Category Archives: Uncategorized

Raven Saunders grabs the US Junior indoor shot record

raven

 

It took all of five collegiate competitions for high school national record-holder Raven Saunders to take over the American Junior indoor record in the shot.

Former UCLA great Seilala Sua set the previous mark (17.46m) in  1997. Raven took over the top spot with a 17.64m heave on her sixth throw at the SIU Invitational this past Saturday.

Here is a vid of that throw:

Raven brought some serious weight room numbers when she arrived on campus last fall (245 bench, 400 squat, 200 power clean) and SIU throws coach John Smith was determined to boost those numbers even higher.

He put Saunders on a high rep routine  of 10’s in bench and squats and 8’s in cleans during her first month in Carbondale and by mid-October she had benched 250 for a set of 6, squatted 375 for a set of 8, and hang cleaned 100k for a set of 8.

Coach Smith estimates that she is now 20-30% stronger than when she arrived on campus.

In terms of technique, John estimates that they have spent 95% of their throwing time teaching Raven how to use her legs. “Lots of non-reverse stands, half turns, giant steps, walking throws…also working on controlling her head. She likes to throw it harder than the shot. Heavy balls have been fixing a lot of this.”

Raven is now the fifth-ranked women’s putter in the US for the 2015 indoor season, and she seems poised to join SIU grad Jeneva McCall and recent Illinois State grad Brittany Smith in what should be a ferocious competition to represent the US in Beijing and Rio over the next two years.

 

 

More on Betty…then back to Perkovic

Keiner-kennt-Hammerwerferin-Betty-Heidler-l-so-gut-wie-ihr-Trainer-Michael-Deyhle-r-

 

I began my last post meaning to talk about the women’s discus competition at the 2014 European Championships but ended up switching over to the women’s hammer and my conversation with Betty Heidler.

There she is above with her coach, Michael Deyhle.

My conversation with Betty consisted mostly of me telling her how impressed I was with her ability to stay calm when the knuckleheads running the hammer at the 2012 Olympics somehow neglected to measure one of her throws. Watching the webcast, you could tell right away that something was wrong because until that point the previous thrower’s new mark and place always appeared on the screen prior to the next competitor’s attempt.

But the distance of what was clearly Betty’s best throw so far never showed up on the screen. Nor did her place change. Nor was she charged with a foul.

The competition simply continued as if Betty’s throw had never happened.

My earliest Olympic memory is sitting in front of my family’s one and only television (Oh yeah, we had it rough back then) watching the men’s marathon at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

The American, Frank Shorter (sporting a very suave ’70’s stache) had built a substantial lead heading into the stadium and had only to complete one lap around the track to claim the gold.

But, just as Frank was about to appear, some idiot dressed in running clothes ran out onto the track pretending that he and not Shorter was leading the race.

When Frank appeared he had no idea what in the hell was going on. He looked very confused and worried and was I’m sure wondering how this guy who was–as a British announcer put it–“as fresh as a buttercup”had somehow passed him along the route.

Anyway, one of the American broadcasters started going nuts. “Frank! He’s a fake! Don’t worry, Frank! You’re the winner! Fraaaaaank!”

And that is exactly how I reacted as the women’s hammer competition ended with Betty in fourth place.

I had just come in from football practice and was watching the webcast in my classroom. Luckily, there were very few people in the building because I’m sure I sounded like a nut job.

“Betty! They didn’t measure your throw! Tell them they have to measure your throw!”

Meanwhile, the three alleged “medalists” began their victory lap.

But the camera stayed on Betty as she filed a protest with one of the officials and then sat down to await the result. Remarkably, she stayed calm and even smiled and waved at the camera.

I was so taken by her poise that when I got home that day I told my wife that if Betty ever decided to propose to me I would have no choice but to accept.

Luckily, Betty saved me from a terribly awkward situation when she did not propose during our conversation in Zurich. We had a very nice chat, and off she went.

Afterwards, I spent a few minutes talking with Michael Deyhle.

Deyhle is part of a generation of German coaches who I strongly suspect of being hard asses.I would put David Storl’s coach (his name escapes me) and Harting’s former coach Werner Goldmann in that same category.

During the press conference after his victory in Zurich, Storl made mention of his coach chewing him out between throws. This during a competition which, despite a damaged knee, he was never in danger of losing.

I don’t know for a fact that Goldmann is a hard ass, but I suspect that Harting switched coaches last year largely because he was tired of butting heads with the man. It is no accident that his current coach, Torsten Schmidt, possesses a very low-key, encouraging manner.

Deyhle is definitely a hard ass. His assessment of the performances by Betty and his other pupil, Kathrin Klass, in the Zurich hammer final?

“Shit. Complete shit.”

He is also very outgoing, and took the time to talk with me about his interactions with Betty during the final.

In spite of the steady rain, Betty had launched her final warmup throw 75 meters. When they conferred prior to the first round of the competition, Deyhle told her that her technique and rhythm looked good and that she should approach her first competition throw with the same level of intensity.

Apparently, though, Betty decided, as many throwers do, to open with a relaxed, easy toss in order to make sure she got a mark and made it to the final three rounds.

Unfortunately, her resulting throw of 67.65m guaranteed her nothing but a good chewing out from Deyhle. She never regained the rhythm she had found during warmups, and finished fifth with a best throw of 72.39m.

Had she equaled that 75-meter warmup toss in competition she’d have placed second.

That’s the kind of performance that causes throws coaches at all levels to rethink their choice of profession, We’ve all been there.

So I asked Deyhle what is to be done in a situation like that, when a thrower loses their “touch” in the middle of a competition.

He said that a coach has to find a way to help the athlete to “reset.” You have to get their mind off of how badly things are going and get them to fall back into throwing with rhythm. He said this can often be done by taking imitation throws off to the side.

Unfortunately, the steady downpour that night made it impossible to perform hammer imitations on the rubberized surface outside of the cage. So Betty was not able to relocate her lost “touch,”

Back to Perkovic in the next post. Scout’s honor.

 

 

 

 

 

More Perkovic

perkzurich

The next time I got to see Perkovic throw in person was last August at the European Championships in Zurich. The weather was all over the place that week, and there was a bit of rain on and off the day of the women’s disc prelims.

I asked Torsten Schmidt how an elite thrower should approach their prelim throws. Do you get in there and try to knock the hell out of one to be sure you reach the automatic qualifying distance on your first throw? Do you take a low key approach so you have plenty of adrenaline left for the final?

He told me that the elite athlete has to find a balance. They must enter the ring on their first throw focused enough to get the job done, but they also must try to conserve energy.

Robert Harting played it perfectly in round one of the men’s discus in Zurich. He looked almost casual as he dropped one out to 67m. You can see that throw here at the 1:24 mark:

 

Anita Wlodarczyk did the same thing in the women’s hammer prelim. Even though it was raining like a bastard, she calmly launched a first round 75.73m and was probably warm and dry back in her hotel room by the time the rest of the field had been sorted out.

Interesting story. Betty Heidler also surpassed the automatic qualifying mark on her first prelim throw in Zurich, after which there was a long and unexplained delay which ended when she returned to the ring and launched another throw of about the same distance, then packed it in for the day.

I had no clue why Betty had to take two throws (here she is walking over to talk to her coach during the delay)

 

 

photo 3

until I got to talk with her the morning after the women’s hammer final when I attended a press conference at the hotel where the German athletes were staying.

In an earlier post I described my experience at the German press conference the morning after the men’s shot final when I finally got to ask David Storl why he had been throwing without a reverse for most of the summer. Everybody in the room spoke German except me, so I felt a little teeny bit like an intruder when I raised my hand and asked, “May I speak to David in English?”

The guy running those press conferences is, I’m sure, a good dude, but I wouldn’t go so far as to describe him as “friendly” or “welcoming.”  So, I got to ask my question but he didn’t exactly go out of his way to make me feel welcome.

Anyway, the morning after the women’s hammer final (which Wlodarczyk dominated–you can see a video of it here:

although I don’t have Anita’s 79m bomb because the men’s high jump was going on at the same time and I got distracted when Bogdan Bondarenko was attempting some ungodly height) I showed up at the German press conference again but this time I was late because I had run into Torsten in the lobby and had a nice chat with him.

Now, there are certain stereotypes in this world that are ridiculous (English teachers are nerds, Irish men have small…bladders) but there are some stereotypes which contain a nugget or two of truth, and one of those is that Germans have very little tolerance for…shall we say, “inefficiency.”

And walking into a press conference late definitely qualifies as an inefficiency. As does neglecting to shut the door behind you when there is lots of noise and activity in the hallway.

So the guy in charge of the press conference looks at me, frowns, sighs, walks off the podium, goes to the back of the room and shuts the door.

Not exactly a suave entrance on my part, but at that point I did not care. I was  about to meet Betty Heidler. IMG_0628[1]

 

Now, Betty was not very happy at that particular moment because she did not throw well the night before. She finished fifth, and as you can see in this photo, she was more than a little disappointed.

But the thing is, I love Betty.

It’s cool. My wife knows.

I have a great marriage, in large part because my wife has endless patience for my eccentricities, one of which is my love for Betty Heidler.

And who among you could blame me?

If you are reading this blog, and are a male, I know that “pretty, great personality, world record holder in the hammer” basically describes your dream girl.

So stop judging.

Anyway, when the press conference broke up Betty just about sprinted towards the exit, but I intercepted her and found myself talking to the world record holder in the hammer the same way I would talk to one of my high school throwers after a disappointing performance.

“Betty, you are a great thrower. You’re going to come back from this.”

She brightened up a bit, and I asked her what happened in the prelims that she had to take an extra throw.

“It was the same as the Olympics!” she said. “They did not measure the throw!”

Gotta go. More on Betty, and back to Perkovic next time.

 

 

On to Berlin, Part 2

So they hand over my passport just in time for me to catch the subway to O’Hare, and I make it to the gate of the Frankfort flight just as they are about to start boarding. It is the same gate that my wife and I flew out of in August when we got bumped up to first class, so my memories of it are, to say the least, fond. This time they call me up and hand me a ticket for a seat in economy, which was fine by me–I just wanted to get to Germany.

Turns out I got a seat in a row all by myself with plenty  of leg room. Just as I was settling in, a voice comes over the intercom.

“Passenger Dan McQuaid, please come forward.”

I was none too happy to hear that, but come forward I did, only to be met by a guy from the ticket counter who was now standing just inside the entrance to the plane.

“You’re Dan McQuaid?”

“Yes.”

“Grab your stuff. We just had an opening in first class.”

He didn’t have to tell me twice.

I spent the next three hours stuffing my face, then watched a little TV, took a nice snooze, watched a little more TV and next thing I know, we are in Germany!

So, suck it Air Berlin. It’s going to be a short trip because they still won’t give me credit for the flight I missed or let me switch to a Saturday return flight, but at least I got here!

And apropos of nothing, I’d have to say that having gone through security twice at O’Hare, twice at the Federal Building, and once in  Frankfort (I ended up taking Luftansa from there to Berlin) Frankfort has by far the friendliest and most thorough security. They even gave me a little extra feel because I accidentally left a pen in my shirt pocket.

 

 

 

 

 

In Berlin

It seemed like the perfect plan. My wife’s sister who lives in Berlin recently had a hip replacement. My wife wanted someone to go and stay with her for a few days to make sure she’s doing okay.

Chivalrous bastard that I am, I volunteered.

My school has the entire week off. I got a great fare on Air Berlin. I made a lunch date with Torsten Schmidt, the coach of Robert Harting, so that I could continue to badger him into helping me understand why the Germans consistently produce great discus throwers.

My wife and mother-in-law dropped me at the airport on Saturday and then headed to the outlet mall while I breezed through security.

Got a couple of magazines. A nice iced tea. A rather excellent gyro.

They begin to call out group numbers. I heard mine, stepped up and handed over my boarding pass and passport, the guy takes a look at it, then looks at me and says “Please step over to the counter.”

As I do, he yells to the counter person “Check his passport!”

At this point, I imagine everyone in the vicinity figured they had just nabbed a terrorist trying to board with a fake passport. I could not imagine what was the deal. Then they told me.

“Sir, your passport expires in two months. You cannot travel to Germany within three months of your passport expiring.”

Imagine my vexation.

I stood there probably looking a bit stunned and watched the plane fly away without me.

After a while, the gate supervisor explained to me that this was a fairly new regulation and that I might be able to get an expedited passport on Monday and they would put me on their next flight, which would not be until Tuesday.

My immensely patient wife came back to the airport to get me and immediately upon our arrival home started working the phone to make sure Air Berlin was going to honor the supervisor’s promise that I would get on the Tuesday flight.

Long story short, they were less than keen about doing that in spite of my wife’s pointing out that that they ought to let a guy know  there might be a problem with his passport before he is ten feet from boarding the plane.

The last person she spoke to in Berlin finally told her that I should show up for the Tuesday flight and basically throw myself on the mercy of the ticket agent.

At that point we had no idea if they’d let me on the flight or if they’d say “tough luck” and make us eat the cost of the ticket.

Luckily, we had one other option. If I could get a new passport on Monday and get to O’Hare by 4:00ish I might be able to use a buddy pass on United (another of my wife’s sisters is a stew) that would at least get me to Frankfort. From there I could figure out how to get to Berlin and then come home on the return portion of my Air Berlin ticket.

If you can’t tell by now that my wife is a saint, just know that she spent about seven hours at the passport bureau with me on Monday and if you think that was a barrel of laughs…try it some time.

Got to go. I’ll finish the story later!

 

How Could They?

Is anyone else astonished that the IAAF chose Qatar to host the 2019 World Championships?

Let’s see…Qatar has been strongly suspected of bribing their way into hosting the soccer world cup in 2022, they have been accused of badly mistreating the foreign workers that they import for construction projects, and the competition will have to be delayed until late September/early October to avoid the insane summer temperatures in that region.

Great call IAAF!

Here are a couple of excellent articles on this matter:

http://www.insidethegames.biz/sports/summer/athletics/1023933-exclusive-iaaf-claim-doha-s-37-million-offer-in-2019-world-championships-bid-was-legal-and-within-guidelines

http://www.insidethegames.biz/blogs/1023916-mike-rowbottom-why-the-iaaf-disregarded-a-herd-of-elephants-in-the-room-to-give-doha-the-2019-world-athletics-championships

Any thoughts? I just don’t know what to think other than to wonder if the IAAF  is as corrupt as FIFA.

–McQ

3 Things I Know – Part 3

More details at:
The Wilkins Review
                                   

MacWilkins.com
 
Mac Wilkins Throws Channel

Part 3   Rotational Continuity into the Block    

The Right Leg drives around into the throw, rotating the Right Hip WITH LITTLE OR NO PAUSE (even before the left foot is grounded) into the left side block.

This is the key difference between 67m+ and NOT.

These three high level concepts will work well as a tune up before the big meets in May and June.  You won’t get bogged down with complex details and “forget how to throw”.   They are also foundation concepts that can and should be mastered from the beginning of your throwing career.

Each of these three concepts have many sub parts or details that can be explored and I will list a few of them.  Primarily, though, I am looking at them as “Big Picture” movements, positions and rhythm that can be approached with the end result in mind.  They are “End Result” concepts.  Don’t worry about the details of how to get there, as much as just making the end result happen.  There is room for personal style in the throw but these concepts are universally applied by top throwers.

1.    See the Horizon to the Target (throw direction)
Slow Down, see the horizon to the target.  Let the left side: eyes, arm, knee and foot lead the body to the target.

2.    Work a Wide Right Leg from the Back of the circle to the Middle
The Right Leg is your engine for the throw.  The wide right leg shortens and accelerates/works ahead of the paused or slowed left side to create torque.

3.     Rotational Continuity into the Block with little or no pause.  The Right Leg drives forward rotating the right hip into the left side block.

The goal is to minimize or eliminate any pause or delay in turning the right hip into the block or even around past the block!  At first, you may have to exaggerate the turn in the air to get the right foot around and into the throw.  The right foot should touch down pointing to the back of the circle (12 o’clock).  However, where it is pointing on touch down is not as important as making sure that you are getting the right hip to turn ALL THE WAY into the block without a pause or delay.  Don’t let the right foot impede the hip rotation by grounding the heel.

The Right Leg is the initiator, not the right foot.  You don’t want to “pre-turn” the right foot ahead of the knee. 

You can’t make this rotation happen starting from a dead stop, with all your weight on the right foot as the “Wheel Drill” practitioners seem to believe.  Logon to The Wilkins Review and click on Training Resources; Drills and watch The False Wheel Drill October 2009 in for a more complete explanation of why the Wheel Drill teaches  incorrect technique.

Work the right thigh forward and bring the foot under the knee to shorten the leg/lever for acceleration.  Your skill at doing this will determine how fast you can spin your hips (how far you can throw).

If your right foot is not “back under” the right knee you are probably not shortening enough thus not creating enough rotary momentum.

Although it feels like a linear right leg drive into the throw, it’s the rotary momentum created during the left leg pivot that creates the power.

If you land heavily on the right foot this rotation won’t happen.  You must be on balance from left to right and back to front for a quick and timely right foot rotation.  Don’t let the right heel touch down and impede the hip rotation.

Check the Bend in the Right Leg on these throws.

Aleekna Sprint

 

Dietszche bent right leg

 

Greek

 

LJ BRL cropped

 

Lo 14 BRL

 

Malichowski BRL cropped

 

Robert H BRL Cropped

Right Leg Continuity into the Block

In this video look for the long to short right leg creating torque and then the immediate transfer from right to left in the power position with upper body being dragged into block.  The “walking torque” drill at the start seems simple but must be done like a martial arts movement for maximal rotational speed.

 

If you can feel the Right Leg Engine work twice, once at the back and again leading the upper body into the delivery, you are making progress.  The next step is to feel the right leg work to the middle and without pause, turn into the block.  The goal is to “be surprised” at how soon the right hip delivers into the block, not unlike a good javelin throw.

 
www.thewilkinsreview.com    Over 110 instructional Videos

www.macwilkins.com for Video Analysis and Online Coaching

Mac Wilkins Throws Channel  YouTube quick and dirty lessons

 

The European Athletics Championships Part 1: Men’s Shot

leitzigrund

 

I’ve done my share of dumb things in my life, but one thing I got right was that I married the perfect woman. She is beautiful and nice and very patient with me, and…I’m not going to say this is the most important thing, but…she has a brother who lives in southern Germany just across the border from Switzerland. He and his wife also rent an apartment in Winterthur, Switzerland, which is a 20-minute train ride from Zurich, which is where the 2014 European Athletics Championships were held this month…which I got to attend all because I married the right woman.

A fantastic week of competition at Letzigrund Stadium began on the morning of Tuesday, August 12th with the qualifying rounds of the men’s shotput.

Tuesday also marked the beginning of my never-ending quest for unobstructed sight lines from which to view the throws. I say this good-naturedly, as the folks in Zurich did an amazing job of hosting this meet. Inside the stadium there were dozens of volunteers, all dressed like this…

volunteers

…and all utterly determined to be helpful.  It didn’t matter that I only speak English. It didn’t matter that it took me about ten minutes to figure out which Swiss coins I needed to hand over every time I bought a brat. It didn’t matter that when I said “brat” it sounded like “brot,” the German word for bread. Everyone I dealt with at Letzigrund was cheerfully patient.

Actually, the volunteers did not know it, but the most helpful thing they did all week was to take public transportation to the stadium with the rest of us. Any time I got confused as to which tram or bus I should board, all I had to do was to find and follow members of the purple army.

I intend to write more later about the way the meet was managed because I think the organizers had some great ideas about how to engage the fans. And, as I discovered when I returned to the States, the television coverage of every event including the throws was astonishingly thorough, so they did a great job of engaging their viewers as well.

The one person they apparently were not worried about accommodating was the Handicam-wielding obsessive throws fan who shelled out 100 to 140 francs per day to see the likes of Robert Harting and David Storl compete and wanted to see the way they moved through the ring rather than just watching their heads bob up and down behind a barricade of television cameras and portable shelters for the athletes.   In other words, me. Here, for example was my view of the men’s shot prelims:

shot prelim

They ran flights simultaneously in two rings, each of which was substantially hidden from view.  Luckily, there was not much drama to the proceedings. Everybody knew that Germany’s David Storl was going to qualify on his first throw (I think the automatic mark was 20 meters) and then dominate that evening’s final.

There was even talk of him breaking the meet record of 22.22m held by the great Swiss putter Werner Gunthor.

What intrigued me about Storl was that he had been throwing with a fixed-feet finish this summer after winning the last two World Championships using a violently aggressive reverse. Apparently he knew what he was doing, because he tossed a PR of 21.97m a couple of weeks prior to the Euros using his new style, but I was dying to find out the reasoning behind the switch.

Storl did, in fact, dominate the competition that evening. You can find the results here:

http://www.european-athletics.org/competitions/european-athletics-championships/2014/athletics/event/mens-shot-put/phase=atm051100/index.html?intcmp=[#]-schline-calltoaction

But he did not look very comfortable, and after finishing one throw with an awkward looking semi-reverse, he limped from the ring and sprawled out on the ground for a couple of minutes.

As he held a half-meter lead over Spain’s  Borja Vivas and Poland’s Tomasz Majewski at the time, I expected Storl to pass his final two attempts, but much to the delight of the crowd…

crowd shot

 

…he did not.

By the way, the view of the shot final was much improved over that of the prelims:

shot final

 

Here is the video that I took that night:

http://youtu.be/VT_O5u8CBXo

It certainly does not match the quality of the televised version, but I did include a brief clip of a cameraman pursuing the women’s 10,000 meter runners around the track on a Segway.

When the competition ended, I knew I was very unlikely to get anywhere near Storl to ask him why he had switched to a fixed-feet glide. There were about a million credentialed media members in the stadium who would get first crack at him. Here is a partial view of the temporary media offices erected next to Letzigrund to accommodate them all..

press offices

…and when I say “partial view” I mean it. This is less than half the total number of them.

Also, they were holding the medal ceremony that night, so I knew Storl was going to be tied up for quite some time.

I decided, therefore, that my best bet was to stalk his coach, who was sitting one section over from me. Unfortunately, every time I approached him he was either on the phone or in deep conversation with the guy sitting next to him and I didn’t want to interrupt. Okay, he got up to go to the bathroom once, but not even I am weird enough to approach a strange man in the men’s room and start questioning him about shot put technique.

Before long, the post competition festivities began…

high wire

…and I headed back to Winterthur without solving the mystery of the fixed-feet glide.

Fortunately, another possibility soon emerged.  On the way out of the stadium, I got a look at a list of press conferences scheduled for the following morning. The German team was staying at the Hilton out near the airport, and were going to make athletes available to the media at 9:30am.

The efficient Swiss public transportation system made it quite easy to get to the airport. The Hilton operated a free shuttle  every fifteen minutes. Long story short, at 9:25 the next morning I walked into the London Room of the Hilton Hotel and took a seat among half a dozen journalists. Sitting at the front of the room were three German athletes (I think they were heptathletes), a coach, and a media liaison.

heptath press conf

 

Precisely at 9:30, they all began conversing in German.

Holy cow, did I feel like a fish out of water. I had no clue what anyone was saying, and after a few minutes was about ready to slink out of there when I heard the door open behind me and saw the media guy look up and smile. The person who entered uttered the word “morgen” in a deep but tired-sounding voice, and I knew it was Storl.

The man of the hour, he was ushered right up to the podium and began answering questions, once again all in German.

storl press conf

I was embarrassed as hell, because this was clearly a news conference meant for the German press, but no way was I getting this close without asking my question.

I raised my hand, and when they called on me I decided to take the humble approach.

“Pardon, may I speak English?”

I’ve never had six heads, so I can’t say for sure that’s how the media guy looked at me, but let’s just say he was plenty surprised.

Storl took it in stride, though, and I finally got my question answered. Why had he switched to a fixed-feet style? He had injured his knee shortly after the Glasgow Diamond League meet and had changed his technique to protect it until he could have surgery after the season.

I followed up by asking him if he was surprised by how far he had been able to throw without a reverse. Everybody in the room including Storl laughed when I asked him that, but he acknowledged that yes, he was pleasantly surprised by his success with his modified style.

And that was it. The reporters resumed pelting him with questions in German, and I walked out of there thinking that getting to talk to Storl had made the whole trip worth while. Little did I know that there was lots more excitement to come.

Is Gia the best female American discus thrower ever?

2011 IAAF World Outdoor Championships

As a matter of fact, she is.

Here is the evidence.

Exhibit A: US Women’s Discus Throws over 65m

65mb

Okay, I know that’s hard to read, but I couldn’t cut and paste the damn thing without the margins going all goofy. Basically, what you’ve got there is a list of the 40 throws of 65m or better that have been produced by American women.  By  no means does Gia dominate that list. Suzy Powell has the most throws over 65m with ten, followed by Gia with nine.  Stephanie Brown-Trafton has the farthest throw on the list (67.74m) followed by Powell (67.67m) and then Gia (67.59m).  However, take a look at…

Exhibit B:  Throws over 65m in International Competition

67.59m  Gia   (Glasgow)

66.29m Gia  (Zagreb)

65.77m  Gia  (Oslo)

65.59m Gia (Paris)

65.38m Powell  (Rethimno)

65.10m Aretha Thurmond (Monaco)

This list, she does dominate.  And why, you may ask, is that a big deal?

That is a big deal because the throws on this list were taken inside of stadiums overseas.

I’m not going to condemn anyone for seeking out windy climates in an effort to break a record or achieve an “A” standard.  But throwing bombs on the California coast has zero relevance when it comes time to go up against the best of the best at the Olympics or the World Championships, which are held…inside of stadiums overseas.

In order to contend for a medal, a female discus thrower must set aside  the distractions of travel and the lack of those lovely ocean breezes and throw at least 65 meters.

Among American discus throwers, Gia has become the best at doing just that.

There are those who would argue that Stephanie Brown-Trafton should be considered the best ever after winning  gold at the 2008 Olympics. I am a big fan of Stephanie, who is on the comeback trail after giving birth nine months ago. Last week, at the Chicagoland Throws meet she told me that she is feeling good and just needs to build up her strength levels in order to return to peak form. But the peak form that got her the gold in Beijing in 2008 with a throw of 64.74m is unlikely to win her a spot on the medal stand in Beijing in 2015 or in Rio in 2016.  Sondra Perkovic, the defending World and Olympic champion, has shown a consistent knack for throwing 68-69m at the biggest meets. Australia’s Dani Samuels is having a great year, and there are a handful of others who have recently thrown 65+m in stadiums.

The only American thrower ever who has shown the ability to hang with that crowd is Gia.

Actually, she has done more than hang with them as of late. Last week in Glasgow in this stadium…

 glas stad 2

 …she handed Perkovic her first loss of the season by launching a PR throw of 67.59m.

Gia is now the only thrower to have defeated Perkovic over the last two years. That alone might qualify her as the best.

 
                

 

 

Where does that leave us? Part 2: The Women

My last post examined the prospects of US men making the finals and/or medaling next year in Beijing and the following year in Rio.

Now, let’s consider the ladies.

The Discus

Moscow Results:

8th:62.80m  Bronze: 64.96m  Silver: 66.28m  Gold: 67.99m

Sacramento Results:

3rd:  Shelbi Vaughan 59.75m

2nd: Liz Podominick 59.96m

1st: Gia Lewis-Smallwood 65.96m

2011 IAAF World Outdoor Championships

Gia’s career seemed dead in the water just a couple of years ago, but she pulled off a rare trick for an American thrower: she found a way to stay in the sport long enough to find her groove.  She finished fifth in Moscow, and has shown the ability to throw 64-65 meters overseas in stadiums.  She is also, to my knowledge, the only thrower to defeat Sandra Perkovic in the past two years. (Fun Fact: over 600 people have climbed Mt. Everest in that time).  The big question is, can Gia at thirty-five years of age hold off the ravages of time long enough to get on the podium in Beijing and Rio?  If she does, it will be a great, great moment for American throwing.

(This just in! As I am about to post this article, Gia has thrown 65.59m to take third at the Paris DL meet)

Another question: Can 2008 Olympic champ Stephanie Brown Trafton come all the way back from taking time off to have a baby? She had to be encouraged by her performance in Sacramento (58.84m), but she and Gia are about the same age, so…

A final question: What about the youngsters? Shelbi Vaughan is a special athlete, but she cannot be expected to throw bombs overseas in August after enduring the rigors of the NCAA season, especially if she continues playing volleyball. Whitney Ashley (fifth in Sacramento at 58.68m) is another gifted athlete waiting in the wings. (Fun Fact: At the 2013 Adidas Grand Prix meet, Perkovic’s coach told me that he thought Ashley had a lot of potential but that she should reverse instead of using a fixed-feet finish).

Outlook: In my dream scenario (the one that does not involve Angelina Jolie) Gia and Stephanie both elbow their way onto the podium next to Perkovic in Beijing or Rio.

 

The Javelin 

Moscow Results:

8th: 61.30m  Bronze: 65.09m  Silver:66.60m  Gold: 69.05m

Sacramento Results:

3rd: Leigh Petranoff  57.80m

2nd: Brittany Borman 62.05

1st: Kara Patterson 62.43m

kara

 Does anyone else view the javelin as a fickle event?  Three weeks ago in New York, I watched the Australian javeliner Kathryn Mitchell throw 66.02m easy as pie and Linda Stahl (a German) throw 67.32m easy as strudel. Then, earlier this week at the Lausanne DL meeting, they went 58.23m and 63.20m respectively.

Outlook: Given the “on any given day” nature of the event, it is entirely possible that Borman or Patterson could make the final in Beijing and/or Rio. A medal, though, is unlikely. Their best route to the podium at a major international meet is to pull a Gia and stay in the sport into their thirties (Mitchell, by the way, is having her best season at the age of thirty-one).

 

The Shot Put 

Moscow Results:

8th: 18.09m  Bronze: 19.95m Silver:20.41m  Gold: 20.88m

Sacramento Results:

3rd: Tia Brooks 18.83m

2nd: Felisha Johnson 19.18m

1st: Michelle Carter 19.45m

carter 2

Loads of potential among this threesome of young gliders, two of whom have already garnered significant international experience. Tia was 8th in Moscow, Michelle missed the bronze by a centimeter.

Outlook: There is no reason the US should not have two shot finalists in Beijing and Rio. And after that?  Valerie Adams is only twenty-nine, but the Herculean effort behind her seemingly effortless domination of the sport (two Olympic, three Indoor World and four Outdoor World golds since 2007) has left her contemplating retirement after 2016. Carter, who threw an American record 20.24m last season, is only a year younger than Val, but seems to be just coming into her own. If she can hang in there for another Olympic cycle after Rio, she might be able to contend for that rather large open space at the top of major championship podiums.

The Hammer

Moscow Results:

8th: 72.70m  Bronze: 75.58m  Silver: 78.46m  Gold: 78.80m

Sacramento Results:

3rd: Amber Campbell 71.35m 

2nd: Jessica Cosby Toruga 71.72m

1st: Amanda Bingson 75.07m 

bingson

In the past two seasons, three American women (Bingson, Cosby Toruga, and Jeneva McCall) have thrown 74 meters or better. Cosby Toruga is thirty-two, but both McCall and Bingson are just two years out of college.  Same for Gwen Berry, who threw 73.81m last year.

Outlook: For Beijing and Rio, getting two in the top eight is certainly attainable. Beyond that, one or more of the Bingson/McCall/Berry trio needs to get her PB into the 77-78 meter range to increase the odds of hitting a medal-winning 76m in a major championship.