleman with a familiar profile standing nearby. He is the father of two world class men’s discus throwers. Can you tell who?

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Hint: One of his sons dates a competitor in the women’s discus final.

During the discus warmups, a woman walked up to me and held out her ticket, saying something about the view. I thought she was commiserating with me about being stuck in the standing room section, so I just nodded and smiled.

Turns out, she was leaving and wanted to give me her ticket, which was for a seat about 20 rows up on the right side of the cage–a great spot!

Here is the video I took from that seat:

Not a bad angle, eh?

Anyway, Perkovic did not disappoint.

She opened at 64.58m, sealed the win with her next throw of 67.37m, and then crushed any hope anyone might have entertained of an upset with a round three 68.78m.

During the pause prior to the final three throws, I was faced with a decision.

This was my final day in Europe, and I was meant to share one last dinner with my brother-in-law Larry and his wife Susi at their home in southern Germany.

The women’s disc final had started late, and I had to catch a tram soon if I was going to make it to Larry and Susi’s on time.

If I left before the end of the competition, I risked missing a great throw by Perkovic.

If I stayed, I risked missing a great dinner (Susi is an amazing cook).

I decided to hang in there for one more round and then decide.

Sandra fouled her fourth round throw. I told myself that she had probably lost her focus during the break, knowing that the 68.78m would surely hold up for the win.

Based on that calculation, I headed for the tram.

A few minutes later, as I waited for my connection in the main Zurich train station, I decided to kill some time by checking out the final results on my ipad mini.

Imagine my chagrin when I found out that had I stayed in my seat for another ten minutes I’d have seen the farthest women’s discus throw since 1992, Sandra’s fifth round 71.08m.

I should have known.

After her 68.78m, Sandra came over to the stands to talk to Edis and you could tell by her gestures that she was agitated that she had not thrown farther.  She clearly believed that she had a big throw in her that day, and…well, she was right.

And that’s why Perkovic means so much to our sport.

Every sport needs someone who keeps you in your seat.  J.J.Watt. Lionel Messi. Lebron James. You can’t leave a game when those guys are playing because you want to be able to tell your friends that you were there when they did something amazing.

And it is the same with Perkovic.

I can’t wait until this summer. The American Gia Lewis-Smallwood has shown that she too can make huge throws in stadiums, and with her putting the pressure on Perkovic, the World Championships should be a fantastic competition.

A quick comment on Perkovic’s technique.

It can be very difficult for a coach of young, non-elite athletes to figure out which aspects of an elite thrower’s technique are worth emulating.

The United States has recently produced three of the best shot putters ever in Adam Nelson, Reese Hoffa, and Christian Cantwell, but their technique is so idiosyncratic that it would be counterproductive for a young thrower to try to emulate them.

Perkovic’s technique is a bit idiosyncratic as well.  Not many throwers could hit a position in the middle with their head facing down like this…

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…without losing their balance.

I would, however, recommend emulating Sandra in the way she leads with her hip as she gets out of the back of the ring.

She does an amazing job of  getting from here…

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…to here…

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…on balance.

Another view:

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See how her left armpit and hip are aligned?

Coming out of the back, she is perfectly on balance and so can run the ring aggressively without spinning out of control.

Here is a shot of her juxtaposed with Franz Kruger, who also did a great job of getting his shoulders and hips aligned out of the back:

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That is an aspect of Sandra’s technique that throwers of all levels should emulate.

Here is a short vid by Mac Wilkins highlighting several aspects of Sandra’s form:

Whatever you think of her technique, take my advice. If you are at a meet where Sandra Perkovic is competing,..do not leave early.

 

 

 

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