Interview With Alexandros Papadimitriou
This interview with 2002 European Championships bronze medalist Alexandros Papadimitriou of Greece took place near the end of 2002.
Question: For those who are not familiar with you, could you give us short overview of your career? What are your most memorable moments? What were some of your accomplishments at UTEP? Who has coached you over the years?
I started throwing when I was 14 years old in my hometown of Thessaloniki, Greece. My older brother who was also a hammer thrower introduced me to the event. After a year of training I was able to finish 2nd at the youth championships (5kg hammer). The year after I was 1st and I broke the national record in that category. That was the first of the 18 various national championships I have won. I am the youth holder record (5kg) with 79.00m since 1990, and the national record holder in men (7.260kg) with 80.45m. I was the first thrower to ever break the 80m mark (2000), the first that made it in the Olympics final (Sydney 2000), and the first to ever get a medal in a major championships (Munchen 2002).
In 1993 I started my studies at UTEP. I earned the All-American honor 5 time, 3 outdoors, and 2 indoors. The major highlight had to be the 1st place with the 35-pound weight in 1995 at the NCAA’s in Indianapolis and the school record outdoors at the WAC championships the same year. At UTEP I had the chance to train with three different coaches that each helped me differently. Right now my coach is Georgios Georgiadis, a former hammer thrower.
Question: First off, we would like to know a little bit about how you got started in the hammer. Does Greece have any formal system for developing youth hammer throwers?
As far as concerning a formal system for developing young hammer throwers it hardly exists here in Greece. Most of the kids that throw the hammer are developed on their own.
Question: When you first started throwing, what was the focus of your training?
The focus of my training as I remember it was throwing about three days a week, lifting the other three days. The throwing days included afterwards lots of jumping and running/sprinting drills.
Question: Being only 29 years old, I assume you will continue to throw for a while. What are your future goals in the hammer throw? Are you excited about the Olympics coming to your country in 2004?
I am planning to throw for a long time since that I have reached one of my goals just this year. My future goals in the hammer throw are to get as many top eight spots in the major championships as possible. I am excited about the Olympic games here in Athens, but right now I am concerned with the 2003 season.
Question: How do you break up your year in training? When do you start training? Do you split the year into different phases?
Well, planning my training is mainly my coach’s job. In general, I start with some general exercises in the beginning of September, and around mid-October I start my regular training. There are several phases in my training: general work, specific work and of course over training during training camps.
Question: How many throws do you think you take each year?
The last 2-3 years the number of actual hammer throws excluding general throws and drill throws has been ranging from 2500 to 3500. This year the plan is to achieve around 5000 throws.
Question: What is your typical practice session like? What components are usually involved (Plyometrics, sprinting, lifting, throwing, etc.)? Do you do many drills? If so, which ones do you find most helpful?
Sunday is an off day. Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday are lifting days, once per day. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are throwing, sprinting, and jumping days. Right now I find more useful the throwing days because I am lacking major technique elements.
Question: Speaking of your current technique, what do you think that you do the best? Are there any aspects of your technique that you are currently working on improving?
Right now the best part of my technique is the way I relax my arms and my speed. I am definitely trying to improve the way I use my legs, or let’s the way I am not using my legs. I have very strong legs; therefore I must be able to use them during the throw.
Question: Since you studied in the United States, I assume you are familiar with many American throwers. I am sure that you are also aware that our country, despite being so large, has traditionally done very poorly at the international level. Do you think there is a concept in the hammer throw that you think Americans miss out on in their technique and/or training?
Surely, the fact that the American hammer throwers start off late has a deep impact in their development. The younger an athlete is the easier is for him/her to accumulate the proper knowledge. Another concept that is missing is the number of coaches that are specialized in the hammer throw. Finally, and the most important concept that is missing and it is directly connected to the previous one, is the fact that American hammer throwers are missing a lot in their technique. The easiest thing is to get very strong, but to get very good in technical elements requires a lot of hard work and specialization.
Question: In observing the event, it is hard not to notice that many throwers plateau between 70 and 75m (many Americans included). What do you think is the biggest obstacle that is preventing them from moving on to the next level? Were there one or two components that were instrumental in helping you break 80m?
Again, I am going to mention the most important element: technique. It is very easy to get strong, but very hard to achieve a good technique. The two most important elements for a thrower are: 1) to be able to transfer the strength developed in the technique, and 2) to be able to achieve great acceleration.
Question: As well all know, there are three factors that determine the length of each throw: the speed of the hammer, the angle of release, and the height of the hammer at release. The training of each thrower centers on the first factor, and how to increase it. While there are different approaches, which do you think is more effective: physical speed, strength, or technique?
I believe that most hammer throwers tend to be concerned with the body speed and not the actual hammer speed. It is the easiest and cheapest and more approachable way to work. As we most know it is very hard to work, and analyze the last two approaches. Litvinov looked fast, Sedykh had an incredible ball speed although not very visible, and Tamm looked very strong. They all must have had something in common although they looked different. Don’t you agree with this?
Closing I would like to say that the most important technical element has to be the ball speed and the point the hammer is “caught” to the right. You just have to take a look at Sedykh’s eye when he “catches” the hammer in his last turn!