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A Visit to Hungary

During the summer of 2004, the two top American junior hammer throwers will trained Szombathely, Hungary. For four weeks Nathan Rolfe and Boldizsár Kocsor learned from coaches and athletes at the the modern “mecca of hammer throwing.” In addition, Hammerthrow.org webmaster Martin Bingisser also visited Hungary for a week later in the summer. Below are their reports on the visit.

Welcome to Szombathely – 29 July 2004 (Boldi Kocsor)

Hello to all the hammer thrower’s back home, and greetings from Szombathley! We have now spent a little more than a week training in Hungary, and everything has been spectacular. It is by far the best training experience I have experienced so far. Many throwers come from outside the country to throw here. Currently there are 4 Australian’s, 1 South African, 1 Indian, and 1 Egyptian training in Szombathely. All the throwers are really friendly, and some even speak english. I’m lucky because I speak Hungarian… so I have become a translator for all the english speaking throwers.

Pál Németh, the coach gave Nate and myself a workout for a month. Throwing in the morning and lifting in the afternoon. The workouts aren’t very complicated, but they do a lot, and focus all of their lifting and etc. on the hammer. They have every type of hammer that could ever be used for training.

Morning workout consists of warm-up, turns, throwing the hammer, shot (over, under), med ball throws into a wall, short hammer (1 or 2 turns), etc. Only a few are chosen by the coach per day. Minimum 25 throws taken every throwing session.

Afternoon workout consists of running, agilities, jumping, explosive lifting, and specialized lifting. Each workout is about 2 hours long roughly. 9:30 – 11:30 & 4:30 – 6:30 . All the athletes must be warmed up and ready by the time the coach gets there.

Let us know what kind of questions you guys want answered… until then… good training & throw far! (Note: you can e-mail questions to Boldi at hthrower@ucla.edu)

Training – 30 July 2004 (Nate Rolfe)

The technical advice being given has been very helpful and interesting.  One drill that he (Pal Nemeth) believes in is using Razor scooters or skateboards to emulate and reinforce acceleration using the right side.  Also, he is a firm believer in the notion that acceleration of the hammer only occurs when working with the pull of gravity.  Many times every practice he tells me “Push the hammer on the right and let it pull you on the left.”  He also would rather see throwers landing on a flat foot and rotating up on to the toe, through all turns in order to create a powerful base to drive with.  Contrary to what I have heard from many coaches, Pal thinks that keeping your eyes on the ball is good and that, looking to the sky in the final turn and release can promote falling away from the hammer toward 270°.  He pushes throwers to stay with the hammer and most importantly finish on both toes with the throwers feet completely turned to 90° at release.  I will follow this message in a few days with some interesting insight into the training centers top throwers getting ready for Athens.

This opportunity has been both informative and great fun for both Boldi and I.  I just wanted to give a special thanks to Mr. Connolly for all his help and support for this trip.

Entry 2 – 1 August 2004 (Boldi Kocsor)

This week in Szombathely was lots of fun again. The weather cooled down (thankfully) and we were able to get in some good training. There are a few competitions left in the year for the throwing club that Nate and I might enter. Adrian Annus is throwing on a meet in Szombathey on the 8th of August. He threw 84 meters at the same meet last year.

Coaching emphasis for this week for me was to push down my left toe more on my heel toe turn. I have been 3-turning for about a week to get a better feel for the turns and release as advised by the coach. Their best youth thrower Kristóf Németh (just turned 17) has already thrown 74 meters with the 6kg hammer and 83 m + with the 5 kg. he is 1 cm away from the youth record.

Szombathley’s best first year youth has thrown 69 meters with the 6kg. Very impressive. They are both pretty strong for their age…. but most of all, very fast.

Feel free to ask any questions that you might have. Until then… good throwing.

Olympic Preparations – 5 August 2004 (Nate Rolfe)

Hey everyone, greetings from Hungary!! In the last few weeks and continuing through the time we leave we have and will continue to observe many athletes getting ready for the olympics. Some notable names are Adrian Annus, Kristian Pars, Stuart Rendell, and Robert Fazekas who will all be heading to Athens in just a few more weeks. We have seen Pars more often than the others, and we have both found his training intrieging. He has been throwing between 15 and 35 throws 6 days a week, and has dropped a good portion of conventional weight lifting(which is code for all as far as we can tell) which he has been replaced by occasional static lifting and a plethora of explosive exercises. These include 5 jumps, 3 jumps, standing long jump, medicine ball throws (Vertically as well as hammer releases and shot throws from the shoulder) overhead shot put and under hand shot throws. The shot throws and all jumps have been measured consistently through the year and have steadily improved since fall. The multiple jumps start with the feet together and then they alternate left, right, ect. after the start. With the throwing he will always end the practice with 16lb, but about every other day he starts the 6kg then goes to competition weight. Pars will begin throwing with about 80% effort for the better part of the work out, then for the last few he takes up the intensity. In these throws we have seen the 6kg go 87 meters and the 16lb go about 83 meters. Just for the record, Pars is 6′ 1″ and about 235. If you have any questions we could answer feel free to ask, naterolfe1@yahoo.com.

Meet Results – 8 August 2004 (Martin Bingisser)

Here are the results from the meet held on Sunday that Boldi mentioned in a previous post.

Men’s Hammer Throw

  1. Krisztián Pars (HUN) 79.62
  2. Libor Charfreitag (SVK) 75.75
  3. Holger Klose (GER) 73.64
  4. Ali Mohamed Al-Zankawi (KUW) 72.65
  5. Péter Botfa (HUN) 69.65

Notes: Libor Charfreitag is a former NCAA champion and attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Ali Mohamed Al-Zankawi is only twenty years old and has a personal best of 76.54m. He is trained by Anatoli Bondarchuk, former Olympic champion and coach of Sedych.

Women’s Hammer Throw

  1. Candice Scott (TRI) 68.52
  2. Kamila Skolimowska (POL) 68.35
  3. Katalin Divós (HUN) 66.42
  4. Bronwyn Eagles (AUS) 65.58
  5. Lívia Marx (HUN) 65.48
  6. Marwa Ahmed Hussein (EGY) 65.13
  7. Éva Orbán (HUN) 64.28
  8. Vanda Nickl (HUN) 61.77
  9. Júlia Tudja (HUN) 59.98
  10. Noémi Németh (HUN) 56.58

Notes: Candice Scott is the current NCAA champion in the hammer throw. She trains with coach Larry Judge at the University of Florida. Runner-up Kamila Skolimowska was the gold medalist at Sydney Olympics as an eighteen year old. Júlia Tudja was the NCAA runner-up while at the University of Southern California last year. She still trains with coach Dan Lange in Los Angeles and threw a personal best of 67.52m at the Mt. SAC relays in April.

Questions and Answers – 10 August 2004 (Nate Rolfe)

Here are some answers to recently asked questions:

  • Do they take a lot of pud throws? The Hungarians don’t do a lot of pud work, but once a week or so they will do a one turn or wind and release with the puds. The use no more than one turn, but a varying number of winds (0, 1, or 2)
  • Do they do a lot of multiple turns or drills? They always do 3 sets of 10 turns associated with the warm up, and multiple winds. The winds are done as a left handed thrower would do as well as a righty to build abdominal strength and balance. However, they are firm believers that you fix problems during throws, near full speed, and not with turns.
  • When they do their jumping drills and do they do any with double leg bounds or are the jumps always off of one leg? All multiple bounding drills have been done with alternating singles leg hops. Standing long jump is executed with both feet.

Another Visitor in Hungary – 24 September 2004 (Martin Bingisser)

Now it is my turn to visit Szombathely. After reading about and watching video from visit to Hungary by Harold, Boldi, and Nate, I eagerly await training with the Dobó Se athletic club. However, this will not be my first sojourn to the “mecca of hammer throwing.” I was able to visit Szombathely three weeks ago and watch the World Athletics Final (WAF) hammer competition held in their magnificent cage. While the rest of the competition was held in Monaco, the athletics stadium in Monaco is not fit to host the hammer throw. For the second consecutive year, the IAAF decided to host the hammer throw portion of the meet at their IAAF Performance Center in Szombathely.

While the crowd was not always into the competition, the throwers produced a great meet with Olga Kuzenkova backing up her Olympic gold medal performance by winning. Olli-Pekka Karjalainen was able to overcome a poor performance in Athens to throw one of his best marks ever and beat the favorite Ivan Tikhon and hometown thrower Krisztián Pars. The whole experience was great. It was interesting to visit a land, in which only a few individuals spoke English, but thankfully many spoke German and I was able to express myself.

More impressive than the WAF competition was the small club competition held the day before. While watching an eight year old finish a two-turn throw with relatively good technique, I could not help but think that this is how to train a champion. When an athlete starts throwing at age fourteen or fifteen, he is considered to have started late. It is unheard of to start throwing at eighteen, the age that the typical American hammer thrower first picks up the event.

High Expectations – 28 September 2004 (Martin Bingisser)

I arrived in Szombathley a few days ago and have spent the past few days training here. My expectations were high when I arrived and I received a bit of a letdown when I found out that I would not be able to witness the world-famous volume of training. While Americans are beginning fall training this month, the athletes here are in the last few weeks of their competitive season. Consequently, athletes are taking only 15-20 throws each day rather than the typical 35-40 throws. Weight lifting has also basically been removed from their training program.

But while I have missed some of what I was looking for, I still have learned a lot in the past few days. Pál Németh, the head coach here, has been able to clarify some of the technical points for me that Boldi and Nate mentioned in previous posts. For instance, the biggest problem with an over accentuated “head-back” release, as Nate mentioned, is too much weight being placed on the right foot. Although I did not have the advantage of Boldi as a translator, Pál was able to tell me that the bigger problem is that the back is overly arched. You must put your head back at the release, but you do not need to put the whole body back of the right side. He also told me that one should try to get higher and higher in each turn. Stay tuned in a few days when I will post a little about what their normal training routine consists of.

A brief glimpse at their training – 30 September 2004 (Martin Bingisser)

Yesterday Pál Németh’s son, Zsolt, was able to explain a little about the typical training program for Dobó Se. Zsolt was the silver medalist at the 1999 World-Championships, but this season was cut short by knee surgery. This past week he has been gradually starting training again by doing some lightweight weight training to strengthen his knee and a few occasional throws with light hammers. While we were weight training he explained the basic outline of their training system. Normally they will train six days a week, with Sunday being a rest day. Throwing is done every day. Traditional weightlifting (olympic lifts, squats, etc.) are done on the first day of the week. The next day is reserved for “special exercises.” These consist of more specialized lifts like twists, step-ups, and other core lifts. The third day is reserved for specific strength training typically done by throwing short and heavy hammers (which are longer and lighter than the 35# weight throw). The main lifts, which include snatch, front squat, step-ups, pull machine, twists, and a few others, are done the entire length of the season. The number of reps and amount of weight done are varied, but these exercises are always present in the training program. Other auxiliary exercises are changed throughout the season.

This overview is just that, and overview. The training system is more complex and includes more exercises. However, there is not time to get into here. Harold Connolly is currently compiling information from reports written by Boldi and Nate and it will be available online soon. Before I finish, I would like to thank Pál and Zsolt Németh for their hospitality and help. Zsolt was very helpful in finding accommodations for my visit. Pál was more than happy to give me technical advice even though I cannot understand Hungarian and his English vocabulary is limited. He would stay after his athletes were finished to give me advice on the rest of my throws. Hopefully I will be able to return to Hungary again in the height of their training.