When most people think of track and field they think relays, they think hurdles, they think 100m. Big-ticket events, the champions. But there are some athletes who seem to go unnoticed. Across the track (sometimes not even inside the stadium) you can find the throwers. Power athletes. If you ask around it would take you a little while to find someone who knows about throwing events, let alone throwers, like Dylan Armstrong.
Who is Dylan Armstong? He is one of Canada’s best track and field athletes, a shot putter. Born and raised in Kamloops, British Columbia, where he still trains with world class coach Dr. Anatoliy Bondarchuk. Dylan is the Canadian record holder, runner-up at last year’s IAAF world championships, 2010 Commonwealth Games champion, and had the farthest throw in the world last year. He is also set to win a medal for Canada in London. Even though he was battling a slight arm injury early in the season en route to winning the Canadian Olympic Track and Field trials quite easily at the end of June in Calgary, he is showing he is ready to perform this week at the Olympics.
Now that we know a little bit about Canada’s shot put superstar, what is shot put?
The goal of any throwing event is to make the implement land as far away from you as possible within the sector lines (boundaries that extend in a pie shape). The farthest throw in the competition wins. In London all of the throwers will have to go through a qualifying round: three throws, with the top twelve finishers in qualifying moving on to the finals. With finals taking place a few days later to determine the medalists.
Shot put takes place in a circle. It has a concrete surface with a slightly raised metal ring around the edge and a large board at the front of the circle raised about half a foot. During the throw the thrower is not allowed to touch the ground or the top of the board outside of the circle or else the throw does not count. Most world class shot putters employ a rotational technique. The thrower will start at the back of the circle facing away from the sector. The shot (7.6 kg or 16.72lb metal ball) is held on the neck just behind and below the ear with one hand. On one foot the thrower will turn to face forward, then taking a step he will then turn all the way around once on that foot to be facing forward one more time, then push the shot from the neck out into the field. With a world class throw landing just over or around the 21m mark. Almost all of the power in the throw comes from the legs and explosive hips. Training during the year consists of lots of heavy and fast Olympic lifting, cleans, snatches, squats. And thousands of throws. Working on the smallest details of the technique (foot a little bit to the left, turn your head a fraction of a second slower), to get it right for one throw during one competition.
Canada’s contingent of throwers in London also consists of two other shotputters (Julie Labonte, and Justin Rodhe), two javalin throwers (Curtis Moss, and Elizabeth Gleadle), and three hammer throwers (Sultana Frizell, and brother-sister duo Jim and Heather Steacy). This is one of the largest groups of throwers Canada has ever sent to date.
Athletics gets underway in London on Friday with the men’s shot put qualifying at ten o’clock am London time.