Harting v. Perkovic: Part 1 (by Dan McQuaid)

I ask you, is there a better way to ward off the winter blues than to spend an afternoon dissecting great discus technique?

Okay, there probably are better ways, but this one is cheap, fat free,  perfectly legal and will help me  forget about that three-foot snow drift covering our discus ring. So, here goes.

It seems to me that the key to great discus throwing is finding a reliable way to get from here…

casanas wind


To here…

casanas wide right

From here…

malone wind

To here…

malone wide

From here…

alekna close 1

To here…

alekna close 2

Warning: If you can identify the owner of these legs you probably spend way too much time watching throws videos and are in danger of being called a “super dweeb” by your long-suffering wife. Trust me, I have experience in this matter.

Anyway, these pairs of photos illustrate two important stations along the path to a fine throw. The athlete must begin with a balanced windup: right foot flat, left heel up, left big toe in contact with the ground. The second photo in each set depicts the athlete in an excellent position to run the ring: right leg wide, weight balanced on the ball of the left foot, discus trailing behind the right hip.

If you watch these throwers (Frank Casanas, Casey Malone and…..???) on film or in person they make moving through these positions seem perfectly natural, but if you coach young athletes you know how difficult this transition can be. Beginning throwers tend to unwind by pulling with their head and left arm. This causes the discus to jump ahead of the thrower and makes it impossible to get the right leg out wide because the thrower will feel (quite correctly) that he will fall down if he doesn’t get that right foot back on the ground quickly.

It seems that among the best discus throwers there are two approaches to moving from the windup to the balanced, “ready to run the ring” position.

Some throwers try to get their right foot off the ground and sweeping ahead of the discus as soon as possible. When the left foot pivots 90 degrees to the left, they want that right foot up and moving.

Here is an example.

vikas wide rear

This is Vikas Gowda. As you can see, his left foot has turned 90 degrees and his right toes are leaving the ground.

By the time his left foot has turned to where it is pointing down the right sector line, his right leg is already sweeping past it.

vikas right passes left

The right leg then continues to sweep out wide with the disc lagging behind.

vikas wide rear 2

At this point, he is in great shape to run the ring.

Here is Casey Malone, demonstrating the same “get the right leg moving early” approach.

malone wind

malone left

malone wide

The other method of transitioning from the wind to the “ready to run the ring” position is to leave the right foot on the ground longer while turning and getting way out over the left foot.

weir close 1

weir close 2

weir close 3

If you can identify the owner of these legs,  you are a bigger dork than me even, but you won’t have to worry about your wife getting mad at you because you likely will never have a wife.

As you can see in the middle photo, this thrower keeps his right foot grounded much longer than the throwers in those earlier photos–beginning his right leg sweep only after his left foot turns to point down the right foul line.

Interestingly, this is the approach used by the two current Olympic champions,

Robert Harting…

rh wind

harting left

rh wide rear

…and Sondra Perkovic.

perk wind

perk left

perk wide

I suspect that the advantage of leaving the right foot on the ground longer is twofold. First, it may make it easier to remain on balance while the thrower shifts his/her weight far to the left–a shift that is essential to getting in position to run the ring.

Second, leaving the right grounded while shifting way out over the left leg may create some elastic tension in the right leg that, when released, adds extra impetus to the right leg sweep.

I have experimented with this style the past couple of years, and some of my athletes have become quite comfortable with it. One warning though. If you attempt to teach this method, you must constantly drill your athletes to keep the discus back as they shift out over their left leg because with the right foot staying grounded longer it is very easy to let the disc sneak ahead.

We are due for another snow storm this week, so stay tuned for part two of Harting v. Perkovic.

Any guesses on the owners of those legs?

12 thoughts on “Harting v. Perkovic: Part 1 (by Dan McQuaid)”

  1. Are you me? Because this is exactly what I would write if I had the time. Question is: How do you find the time!

    I have taught both the “get the right foot up early” and the “keep both feet down longer” ways of coming out of the back. Here is what I believe: It seems that that most athletes I work with are better with cues based on the ground as opposed to the air. Concrete as opposed to abstract. If you are on the ground more it is easier for them to perform a task. If the athlete has something in space, like in this case, the right foot, they have no idea what it is doing.

    Similar to this, we have discussed the left foot in the glide shot. I have de-emphasized the left foot out of the back, because, again, it is in space, and athletes are not aware of it as well as an elite athlete would. The right foot is on the ground, easier for the thrower to feel and have awareness of.

    So with that in mind, last year I went full “keep both feet down longer”. IMHO, it was a winner.

    So I need a name to describe that crazy left heel move out of the back where it looks like Harting and Perkovic are going to have a spiral fracture of the tibia. Thoughts?

    1. Let’s call it “Perkovicing” as in “Hey, I need you to Perkovic that damn left foot out of the back!”

  2. Great Article. Especially the wife comments. Last night my wife tells my me in front of my in laws, “Seems like discus has started early this year.”Last year my top thrower and I started dissecting German/ European throwing styles vs. American and decided to make a few changes. As a junior, my thrower went 179. As a senior, he went over 190 feet in three meets to include going 198′. Staying on the ground longer at the back really seemed to create more consistent throwing.

  3. Second Comment,

    I attended a Level 1 coaching clinic with John Godina, Vikas Gowda Discus Coach. John is very much on Keeping as much weight on the left leg in the back of the ring and using the right to initiate the movement out of the back. With high school kids, I have found this to be difficult and the kids just don’t seem to get comfortable out of the back. Your thoughts.

    1. Justin: Sorry about the late reply! In my coaching career I’ve been all over the place on this matter. Right now I lean towards keeping the right foot down as long as possible while shifting the left hip left and turning the hell out of the left foot–like what Harting does. I think what the Germans have done well over the decades has been to create a tremendous amount of vertical force on the disc by staying close to the ground and hammering that fixed feet finish (although their two best male disc throwers after Harting reverse). Speaking of Harting, I am in Berlin today and have a meeting with his coach tomorrow. I plan on picking his brain regarding disc technique. I’ll let you know what he says!


  4. Horizontal! I meant horizontal force! Sorry. Jet lag.

    I saw John Godina throw the disc several times in his prime, and his disc technique seemed to mirror his shot spin in that he seemed to emphasize creating vertical lift from the power position. And this time I do mean vertical. He threw the disc very high. My interpretation of the German approach is that they place more emphasis on generating horizontal force. As far as I know, none of the fine German disc throwers have been rotational putters, so it may be easier to teach them to throw in a “horizontal” style. It is hard to imagine John or anyone else throwing the disc this way after millions of reps as a rotational putter.

  5. I totally agree with you. John believes in jumping the finish with as much vertical force as possible to release the shot or discus at the highest point possible. He also believes in less angular momentum in the middle and getting the hips very high in middle and holding a straight line jump.

    1. Hey Norm, there will be soon! I’ve learned a lot about their techniques from Torsten Schmidt and hope to do some more writing on that topic this week.

  6. I am out-of-my-mind curious about the right-leg action in the discus start.

    Now you share a “female” version, and I’m even more in a state of wonderment.

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