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…
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.
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.
The right leg then continues to sweep out wide with the disc lagging behind.
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.
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.
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,
…and Sondra Perkovic.
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?