Category Archives: Rotational Shot

More Tidbits from the trials

Strange Days Across the Pond

Maggie Ewen is a veteran of the Diamond League circuit, as is Chase Ealey, and both were invited to compete in Gateshead, England, in late May. 

It was, in Maggie’s words, “refreshing to be back into the pattern we were used to of traveling to meets,” but there were a couple of aspects of the experience that were downright weird.  Maggie says that the athletes were quarantined to the hotel and the dining area. “They had people watching the doors to make sure we didn’t leave, and the English athletes were kept in a separate hotel to try to prevent cross contamination.”

Such precautions are understandable in a pandemic, but there was another aspect to Maggie’s Gateshead adventure that defies explanation.

This year, in an effort to make the throwing events more “exciting” for a television audience, the folks at the Diamond League came up with a new competition format. All throwers in the field receive five attempts, and then the top three up to that point are each given a “bonus” throw that determines their final placing. 

In Gateshead, Maggie tossed 18.54m in round three, which turned out to be the second-best throw of the day. But, because she had a lousy throw in the “bonus round” and was beaten by the other two finalists, she was credited with a third-place finish and awarded third-place prize money. 

Val Allman had a similar experience at the Doha Diamond League meeting. She produced the day’s best throw (65.57m) in round four, but is listed as finishing second because Yaime Pérez threw 61.35m on her “bonus” throw, while Val could manage only 58.58m.

If the women’s discus final at the Trials had been run the same way, Val, in spite of posting a monster 69.92m toss in round two and five consecutive throws over 66.99m, would have lost to Micaela Hazelwood, who threw 59.72m in round six while Val fouled. 

According to Maggie, the athletes in Gateshead were not even informed until just before the competition that only three of them would receive a sixth throw. Then, as the “bonus round” was about to commence, “They were like, ‘by the way, your throws don’t matter up to this point.’”

I assume the idea here is to make it easier for the TV people to decide which throws to include in the broadcast. Rather than having to monitor the flow of the competition–as television networks do quite easily and effectively when broadcasting professional golf tournaments–TV producers only have to worry about capturing those three final attempts.

To someone who has no regard for the sport, it probably sounds like a great idea.

It’s not.

Nostalgic No More

UCLA’s Alyssa Wilson is one of the most versatile and talented throwers in the world, and in 2019 she put together an epic season, launching the shot 18.02m, the hammer 70.63m, and  the disc 60.76m.

Then came the pandemic.

With 2020 a washout, Alyssa was gearing up for big things this season when she contracted the virus over the winter and was quarantined in her dorm room for three weeks. “I lost twenty pounds,” she recalled, “and it took me a long time to build up my strength. Then, I still had nauseous feelings, especially on meet days.”

She qualified for the NCAA meet in two events, but had a terrible time in both, finishing nineteenth in the disc and tenth in the hammer.

A week later, though, she found her footing.  Her comeback began with a 58.80m season’s best in discus qualifying at the Trials, a full six-meters better than what she’d managed at NCAAs. 

She followed that up with a 57.63m toss to take eighth in the final.

Then came the hammer qualification round. Alyssa opened with a 70.97m PB, then crushed a 73.75m bomb. At the NCAA meet, she had thrown 66.52m.

She fell back a bit in the final, finishing sixth with a best of 69.04m, but what a week.

Alyssa said afterwards that a bad day in the hammer at NCAAs carried over into the disc, but in the days before the Trials she “got her mindset back on track.” 

“Then, having that great season-best in the disc…I wasn’t expecting to take eighth in the final, and I took more self-confidence from that, and I carried it over to the hammer.”

Throwing a PB in front of someone like DeAnna Price, who Alyssa describes as ‘one of my idols,” made the day even more special.

“And it was my first hammer PR since 2019,” she said afterwards. ”As soon as I saw the  mark, I started to tear up. This whole year, I was always thinking, ‘Alyssa, your sophomore self is better than you!”

Not anymore.

Cyclone Power

You may have noticed that women’s shot winner Jessica Ramsey set up for her throws by placing her left foot on the center line and right foot back about twelve inches from the edge of the ring. 

A similar starting position has been used to great effect by 2017 men’s shot World Champion Tom Walsh of New Zealand, but according to Jessica’s coach, John Smith, that’s not where he got the idea.

“I set up that way when I threw the disc in high school,” he explained. “We called it the ‘cyclone spin.’” (Just to be clear, Walsh was not yet born when Smith was in high school. You’re welcome, Coach.)

Smith had Ramsey go cyclone as a way of making sure she loaded her left leg on entry.

“Dropping the right foot back forces you to keep your weight on your left,” he explained. “And  keeps you from falling back into the ring.”

At times, Ramsey has struggled with the all-important “get left” phase of the entry because of a balky left knee.

She clearly had that figured out in Eugene and will spend the next few weeks with Smith back in Oxford, Mississippi, preparing the cyclone for its Olympic debut.

Sometimes, the best Laid Plans…work.

At the 2018 US Championships in Des Moines, the women’s shot shaped up as a battle between Maggie Ewen and Raven Saunders over who would represent the future of the event in this country. Raven came in as the defending US champion with a PB of 19.76m. Maggie, a phenomenally successful NCAA thrower in the shot, disc, and hammer, had stretched her PB out to 19.46m earlier in the season. 

I had barely sat down to enjoy the show when a thrower I did not recognize spun her first attempt out past the nineteen-meter line. “Who was that?” I asked the folks sitting around me. “Jessica Ramsey,” came the reply, which did not help. Some frantic Googling revealed that her season’s best the year before had been a whopping 17.76m. The year before that she’d gone 17.74m. Now, suddenly, she was the early leader and a likely medalist at the US Championships with a toss of 19.23m. How in the world, I sat there wondering, did that happen?

Here’s how.

Ramsey, it turns out, was a former glider who threw for Ashley Muffet (now Ashley Kovacs–yes, that Ashley Kovacs) at Western Kentucky, then joined John Smith’s group of post-collegiate throwers first in Carbondale, Illinois, and then Oxford, Mississippi where he still resides as the throws coach at Ole Miss.

A two-year tug of war ensued, with Smith trying to convince the 5’6” Ramsey that her future lay in converting to the rotational technique and Ramsey sometimes acquiescing, sometimes pushing back. (I describe those days in more detail in a piece you can find here.)  

The huge toss in Des Moines finally settled matters, but afterwards, Ramsey slipped back into a state of semi-anonymity, posting season’s bests of 19.01m in 2019 and 18.64m last season.

She sometimes had trouble with a balky left knee, she struggled to balance a full time job delivering for Insomnia Cookies with the full time training necessary to reach her potential, and looking back Ramsey admits that during the long months of the pandemic she “sometimes lost focus a little.”

But Smith is not one to lose focus, and he was able to secure access to an abandoned sportsplex outside of Oxford where his post-collegiates could continue throwing. There, Ramsey worked endlessly to improve her technique.

Smith also used what was essentially twelve months of off-season training to experiment with set/rep schemes in the weight room in an effort to discern what type of program might bring out the best in each of his throwers when they would need it the most.

In the days leading up to the Trials, I checked results for possible podium contenders, and it was hard to tell based on Ramsey’s season so far, whether or not she was ready to battle for a spot on the team. She produced a huge 19.50m toss indoors in February, but then slipped back into the mid-to-upper eighteen-meter range in all of her outdoor meets. 

Was she injured? Struggling with motivation?

“No,” explained Smith. “All spring we were doing hard training, and she still threw over sixty-one feet in every meet, so I was very happy.”

“Hard training” in Smith’s world means–in addition to lifting–lots of non-reverse throws into a net using a variety of implements. 

“She lived in the net,” Smith recalls. “We did non-reverse throws with light and heavy shots practice after practice.”

Those were tough workouts, especially on mornings after Ramsey had worked until 1:00 or 2:00am. But, she persevered.

In March, Smith shared with Ramsey the plan he had drawn up to get her on the podium at the Trials. It reflected his years of experience guiding his wife Connie (now head coach at Ole Miss) and Raven Saunders, whom he mentored to a fifth-place finish in Rio but no longer trains.

“It was a good plan,” Smith said recently. “But, in order for it to work you have to have an athlete that buys in, and she did one hundred percent.”

A vital component of the plan was preparing Ramsey to compete in qualification and final rounds on the same day. Several weeks before the Trials, Smith arranged her workouts so that she threw twice on certain days–once in the morning and again in the evening, as would be the case at the Trials.

At first, Ramsey struggled with that practice pattern. Smith says that for a while, “her numbers were all over the place. Sometimes she’d throw well in the morning, and sometimes at night.”

Eventually, she adapted and was able to consistently produce far throws in both sessions.

She looked great warming up for the qualification round in Eugene, producing a non-reverse throw in the 18.50m range.

“After seeing that,” Smith says, “ I asked ‘Are you sure you don’t want to just non-reverse this and make the final?’ but she said no.”

Instead, Ramsey used her full technique to power her first throw out to 18.82m and then packed it in to prepare for the final.

Smith described her as looking a bit “shaky” warming up that evening, but at some point she launched another 18.50m non-reverse, after which Connie advised her husband to “leave her alone. She knows what she’s doing.”

Truer words.

Ramsey opened with a 19.45m that was very likely to put her on the team, but Smith knew she had more in her. He reminded her that there were several women in the field capable of throwing that far, and admonished her to “keep pushing.”

If Ramsey was feeling any kind of letdown, her friend and former training partner Saunders snapped her out of it by blasting a 19.96m PB in round three.

Once she threw that,” Ramsey recalled afterwards, “I was like ‘That’s what I’m talking about!’  Then I had to zone in.”

She responded to Raven’s challenge by blasting a new Trials record of 20.12m.

“I did not know it was that big a throw,” Ramsey recalled afterwards. “But, they always say the best throws are the ones that don’t feel like they are going far.”

Smith remembers telling Ramsey in March that “we are going to stick to our plan no matter what, and at the end you should have the stuff to make the team.”

They did and she did. 

Now it’s time for a new plan. Maybe they’ll call this one “Operation Olympic Gold.”

“Rotational Throwing” with Andy Bloom and Coach Scott Bennett now on Youtube

On June 20th, one of America’s best ever shot/disc throwers Andy Bloom, and his coach Scott Bennett joined us on a Mcthrows.com webinar titled “Rotational Throwing.”

The guys broke down video of some of Andy’s best throws and revealed the technical concepts that allowed him to reach PB’s of 21.82m and 68.46m.

It was a fun and informative chat! You may access it here.

Free webinar coming June 20th “Rotational Throwing with Scott Bennett and Andy Bloom”

Andy Bloom, one of history’s greatest shot/disc doublers, and his coach, Scott Bennett, will appear on a free Mcthrows.com webinar Saturday, June 20th at 12:00pm CST.

After winning the 1996 NCAA title in both events, Andy and Scott had trouble deciding which he should focus on as a pro, so they stuck with both. He ended up with PB’s of 21.82m and 67.46m in a marvelous career that took him all over the world, including to the Sydney Olympics where he finished fourth in the shot.

In this presentation, Andy and Scott will break down Andy’s technique and talk about their journey together.

Attendees will be able to submit questions throughout the webinar. Register here.

Lance Deal and Brian Bedard webinars now on Youtube!

American record holder Lance Deal recently appeared on a Mcthrows.com webinar to discuss the fine art of hammer throwing. Whether demonstrating concepts from the comfort of his home office or breaking down film of himself and other hammer greats, Lance did his best to help us understand the approach that won him the silver medal at the 1996 Olympic Games. You may access that video here.

Also available, is a recent session in which Colorado State University coach Brian Bedard examined the process by which shot putter Tarynn Sieg went from throwing 14.19m as a high school glider, to 17.44m her sophomore year of college using the rotational technique. Brian shared that journey using lots of interesting vids taken along the way. You may access his presentation here.

Check back soon for information on upcoming webinars!

Throwing Drills in The Age of Social Distancing

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and nothing says “desperation” quite like a man of my advanced age spinning around on his driveway with a broom or a medicine ball.

I know what you’re thinking. “This guy will stop at nothing to entertain his neighbors.” But no, I actually started posting these drills last week as a way of helping my throwers work on their technique. 

I decided to share them with anyone out there who would also like to encourage their throwers to drill fundamentals but would rather not risk gaining a reputation as “that idiot next door” by filming their own.

The first one is here. There are more queued up on my youtube page, and more to come.

Coach Nathan Fanger webinar now on Youtube

Coach Nathan Fanger of Kent State University spent an hour with us this past Thursday breaking down the rotational shot put technique of Danniel Thomas-Dodd, the 2017 NCAA champion and 2018 Indoor World silver-medalist.

It was a fantastic presentation.

I have spent twenty-seven years obsessively tinkering with how best to coach the rotational shot, and I learned a bunch from Coach Fanger’s analysis of Danniel’s form.

His approach with Danniel is very different from anything I’ve tried over the years, and I can’t wait to work on some of his concepts with my athletes.

Those attending the webinar live were able to get their questions answered directly by Coach Fanger. You won’t be able to do that, but if you are at all interested in the rotational shot, I think you’ll love the video of his talk. Here it is:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POhbm1pgVec&t=6s

 

Coach Nathan Fanger analyzes the shot technique of Danniel Thomas-Dodd

Not a bad year in the shot for Kent State’s Danniel Thomas-Dodd!
NCAA champion.
Fourth at the World Championships.
And now, the subject of a technique analysis on McThrows.
I’ve never met her coach at Kent State, Nathan Fanger, but I know he’s a patient man because he graciously answered approximately 472 questions from me while breaking down Danniel’s technique.
I think you’ll like the resulting interview.
McQ:  Let’s take a look at Danniel’s 18.91m throw  from London. I figure analyzing that will give you a nice endorphin buzz.
 
Here’s her windup. The thing I notice about it is that it is very simple. Some throwers sit lower, wind farther, or lean forward a bit. Danniel seems to be doing a nice, easy, minimal wind. Can you comment on that? What is important to you about this phase of the throw?
Coach Fanger: This position, even though is very simple, is the key to her success!  We have played with getting low or having a wider sweep, but her balance was always slightly shifted.  She is an extremely fast athlete and has classically blown past this position, so we have done a lot of static starts to activate her legs instead of using too much upper body. That said, the use of her left arm is incredibly important.  Allowing the left arm to sweep out ahead gets her body moving very quickly.  Her ability to get her legs moving just as fast is what allows her to throw as far as she does.  She is a speed thrower and it all starts out of the back!
McQ: This is a couple of frames later. She is turning her left foot. Her left arm has swung open. Could you talk more about what you are looking for here? You mentioned an active left arm action. Would you elaborate?
Coach Fanger:  What we are looking for here is an activated left knee drop and an opening up of the left arm.  When she stays tall out of the back she accelerates easier to the middle.  We have learned that if she gets lower with her legs like in her discus throw, then she ends up hopping up and floating to the center.  This initial dropping of the left leg and left arm sweep helps her get grounded in the center of the ring faster, which in the long run creates more torque and separation.  The left arm sweep really starts both direction and speed for her. A lot of people would not advocate such an aggressive upper body movement, but this movement–if done in a rhythmic fashion–is the best thing for a smaller-statured thrower.
McQ: A common cue when teaching rotational putters is that they should keep their left arm over their left leg as they start turning out of the back. In Danniel’s case, you’re saying it is better for her to be more aggressive with that left arm, so that cue would not work for her, correct?
Coach Fanger: For Danniel, I keep the left arm over the left foot in the initial start of the throw.  Its starts to get ahead of the system after about 90 degrees of rotation–the arm essentially pulls her into her drive to the center.  I think this is under-utilized in smaller throwers. The speed of the throw is crucial.  I personally think you need to go as fast as the left leg will allow you to block–meaning, if I keep my left arm and left leg together I create speed and torque yes, but to what degree?  Can you gain more?  Probably yes, BUT if you go too fast and let the upper body take over, the block leg will be delayed and not be used. Or, even if the left leg was able to get down in time, is it strong enough to fully block the body with that type of speed?  For bigger shot putters, I would never want that arm to over sweep. Trying to stop say 300 lbs of moving force is extremely difficult.
McQ: As she turns her left foot and gets set up to drop the left knee, at what point do you want her right foot coming off the ground? Some teach getting it off as quickly as possible. Others prefer keeping the right foot grounded until the left foot is turned down the right foul line, so basically the right foot would be ripped off the ground as the thrower drops the left knee. Could you talk about your ideas on this phase?
Coach Fanger: As far as the right foot getting off the ground, I don’t think of it as late or early.  We actually don’t talk about that aspect of the throw at all really.  I think of it as a reactionary movement of the the left knee dropping and the flexibility one has in their hips.  As her left knee drops, it creates a wide “V” position in her hips and the right leg lifting off is a reaction to that drop.  I think a lot of coaches try to coach an action verses a reaction.  A reaction is a far faster movement then a voluntary, thought-out, action or movement.  For some people, that thought helps generate the initial starting movement–for us, not so much.  Each athlete is so different in their type of abilities and their motor patterns.  I think the best athletes should focus on an initial movement or action that corresponds with a reactionary movement (creating speed).  I mentioned the openness of the hip and flexibility as well.  If she drops the left knee down and she is tight that day, say from doing squats the day before, then the reacation is slow and short.  So, the more flexibility one has in the hips the more stretch, or separation one can create.  Like pulling a rubber band back–the more stretch it has, the farther it can fly when let go.
McQ: So, if I have this right, between here…
…and here…
...Danniel is using her left arm to create momentum and set herself up to drop on her left knee. This dropping action will pull her right foot off the ground.
 
Can you comment on this next frame?
…She has dropped her left knee, but some might argue that her right leg is lagging behind and that her left foot has over rotated. Could you explain why this position works for Danniel?
 
Coach Fanger: For sure. I really advocate for the use of that left arm to be more active out of the back which leads to the position we see.  The right leg takes a back seat while the left side gets the body moving at the start of the throw, but the reaction that comes from this left leg drop is quite significant.  As that left knee drops it kicks the right leg out and puts the muscles in a strongly stretched position.  She is able to react much more aggressively from this stretched phase vs. trying to actively set the right leg out in front.  Even though this position looks like she is leading the throw with her upper body, it is creating speed that she can use later in the throw as strong separation.
The over rotation of her left foot is the result of such a dramatic movement out of the back.  The key is not to let it to continue to rotate from the position you see.  Right now, it is pointed towards the direction of the throw (our linear drive).  The left side is what is so crucial in her throw. That left knee drops hard to the direction of her throw, which allows the right side to actively wrap hard and around to the center.  With a smaller thrower, I try to advocate more linear work than rotational work.  The bigger athletes can and will use more rotational movement because of their size and the size of the ring.
 McQ: Here are shots of Danniel as she hits the middle of the ring:
To those of us who believe in…what would you call it…the “Venegas” approach?…it sure looks like her left leg is late out of the back as her right foot lands in the middle, and that her upper body is going to pull her into the throw. But then she hits a really nice power position. Can you explain to us Venegas disciples how she does this? She appears to be working the left arm hard to stay wrapped. Is that the key?

Coach Fanger: This was difficult for me to accept as well. These are non-standard positions.  But, females throw different than males.   We can see the obvious difference in the discus, but there have not been a lot of consistent female rotational shot putters to analyze and pick apart.  I’ve had to allow myself to adapt to her femininity in her throw.  I, like you, know and understand the Venegas approach very well, but if you think about it 6’2″ to 6’7″ men that weigh 265 to 350 pounds are far different than Danniel, who is  5’4″ and  210.

Okay, now to the positions. I will agree she is late off the left leg and it is something we are working on, but this is still going to look late no matter how fast we get it.  The aggressive drop puts a lot of weight on that leg and even though it creates some awesome stretch, it creates a delay in waiting for that stretch.  I have some shots of Sandra Perkovic which show very similar positions:

That left arm is what is so important again, since we use it to swing open and create so much early momentum, then it is also used to to put on the breaks in the middle of the ring.  AND that is where Danniel’s throw truly is, in the middle.

The goal is to get the right foot down and grounded early.  The more we can load the spring, the more effectively we can unload all that power and drive our legs, then hip, then chest and shoulder, and finally arm and extend through the release.  The last frame…

…really shows her attempting to pre-turn the right foot as it is about to make ground contact, something we are working on more as well.

In this particular throw she was a little more hoppy than I would have liked to see.  The rain played with what she could do out of the back. I would have liked to have seen more directional drive, but she let the body lift and float to the center instead of grounding sooner.

But you can really start to see that left arm swing back so as to delay her upper body while the legs continue to load in the center.

McQ: Here are some photos  of the final phase of Danniel’s throw. When I look at them, I see her doing a great job of getting her right heel up while her right leg is still loaded and the right elbow is behind the right foot. Also, when she finishes her reverse, she is right smack in the middle of the toe board, which is usually a sign that things have gone well up to that point–that she got out of the back on balance, hit a balanced power position, then used her legs (rather than her head and left shoulder) to blast into the throw.
 

Coach Fanger: The first two pics are of her being loaded and back on that right side, her loaded spring.  The left arm that was allowed to swing open out of the back has to wrap back and hold her shoulders back while her hips stay open and turning to the throw.  She has a very strong lower body and she uses it very well to turn and drive through the finish.  We really focus on keeping the shoulder up and back to create as much wrap as possible.

The third pic is  a crucial part of her throw!  You can see what I call the “car crash” of the throw.  It is her hips colliding at full force. That left leg holds a strong block while the right side drives aggressively out.  The collision of the hips accelerates the shot put up and out of the hand!

The last  picture before the reverse is the extension through the throw.  We are really working on staying longer on the left leg block at the release.  (In this particular throw she got off the left side far to early–the rain was not optimal to throw in, but it was what it was.)  It is key that the left arm blocks so she can square her shoulders to the throw.  If her shoulders are square and her left side holds, she gets optimal extension through the ball.

Danniel doesn’t have long levers so she needs to use every bit of extension she can.

The last picture we see is of her reverse.  She is very well-timed here and puts the left leg down in the middle of the toe board.  She is very consistent with her reverse, so there is not much we work on here.  BUT the more extension we get by staying long at the release will definitely start testing her ability of an easy save.  We will definitely continue to work her finish!

 The main cues we use at the finish are, shut down that left side… EXTENSION through the ball…Reach the armpit over the toe board…Commit to the finish!

Dani Bunch spins her way to relevance

If you were surprised to see Dani Bunch dueling Raven Saunders and Michelle Carter for the national title and world lead last weekend in Sacramento, you were not alone.

I crossed paths with Dani twice over the last five years, and neither time did I walk away thinking “Holy cow, she might be national champion some day.”

The first instance came during the 2012 NCAA Outdoor Championships in Des Moines, back in the days when world class track meets were occasionally held in the Midwest.

Dani, a sophomore at Purdue, threw 16.21m and finished ninth in her flight. At that time, Tia Brooks, a junior at Oklahoma who won in Des Moines with a toss of 18.44m, and Michelle Carter, who a year later would break the American record with a throw of 20.24m and then break it again with a gold-medal winning put of 20.63m in Rio, seemed to be the ascendant putters among American women.

The next time I ran across Dani was at the Chicagoland  Throws Series in 2015. She was in her first season as a professional and had, just three months prior, switched from the glide to the rotational shot technique.

She threw 17.28m that day, more than a meter under her glide PR. The fact that she was able to function  at all as a rotational putter so quickly after making the change was impressive, as was her determination to continue in the sport when she appeared to be a long way from cracking the upper echelon of throwers.  But, if you watch this video, you’ll see that she had a lot of work to do if she hoped to develop a level of comfort with the spin technique similar to the other elite putters in the competition, Brittany Smith, Becky O’Brien, and Tori Bliss.

Here is an interview I did with Dani at the  Chicagoland meet. Please ignore my stupidity in  occasionally using the words “glide” and “glider” when referring to the rotational technique.

After the Chicagoland meet, Dani went back to Lafayette, Indiana, and hunkered down with her college coach Keith McBride to pursue her dream of becoming a world class putter.

For the rest of 2015 and all of 2016, she toiled in relative anonymity.

Last year, at the Olympic Trials, she thew 17.37m in the prelims then fouled all three throws in the finals.

As noted above, Michelle Carter grabbed gold in Rio with a sensational sixth-round effort. Also in Rio, Raven Saunders established herself as the thrower of the future by hitting a PR of 19.35m to finish fifth.

With the spotlight on those two ladies, Dani began the 2017 campaign no longer in “relative” anonymity. She had achieved a state of “complete” anonymity.

But, according to Coach McBride, he and Dani could tell long before the start of this season that she had the capability to become a nineteen or even twenty-meter putter.

The key was having the courage, patience, and possibly misplaced confidence to commit to the rotational technique.

McBride had actually broached the possibility of converting to the spin a couple of times during Dani’s career at Purdue.

“She had kind of a rotational finish anyway,” he told me in a recent conversation. “She was kind of up and turning all the time. She was that weird glider who would throw out of bounds to the left because she turned so far through it.”

This video provides a clear illustration of Dani’s glide finish:

“So, I brought it up with her once or twice in college, but she wasn’t mentally ready for it. Her argument was, ‘I can’t throw the discus, so how can I spin in the shot?’  If the athlete isn’t ready for it, you can’t shove it down their throat.”

Finally, in February of her first year out of college, Dani competed in a meet at Purdue. Still a glider, she threw well under eighteen meters.

Throwers from Southern Illinois University also competed in that meet, and their coach at the time, John Smith (now at Ole Miss) advised McBride and Dani to make the switch to the rotational style.

Smith remembers that moment well, and described it to me in a recent conversation.

“When Raven was a freshman, we went to a meet at Purdue. It was  Dani’s first year out of college, and Keith told me that he was thinking about switching Dani to the spin. I asked him how far does she throw from a stand? He told me fifty-two feet. I said if she wants to compete at the world level as a glider, she’s going to have to have a fifty-seven foot stand throw like Michelle or Tia Brooks. If you don’t think you can do that, then she needs to spin.”

With the US Indoor Championships looming, McBride and Dani decided to postpone the decision. After finishing seventh with a toss of 17.11m at that meet,  Dani came home ready to make the switch.

I asked McBride if it was hard on Dani to accept throwing shorter distances while she adapted to the rotational style, but as he remembers it, “She threw far right away. Her first meet with the spin, a little meet somewhere in Illinois, she threw 18.50m. Then she went to Tuscon Elite and threw 18.89m.”

As he anticipated, Dani’s rotational-style finish in her glide lent itself to the full out rotational technique.

“She had been a rotational finisher from day one,  and knowing how to strike in that position helped.  Out of the back we were just trying to hit that power position she had been using in the glide. We kind of melded the spin and glide.”

The most challenging part of the conversion turned out to be getting Dani to the point where her technique could hold up under the  pressure of big meets.

Her tribulations at the 2016 Trials typified her struggles. “The issue,” according to  McBride, “from the very first was not “Can we throw far?’ but ‘Can we stay in the ring?’ She was tattooing stuff right from the start.”

The 2017 season began in promising fashion as Dani hit 19.12m at a meet in Lafayette, which gave her the world lead at the time. That throw enabled Dani’s agent to finagle an invitation to the Diamond League meeting in Shanghai.

She finished second there with a toss of 18.98m.

That result earned Dani an invitation to a meet in Brazil.

She won that competition with a 19.55m bomb, and as a result was invited to the Diamond League meeting in Rome where she finished second with a put of 18.95m.

McBride considers the Rome meeting to have been a pivotal moment in Dani’s development. “In the fifth round, Michelle Carter passed her up, and Dani was like ‘I’m not losing to her’ and she came back and beat her in the sixth round. That showed us that she finally had the confidence she needed to make big throws in pressure situations.”

Dani proved that definitively with an epic performance at the US Nationals. She opened at 18.92m and followed that with a solid 19.18m that seemed likely to net her a spot in the top three. Not willing to take any chances against a dangerous field, Dani cranked up the intensity and after two fouls killed one in the fifth round. Her 19.64m put her into first, and after Raven blasted out a PR of her own (19.76m), Dani showed that the 19.64m was no fluke by powering her final attempt out to 19.57m.

She is now ranked second in the world with two competitions (the Portland and New York stops on the Tracktown Series tour) remaining before Worlds.

And what might the future bring, now that Dani is fully confident with the rotational style?

“As big as that throw in Sacramento was,” says McBride, “she can go farther. She definitely has twenty-meter power, and  if we keep progressing she will be challenging the USA record some day.”

From eighteen-meter glider to twenty-meter spinner in two years time? It sounds crazy, but combine Dani’s determination, her great working relationship with Coach McBride, her innate feel for the rotational style, and the intense rivalry brewing between her,  Raven, and Michelle, and you just can’t put it past her.

Pun intended.

 

 

 

 

 

Ryan Whiting goes to a static start

After what has been, by his standards, a disappointing season Ryan Whiting unveiled a new static start this weekend and used it to produce an excellent 21.68m toss.

After Ryan posted a vid of that throw on Twitter, I asked him to comment on his reasons for the switch to his new approach.

If you follow the throws (and if you are reading this post, clearly you do) you know that Ryan is very generous with sharing information about his training. It was not surprising then, when he tweeted this reply:

Jordan Clarke recommended it to me in July. My ankle was really bothering me and I couldn’t get out and around my left on my entry. Our reasoning was to eliminate one variable (the wind) and be able to work on a consistent entry which enables me to get into a more consistent power position. Once I do that I know how to finish a throw. Today my conversion from stand to full was 4.18m. Once I get used to finishing with the new start, I think that will increase quite a bit. A little over a month of work on the new start and 21.68m, A good sign.

Here is a pic of Ryan’s old start:

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As you can see, he used to turn about as far to the right as he possibly could with most of his weight shifted to the right foot.

 

In his new start, he does not wind at all, but simply pauses here…

IMG_1765

 

…before beginning his entry:

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As a high school coach, I am a big fan of Ryan’s new approach. For young throwers in the rotational shot and the discus a static entry  provides less opportunity for the athlete to lose his or her way when coming out of the back of the ring.

Young throwers often feel like they are creating force when they do an extended wind, but as Ryan pointed out the key to producing long throws is a consistent entry leading to a consistent power position.

If you don’t already follow Ryan on Twitter, you might want to do that as he is likely to comment further on his switch to the static start.