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Remembering Harold Connolly

Harold Vincent Connolly

1 August 1931 – 18 August 2010

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to USATF Youth Hammer Throw Fund and sent to the following address: USATF Youth Hammer Throw Fund, c/o Robert Gourley, 3 Greenville Drive, Barrington, RI 02806-1217

Harold Vincent Connolly

Wednesday marked the passing of the greatest figure in the history of hammer throwing: Olympic gold medalist Harold Connolly passed away. Harold, who founded this site over a decade ago and still coordinated it until his death, had as deep a love for the hammer throw as anyone. His involvement in the event spanned over six decades from starting the event as a student at Boston College in the 1950s to orchestrating a domestic resurgence of the event in the last few years. After a career that included four Olympic Games Harold continued his involvement with the sport as a successful coach, guiding such greats as Olympian Kevin McMahon. As he got older, his focus shifted more and more to youth throwers, as he knew the key to getting another American on the podium started with teaching more kids the event and spreading it to new people. For the past decade, Harold has been conducting clinics across the country, advocating for the inclusion of the hammer throw at various USATF youth events, and starting the USATF Youth Hammer Throw Training Grant Fund, which awarded over $6,000 to youth hammer throws this year. Towards the end of his life, his efforts began to pay off: despite never having won a gold, America has won the last two world junior titles. Both winners were Americans that Harold mentored.

What many don’t know about Harold was that as much as his life was consumed by the hammer throw, he was a well rounded individual that touched many others through his work as an educator, the President of Special Olympics, and as a loving father and husband. There is now a large void wherever his life touched.

Please feel free to share your memories of Harold in the comments below.



There are 53 comments for this post.

  1. Tom M. May 23, 2011

    I am saddened to recently learn that Mr. Connely passed away last year. I had him as an English teacher at Santa Monica Highschool in the mid 1970s. He was the only teacher I had that took a real interest in his students and the only one to personally challenge me to do better. It’s a shame there aren’t more teachers like him. I am sure his family realizes what a positive influence he was on so many people…..

  2. Brad Monk March 23, 2011

    I was saddened to read of Halold’s passing – I was truely luck to have had the opportunity to train under Harold in the mid 80’s when visiting the states with the Australian Institue of Sport with Peter Farmer. He was a true gentleman of the sport with a great love of the hammer – some of my fondest memories were chatting with him about his success and the final preparations before winning his Olympic Gold in the 1956 Melbourne Games.

  3. John M. December 28, 2010

    I was a student Of Hal Connolly at Santa Monica High. He left a lasting impression on all of us. He was a kind and intuitive man. He will be missed!

  4. Dave Lenox November 13, 2010

    Hal was one of the greatest professionals I have ever worked with. I knew him from his work with Special Olympics. He was in the Headquarters office while I was “out in the field.” Hal always stood out as the guy you could go to and get the REAL answer. He cared deeply about our movement and even more deeply about young people – ALL young people. He had the gift of genuinely not caring about anything other than their potential. Disability was interesting to him but never a defining characteristic.

    When my partner and I wanted to adopt in 1992, Hal wrote letters of support that I still keep today and plan to hand off to our son who is now 18. Hal held Max (our son) when he was just a few weeks old and pronounced him a future athletic star. His prediction is coming true still.

    I’ll miss Hal. While I didn’t see him often, I think about him all the time. He is the person I wanted to be: Olympic Champion, Human Rights Advocate, Teacher, and genuinely nice guy.

  5. Vinent N. Gattullo September 26, 2010

    In the 1950’s Harold, Bob Backus, Marty Engles and I competed against each other; Harold for Boston and I for St. John’s University and Bob Backus for Tufs U. and Marty for N.Y.U.This was the era that weight lifting as a training tool was taboo. Bob and Harold dropped out of competetion for a brief period and then returned with body builds that could have stood the test of competing against Body Builders. Their strenght increasted two fold. They increased the distance significantly in the 16lb Hamer, 35lb weight and the 56lb weight (yes, the 56lb weight throw!) enough for the world to take notice.Harold made a major impact an the SPORT OF WEIGHT THROWING.

  6. Mark September 14, 2010

    Hi guys, The tribute is deserved of the friends of Dad’s who couldn’t join us back east. I hope it happens cause I regret not spending more time with Dad while he was alive. I spent the first 15 formative years of my life with him. That included 4 Olympic Games. Four of which he made.The last one was a bitch. Terrorism, and being without Mom for 25 days. I remember the scrambled eggs and oatmeal that Dad sustained us on before we went to school. 7th grade. Then after Mom came home, the shit hitting the fan. Mom moving out. Me bailing with Dad. Dad Bogarting back in the house. The court deciding in favor of Mom. Me splitting with Dad again. Back and forth, always at Dad’s side. Through the sadness and then wham. New family. Step brother, and baby on the way. Unfamiliar house. Too much for my 15 year old 1/2 informed mind to handle. Back to Mom’s. No respect. Out of control. Miracle I didn’t do everybody a favor and get killed in a car wreck. Now, other then the stress placed on family who loved me, I don’t regret any of it one bit. My boy Denali followed my girl Cianni, and they are the nuts. You want to see another American tossing the shit out of the hammer? Somebody send me an Orbitron! This boy’s got Harold’s thighs, daring and balance. Put a friggen Orbitron in his hands and show him how to throw it! God Bless Harold Connolly and all the Hail Marys and Our Fathers he recited, teaching me the words, around the times of my first confession and communion. He came in rough and went out tough. And in between accomplished the impossible, numerous times. I wish he stuck around longer, but at the same time doubt I’ll see anything close to 79. So friends, family, hammer throw enthusiasts…tribute or not…God is dealing with Dad and will soon be dealing with us. Like Dad visualized hitting that car, 30 feet beyond the WR distance before he did it that day, visualizing God as real, manifests to Him being so. God Bless You. If you can share a story about Dad, to help me through this grieving time, call me (702) 271-2963. Thanks Jimmy and Adam for this website and forum. And Happy (what is it) 35th Birthday Adam, 9/17!

  7. Charles Stevenson August 28, 2010

    Not only were Harold and Al Hall great throwers, they were also good all around athletes. Attested to by their performances in the National All-Around championships held on July 29, 1956. They took fifth and sixth places respectively. Harold’s 1595 points in the hammer made up for skipping the pole vault and mile. His total score was 5901.5 points. Al skipped the pole vault and hurdles for total score of 5829.5. The meet was won with 7618 points so they were not far behind.

  8. Augie Zilincar, Old Bridge, NJ August 26, 2010

    What a shock! Al and now Harold. Aside from being a great thrower, there is one thing I’ll never forget about Harold and will always thank him for. After returing from the 1968 Olympic training camp at South Lake Tahoe, I received a package in the mail. Asking myself, “why would I be getting something from California?” As I opened the package I saw that it was the LA Tmes September15th West Magazine wth me, of all people, on the cover and note from Harod saying he thought I would like it. Wow…what an understatement! Thank you Harold for being a driving force behind my hammer throwing and I’ll always have fond thoughts of you. God bless you!!

  9. Chris Hahn August 25, 2010

    I’m so sorry to hear of Hal’s passing. Hal was a dear friend who I admired and respected greatly. During his time with Special Olympics, he worked tirelessly to make the world a better place for individuals with intellectual disabilities. He lead the U.S. Programs on a daily devotion with a drive and desire I don’t believe we’ve seen since. I am so grateful I had the opportunity to work with him and be able to call him a friend. We will all miss him greatly.

    I remember one time I was in DC working in the absence of Hal’s assistant in the U.S. Program Dept. of SOI and he invited me over to his house for dinner. He was going to grill steaks. His wife was not home, but she laid out everything he needed. The preparation of the steaks began on a good note, but very quickly deteriorated and Hal became very frustrated and was wanting to go out to eat. I told him I’d take care of cooking the steaks if he worked on the rest of the meal. Later,
    we sat down to a pretty good meal if I don’t say so myself. Later in the evening, he was reshaping a pair of shoes for a hammer thrower he was coaching and melted the soles of the shoes in the over. He melted them to the point where he would bend the soles into the shape he desired and then as they cooled they would permanently keep the new shape. I remember the fact that Hal couldn’t grill a steak, but he could cook tennis shoes. I smile everytime I think about this story.

    Harold, thank you for being a friend and for all you did to help others and make a lives that much better.

    Your Friend,
    Chris Hahn
    Special Olympics Kansas

  10. Nancy Bottelo August 24, 2010

    Hal was an incredible man who dedicated a great deal of his life to the athletes of Special Olympics. He came to Hawaii to assist with our board of directors reorganization, and helped us make tremendous strides in growth. His work for our program helped us serve the athletes of Special Olympics Hawaii in a much better way.

    You will be missed Hal, Aloha – Nancy Bottelo

  11. George Matthews August 24, 2010

    My exposure to Harold goes all the way back to when I was in high school. Being the son of a hammer thrower, George Sr. Manhattan College, 41, I remember the great excitment in our family home when Harold won the 56 Olympic Gold. I said I wanted to be just like him. He became my idol. I thought I threw somewhat like him in my college throwing career. Lots of drag but not his distance.

    I worked with Harold over the years in trying to help him get the youth hammer extended to 13 and 14 year olds in USATF. The disrespect he endured was shameful. He told the youth committee that they were waiting for him to die so this change application would go away. Unfortunately this has come to be but we will not rest until it is passed. He tried to make them understand that the future of American hammer throwing lies with starting our kids at a younger age as the world powers do. We will get this accomplished at the next USATF Annual meeting in Virginia Beach in December.

    In 2004 I was lucky enough to be invited to coach with my idol at the Iron Throws Camp at Eastern Washington U. What a great time we had. Over the years Harold always had a pet. There was Emma Guggiero. Emma was really challenged in all the years she went to Iron Wood. Harold still persisted and so did Emma who in her last year at Iron Wood won the female hammer award and a scholarship to Princeton. Then there was Danial, the small, perkie Native Canadian who was contantly vying for Harold’s favor and he got it from him. Even though Harold wasn’t able to be at Iron Wood the last couple of years, Danial was there. He would show off to me what Coach Connolly had taught him. Harold inspired a whole Native Canadian tribe of children from their land 150 miles east of Edmonton, Alberta to throw the hammer instead of getting in trouble.

    Of course his best pet was Conor McCullough. When he came to Iron Wood after 8th grade Harold was beside himself with pride. He saw in Conor the future of US throwing as he did in Walter Henning. He told me he would be happy to just live until 2016 and see them both on the medal stand. They will be there but only Harold will be looking down on them. We had great times talking for hours as roommates in the hot dorms. He loved to stay at our home and banter with my New York Irish Catholic wife Kathleen Mary ( nee Connolly ) Mathews.

    He was the greatest of his kind and the world is better place for the contribution Harold Connolly has made. Let us never forget him. He was truly a Hammer God.

  12. Josh Aydlette August 24, 2010

    I don’t have any great stories about Coach Hal, but he was someone that was very influential to me. I was fortunate enough to train with him, even for a very short time, but still picked up a lot from him. Everytime I saw him at a meet, he was always in good spirits and I enjoyed talking to him. I almost felt bad talking to him, because he was almost always surrounded by people, so I figured he’d want to be left alone. Everytime though, he gave me a warm greeting and talked to me like he honestly cared. I’m sure there’s a lot of folks out there with that same sentiment. I will miss Coach Hal a lot, he was a great man. God bless

  13. Carlos Lifosjoe August 24, 2010

    I met Mr. Connolly in 1975 when I first moved to the United States and ended up in his class at Santa Monica High School. It was my first english as a second language class. Mr. Connolly was so kind, patient and dedicated to his students. I was so impressed with the person he was, along with his accomplishments and I felt like he took a special interest in me and even invited me for a visit at his home.
    We kept in touch for a while after I graduated but lost contact after I moved out of the area. in recent years I had tried to re-connect with him but was unsuccessful and as I now learned, he had moved away to Maryland. I will always think of him with very fond memories and will treasure those forever. My thoughts go out to his wife Pat and family and wish you all the strength and comfort of knowing that he is now with God and enjoying you from above.

  14. Dr. Joe Ward August 23, 2010

    A determined man, determined to do good, be successful in the right way, and share whatever spirit was contained in him with others. Overcoming a defect which might have constrained his natural energies, he displayed a force of personality and character throughtout his life that all who knew him cherished and admired. We all leave this blue bubble but when someone like Hal goes we all celebrate his life and know that we were graced with his friendship, companionship, and joy of life. RIP you handsome devil….you made a wonderful impression and are bouncing around in someone’s head right now and will be for a very long time. I am proud to say that is knew you.

  15. Katie Olsen St. Germain August 23, 2010

    I consider myself lucky and honored to have worked with Hal years ago when I started with Special Olympics. He was a great boss, but most of all was someone to really look up to as a person who stuck to their guns, no matter what others thought. I will always remember him with a twinkle in his eye, laughing, telling a great story. He had tons of “great stories”, but they were really mere glimpses into his life. I felt like I knew all of his kids, even though I’d only met two, as he spoke of them in such detail. I even loved the stories of Rudy the cat.

    Hal was a man of honor, laughter, dignity and love. I am happy to have known him. He will be missed greatly, especially in this house.

  16. Joanne Maldonado August 23, 2010

    Hal Connolly gave so much to Special Olympics. He was a great leader and a wonderful example to his staff and constituents. I will miss his interaction with, Ben Collins, a Special
    Olympics athlete that still works for headquarters. To watch those two interact was amazing. Hal would always give Ben a hard time and Ben loved every second of it. I told Ben of Hal’s passing on Friday and he said, “You know Joanne, I wouldn’t be here working at Special Olympics, if it weren’t for Hal and Merja.” Hal left us without any fuss…that was Hal…I will miss you coach!

  17. Jon-Paul St. Germain August 23, 2010

    Harold (Hal) Connolly, was my mentor and friend. Hal taught me the values of honest work and being courageous even when my beliefs may lay against the grain of popular thinking. Please take a moment to learn about a great man whom I’ll miss dearly but had the good fortune of knowing.

  18. Harsha Gowda August 23, 2010

    Rest in peace Coach, you were a great mentor and truly a wonderful human being.

  19. Pete Cyr August 23, 2010

    Coach Connolly was unquestionably one of the most influential people in my life. Over the past 20 years, he was my college coach, my mentor at Special Olympics and, more recently, my friend.

    Coach Connolly entered my life when I was in college and at a crossroads. I remember being so flattered that the great hammer champion Harold Connolly would coach me that when he said jump I would literally say “how high” or “how many sets up the ICC steps”. While I immediately had deep respect for Coach based on his achievements, I was perhaps more impressed by how humble and unassuming he was. As I worked with Coach, I came to believe that he saw great potential in me and based on my deep respect for him, I became determined not to let him down. In doing so, I found a focus, work ethic and approach to life that made me who I am today and continues to serve me.

    At Special Olympics, during and immediately after college, Coach encouraged me to develop my professional skills (he coached me through my first interview) and my entrepreneurial spirit (he once jokingly offered to bet Coach Gags how soon I would make my first million as I started my first business). As I matured, I was still pushing very hard to impress Coach Connolly because I knew if I could impress him, I was on the right track.

    More recently, Coach and I became friends. I have visited him in VA and MD and he has stayed with me and my family in San Clemente. I had the opportunity to see him coach first hand again at the Olympic Training center last year and again last month (I even snuck in a throwing session with him – it was just like old times!). Harold was a young 78 at the clinic showing unbridled enthusiasm coaching other coaches in the hammer and recruiting them to start hammer throwing clubs throughout the country. I feel truly fortunate to have had the three days with him last month to talk about life, family and his vision for youth hammer in the US. He believed that independent hammer clubs represent the best chance for youth hammer throwing and we agreed to start working together on updating his hammer manual to make it easier for coaches to form these hammer clubs.
    One of the greatest moments of my life was this past April while visiting Coach Connolly and Pat in Maryland. I watched with pure joy while Coach taught my three young children, ages 2, 4 and 7, to throw the Orbiton (a hammer-like toy that Coach invented and planned to market). Here is a
    link to one of the videos. . The others can be found by searching for “Coach Connolly”

    I mourn his passing almost as if he was my own father. I will miss him deeply and continue to make him proud. He was truly one of a kind.

    Just a few weeks ago, I sent Coach a birthday wish. His reply summarized his approach to life and why he’ll be so greatly missed: “Pete, Thank you for your thoughtful birthday greeting as I begin an octogenarian training macro cycle to retain lucid cognition and topnotch physical performance. Warm regards to Patty and the children. Harold”

  20. Joe Koshuta August 22, 2010

    I met Hal Connolly only once and that was two weeks ago – just 10 days before he died. I had taken my 16 yr old son to an all comers track meet at a local high school in Northern Virginia. My son had recently taken up discus and shot and after attending a throwers camp this summer he came home and told me he wanted to add the hammer throw as another event. We ordered a hammer and this would be the first meet where he would have a chance to throw in competition. As an all comers meet, the age of the competition ranged from 15 to 75 years and the skills ranged from novice to former college all stars.

    I was asked to retrieve hammers so I proceeded out into the sector where I met an elderly gentleman who said he was there to see a young woman who he had previously coached. I had heard that Coach Connolly sometimes attended these meets and as a former thrower I was excited to meet him. I introduced myself and mentioned that my son had expressed an interest in learning the hammer and asked if he any advice for a novice. He reached into his pocket, pulled out a 3×5 card and asked me to write down my son’s name and address and said that he would send us some information.

    Over the next 45 minutes we chatted and dodged hammers. When his former pupil got ready to throw he would move forward in the sector and stand there filming the throw as the hammer went whizzing over his head. At one point, one of the better throwers let go a bit of wild toss and we both had to jump out of the way. At that moment he displayed the quickness of someone far younger. At the conclusion of the event, I called my son over to introduce him to Coach Connolly. He graciously spent another 10 minutes talking to my son, explaining the key elements of the event and how to get started. He also recommended that my son read the book “Outliers”. He said it was a great book for anyone looking to learn the hammer. He could not have been more gracious, kind or helpful.

    My son was so excited to have met such an accomplished athlete and said he was looking forward to getting the information that coach had said he would send. Each day for a week my son would bring in the mail anxiously looking for a letter from Coach Connolly. About five days ago the envelope arrived and it included two CD’s filled with the most amazing collection of coaching tips, drills, documents and videos. My son was ecstatic and began devouring the contents which should help not only in the hammer but the other throwing events as well.

    There was another all comers meet scheduled for this morning but when we got there the throwing circles were full of water and it was still raining. That’s when we heard someone say that Hal Connolly had passed away. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Coach Connolly’s family.

    As I type this my son is sitting on the couch reading “Outliers”. Thanks coach for a truly memorable afternoon.

  21. Dr. Harry Edwards August 22, 2010

    I first met Harold Connolly in 1960 at the West Coast Relays. I was a 17 year old discuss thrower and had just set the national junior college discus record. He was already an Olympic Champion. He walked up and introduced himself to me. I remember thinking at the time how special he must have been to achieve an Olympic Gold Medal in the hammer throw with only one good arm. In coming years I would find out how truly special he was not only as an athlete, but also as a human being. So, it was with great sadness that I learned of Harold Connolly’s passing. For me, he was not only a world-class athlete but he was a friend who stood with all who struggled to broaden democratic participation and equality in American sport and society. One measure of his strength of commitment was that he became a four time Olympian notwithstanding what many initially considered a disabling, if not disqualifying deformity of his left arm. A measure of the caliber of his character and courage was that – along with the Harvard
    University crew team and a few other White athletes – he stood with those Black athletes and activists who challenged racism in American and international sports in the 1960’s under the banner of the Olympic Project for Human Rights. On a more personal note, as a young militant activist, Connolly was a constant reminder to me, up close and personal, that – despite the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the daily televised mayhem and what would today be called terrorism waged against the Civil Rights Movement, and other episodes of “White backlash”, our struggle was against racism, not against White people. The impact that Harold Connolly had on me was at the very foundation of my relationship with Bill Walsh and other major figures in the American sports establishment. He remains a model for those who would forge greater inter-group harmony and progress. Indeed, our greatest challenge domestically as we enter the second decade of the 21st century is diversity in all of its various guises and permutations. So, Harold Connolly’s example is even more relevant today than in the past – both within and beyond the sports arena. He will be remembered and he will be sorely missed.

    Dr. Harry Edwards, Professor Emeritus
    University of California Berkeley
    Organizer: Olympic Project for Human Rights

  22. Richard E. Behmer August 22, 2010

    I was a student at John Adams Junior High in Santa Monica, Calif, where Harold Connolly was a teacher, somewhere around 1962. When I heard of his olympic achievements, I was quite proud just to be in his class and to know him. His teaching method was no nonsense, but also warm and focused. It was a restless time in my life, but I found certain and solid direction because of Mr. Connolly’s example of patience, understanding, and dedication. I had the pleasure of telling him all of this a couple of years ago, and he was most cordial and modest when he returned my email. Though his passing is a sad one, his lifelong achievements and accomplishments for others will carry his legacy. Rest in peace my friend.

  23. Kate Schmidt August 22, 2010

    When I began to coach the hammer at Occidental College, Hal took some time to talk to me about the event. I shared my insecurities with him, having been mostly immersed in the javelin. Some days later a package arrived in the mail. In it Hal had sent some DVD’s of hammer clinics and other hammer highlights, but there was also what appeared to be a necklace, heavily weighted at the bottom of the package. It was a 20″ strand of leather with a small fishing line weight attached to it. A handwritten note was wrapped around it. In the note he explained that if I held the leather between my thumb and forefinger, and from my wrist, gently twirled the weight, I would experience the feeling of throwing the hammer. This made perfect sense to me, and began my love affair with the event. Great teachers come with great passion. Harold Connolly was a great man. I will miss him, and there will never be another like him in our sport. My condolences to his family. Sincerely, Kate Schmidt

  24. KaMa August 22, 2010

    My father, Duke Buniff, was greatly saddened by the news. He taught with Mr. Connolly and later officiated with him. Outside of the areas of expertise for which most recognize his name, Mr. Connolly once appeared on my behalf in a legal situation. I like to think that his voice made the difference. He will be greatly missed and our prayers and condolences to his family.

    Kathleen~Mary Buniff

  25. Mike Lauro August 21, 2010

    My daughter Catherine who while at this past years 2009 National High School Indoor Championships in New York, mentioned to me after competing in the 20 LB Weight Throw for Classical High School, that “some older man”, (she did not know his name), approached her after her throws. The gentleman she said, told her that while he realized Catherine would not likely win the event, that among all the competitors throwing in the championship that day, he felt he could coach her because she possessed the real potential to become a great hammer thrower.

    Catherine and we later learned (and to her and my surprise), that the gentleman who approached her and who paid such a compliment to her potential was Harold Connolly.

    Needless to say Catherine and our entire family will never forget Harold’s endorsement. Nor shall we ever forget his exemplary lifetime achievement and contribution to the advancement of the hammer throw for which he gave so much to the benefit of so many.

  26. Paul Hoffman August 21, 2010

    Hal Connolly was a great man, a man who had strong beliefs and stood up for them. I got to know Hal during 1968 as he — and Olga — and Tom Waddell, and the guys on my crew, and way too few other white teammates on the 1968 Olympic Team, worked together in support of the principles of equality and social justice that formed the basis of the Olympic Project for Human Rights. Hal Connolly knew that racial injustice existed, that it was wrong, and that the best way to end it was to stand up for what was right and point out what was wrong. He was a courageous man. His solidity and maturity gave much weight to his opinions. He was a man to be reckoned with, to be listened to, and to be heeded. It was a true honor to have known him and to have had the benefit of his counsel and his friendship.

  27. Joe Donahue August 21, 2010

    I met Harold when I trained with Bob Backus, the former WR weight thrower from Tufts. Harold was always somewhere in Europe throwing but would come by Bob’s place in Marshfield MA when he could. It was difficult toitalk to him then, he was already a legend 50 years ago and I a young college thrower at Northeastern U. was too intimidated by his prowess to approach.Bob and Harold often had disagreements about technique and training. I would train with Bob but when I saw Harold the difference in technique was noticeable. He was throwing like the Eurpoeans and Bob threw,as most everyone else did like weight thrower indoors and out. I noticed Harold’s leg development which was awesome.He was built different than most weight throwers in the US whose upper bodies were often massive affected by the bench press. They were all strong, relly strong men but Harold looked different. I had never seen anyone with ‘quads’ like he had and he was so darn fast i the hammer. Al Hall of Cornell and NYAC was close but not as fast. He also did most of his own training.

    I threw in a competition in Boston behind he US Naval building when I was 20yo. I was throwing about 165′ from 2 turns, this was 1960 or so and only the elite threw 3. I was sure I could win because I was improving and had beaten most local guys who were still in the city in the summer. But to my consternation,Harold showed up.I spent most of my time watching him throw awesome 220’s wqarming up while my meagher 160’s fell limply behind. He won I finished second and he treated me as if I was a fellow Olympian. i will never forget that.

    Years later he would drop in to Northeastern, where I now coached, to train, lift and be the legend he was.We became colleagues as coaches and friends as we talked at the many competitions. He was a determined man, very very bright. We had similar backgrounds in education both of us serving the special education community. his efforts in this vein were as important as anything he did. He had firm ideas on how to train and traveled extensively finding out what the Europeans and Russians were doing.

    When he spoke at a clinic as a presenter or attendee he was listened to, often the room would grow quiet if he asked a question.I had dinner during a clinic with Yuri and others and asked him about what Harold meant to him and others. He said Harold was THE seminal thrower a man who all USSR throwers and coaches looked up to. Sadly he was more well known in Europe and USSR than America. He was the equivalent of Babe Ruth and more so. He became open to suggestions if he respected your credentials and your logic but if he suspected you were a ‘wannabe’ or campfollower his comments could be whithering.What you had in him was a ferocious search for the truth unvarnished. Men like him come along only once in a lifetime.

  28. Ron Vederman August 21, 2010

    Hal was an early supporter of my start as a professional with Special Olympics New Jersey in the late ’80’s. I had the honor of introducing him and then co-presenting with him at a teachers conference there. While his reputation was intimidating, the man was not. Warm, compassionate and devoted to Special Olympics athletes with the interest of genuinely wanting them to experience sport as a means for acceptance and inclusion.

    Perhaps I was most impressed that he knew Arnold! I believe Hal used to work out with Arnold at a Gold’s Gym in California where they developed a friendship. Hal arranged for the “Austrian Oak” to speak at an education conference I was attending in DC around 1990 or so.

    Thank you Hal for your committment to Special Olympics. Ron

  29. Larry Hart August 21, 2010

    Harold’s accomplishments inspired me to become a hammer thrower. It was an honor for me to train with him on occasion in Long Beach, CA. I remember him as one of the great Olympic athletes.

  30. John A. Wolitarsky August 21, 2010

    I was one of the many athletes who was privileged to have been coached by Harold Connolly. In 1980, I moved from Montreal Canada to Culver City, CA. in order to finish High School and complete my College education in the US. While at Culver City High School, I played football and competed in Track where I broke the school shot put record and placed 7th in the State in 1981. It was at Culver City High School that I met Jim and Merja Connolly who were both standout athletes and soon discovered that their father was an Olympian who had won the gold medal in the hammer throw in 1956.
    Ironically, while I was living in Canada, I trained with the Junior National coach in the shot put who quickly pointed out to me that I was not a shot putter but rather a hammer thrower! Since I knew that the hammer was not a High School event in California, I continued training with the shot but never forgot the coaches prophetic words regarding the hammer.
    During my senior year of High School, I finally met Harold and through that meeting, Harold invited me to West Los Angeles College where a hammer throw training facility had been constructed and where Harold coached a number of hammer throwers the most notible of which was Giumpaolo Urlando, an Italian Olympian who trained in Los Angeles. It was there that Harold introduced me to the hammer and where I decided that the hammer would be the event that I would dedicate myself to in College.
    Thanks to Harold, I secured a scholarship to USC, went on to break the school record with a throw of 225’10” in 1985, and tried out for the 1984 Olympic team. Having spent countless hours with Harold at the hammer throw facility, it didnt take me long to realize that Harold not only won a gold medal but that his heart was made of gold. He never charged me a dime for all the time and knowledge he imparted and his only true interest was to see me succeed. He was much more than a coach, he was a mentor, a wise man who taught me much more than the fundamentals of hammer throwing, he taught me how to become a man.
    I will miss Harold and would like to thank his family members for allowing him to share his time with me as a young College student. As the father of four children and a business owner, I will be eternally grateful for everything Harold did for me as a young man and count it a privilege to have had him as an influence in my life. Thank you Harold for the man you were and for making a Huge impact on my life. Your memories will be with me forever and if I can be half the man you were, I will consider myself to have been a success. Rest in peace Harold and may you continue throwing the hammer for eternity!

  31. Fred Asensio August 21, 2010

    I remember Harold, not as an Olympian, but as my teacher at Edison Junior High. He was a very large but gentle man. At that young age, being a gold medal winner did not impress me as his accomplishments impress me now. What impress me then about Mr. Connolly, was that he was a great teacher. May God bless him and embrace him.

  32. Glenn McAtee August 20, 2010

    Hal had an enormous passion for the hammer, and was committed, during the time I knew him, to growing the grassroots portion of the event. One of the things that struck me most about this process was his willingness to learn. He was always looking for a new way to teach the event or new perspectives on training that would make him better as a youth coach and ambassador for the event. You don’t find that quality in many people in their 70s, especially not when they have competed and coached at a high level. He had no sense of arrogance about him.

    I was struck by the reverential treatment he received while we were in Hungary. All the European athletes and coaches treated him with a reverence and defference that you don’t see them extend to an American very often. At the clinics he put up his hand and asked questions like everyone else, and he was answered with a respect that other questions did not get. He was a man who commanded respect, all over the world.

    One of the old Russian hammer throwers told me a story one time. He said that when he was learning to throw the hammer in the 1960s, he had only one film of someone throwing the hammer and it was Harold. Even he could not tell me why in the 1960 Soviet Union he would have had a film of Harold, but he did. He said that he spent hours and hours studying how Harold threw, and identified some things that Harold did that noone else he had seen throw did, so he tried to copy those things. He said that after a while he gave up trying to learn the Connolly style. I told Harold that story later and he said that his technique was atrocious and that he was happy to learn that he had not completely wrecked that man’s career in the hammer.

    To Harold’s family, I am sorry for your loss. Harold Connolly was an asset to the throwing community and he will be greatly missed. His passion and presence can never be replaced. Thanks so much for supporting him in his work for our sport.


  33. Ed Nosal August 20, 2010

    He was a great example for other hammer throwerss, a tough competitor and a ‘good guy’. My sincere condolances to his friends and family.
    Ed Nosal

  34. Merja Connolly-Freund August 20, 2010

    Dad, I know you loved your family and the hammer most in life. But you also always fought for what is right and approached challenge with a calm mind and heart and huge determimation. I am so grateful that you have taught Van, 8 years old how to turn with his little soft hammer and I can only pray he will grow up to be the man you have been inside and out. Thank you for always loving Barry as a best friend and helping guide us as new parents. I hope to follow your footprint as a teacher and will always think about the gift you had to teach others. I know you were like a second dad to soooo many others. I am going to miss you so much but know you will be smiling at us from Heaven.

  35. Steve Maciejewski August 20, 2010

    I met Hal one of my first days in college, at Radford University. We went to the dining hall and in came coach Scott Corrado with a man who was short in stature but with the biggest sparkle in his eyes know that he was sitting with two fresh you minds to mold, myself, and future 2x All- American Kyle Morse. I was a bit rusty on who he exactly was but after getting to speak for 15 minutes it was clear to me that I was sitting next to a legend and I had made the right college choice. Look over at his forearm and seeing the hammer tattoo that he has was so cool to me. I was really sitting next to an Olympic Champion. It was the first person I ever knew to be that good at anything. All I wanted to do was learn from him. I saw what he did with Brian Richotte and knew the stories of Kevin McMahon, and just wanted to be apart of that.

    Hal took me on as a student promptly and showed me how to wind, how to turn, and with the help of Scott Corrado helped me perform multiple turns in a week or so.

    Towards the winter Hal and I would have one on one practices where he would be stern but productive in his coaching methods. Teaching me that all I had to do was “throw catch throw catch throw catch THROW!!!” He made the hammer throw simple for me, someone who never saw it before, and made me good at it for the little time I spent with it. By the time feburary and march rolled around, I could throw 54 meters with a 6k and 60m with a 5k, something that in high school would have helped me out a ton in the recruiting process.

    One of the things Ill never forget is when Hal had me come to the Hurricane Classic throws clinic in South Carolina, and treated me like his son. He introduced me to Larry Judge, Erin Gilreath, and our great world record holder, none other than Youri Sedykh. I felt so honored and yet he treated me like an 80 meter thrower, trying to show me things and training methods etc, so really spark my interest which had been accomplished months before that.

    Hal, even helped me in the shot put quite a bit, getting my PR to almost 50′ as a true, 210 lb freshman. He was just so incredibly knowledgeable in the throws. I felt like I had “google throws” standing next to me at all times.

    Probably my biggest memory was a training session where I was just on. Something all of you can speak about. We wanted to get a workout in just before we went over to watch the Virginia Tech throwers and our throwers as well. As we were leaving, Hal stopped me and looked straight at me and said “i think this is something you could be really good at Steve. Something that in four years you could be competing for an NCAA title with. If you keep doing this, you can be as good as you want”. When he said that to me, my stomach did back flips, my heart sank, I just felt so awesome knowing that, to get a compliment out of Hal was a task, but something like that? From there on I was determined to make that happen.

    Unfortuatly, all good things must come to an end, and my career at Radford did on short notice. My coaches were resigning and hall was looking to move close to the University of Virginia, five hours north. I ended up transferring and keeping in contact with Hal, but never really pursuring that dream of being a true Hammer Thrower, mostly because I knew I had it so good at Radford.

    Today I can say that because of Hal’s teachings and how well I learned and continue to learn, I have been able to help teamates of mine and high school athletes as well, to appreciate the hammer, just like Hal does.

    His teachings, his passion, his pursuit of greatness live in our two hopeful athletes, Walter and Conor. I remember him showing me Conor turning when he was 12 years old, using that as a template and look at how good he is now. The man lived to have the USA succeed in the hammer and I think as a country we owe it to him to come together and use his teachings and training to be back on the medal stand that only himself and Lance have occupied.

    I can see the smile on his face now knowing that the USA scored an olympic medal in the hammer throw. All his work and sacrifice would then pay off.

    To his beloved wife, to his children, to all the people he has touched and made a difference, God bless you all knowing such a great spirit. His legacy and legend will live on forever.
    Hope your enjoying a Black ‘n Tab in the sky, we’ll miss you Hal.

    Steve Maciejewski

  36. Zachary Hazen August 20, 2010

    Hal taught me my very first hammer turns in 2002. His teacher side came through at Ironwood, where we all gave letter grades to each other during drills. When I struggled he would say “Takes a while for those nerves signals to travel all the way down to those big feet!” He was also instructional on the correct usage of “further” and “farther”. When I became a post collegiate thrower he mailed me helpful articles and instructional material for free. I made donations to his fund as a way to say thanks. His memoirs are an amazing read. What an amazing guy.

    I can only imagine how proud he must of been the past two WJC where his youth development paid off with two US champions and a US runner up. He absolutely succeeded at helping to put american hammer throwers back on the podium.

  37. Emma Ruggiero August 20, 2010

    I met Harold Connolly about eight years ago at Ironwood Throws camp. I was the youngest and definitely the smallest thrower at ironwood , but Coach Connolly let me try the hammer none the less. Now thanks to the enthusiasm and encouragement of his coaching I am hooked on the hammer and throwing it at college. coach Connolly was an outstanding coach and mentor because of his enthusiasm and he encouraged anyone that was interested to throw . He coached me just as well and with as much attention when I was a complete beginner who couldn’t do a single turn as he did when I was advanced and he never tired of helping young throwers. One of the things that made Hal such a great coach and friend was that his interest in his athletes went beyond the hammer ring, even at a short summer camp. During the first year that I did hammer at Ironwood Hal and George Matthews spent the entire cruise on Lake Coeur d’Alene talking with me about my life and things entirely unrelated to throwing. It was not just his skill as a coach, but also the friendships he developed with his throwers that made him so great. Hal helped me to find coaches who could coach me near my home so that I could continue to throw the hammer until the nest summer when I saw him at Ironwood.
    Hal did so much to introduce young throwers to the hammer, his passing is a great loss to the sport. He was always an enthusiastic advocate for youth hammer and introduced a huge number of young throwers like me to the hammer. he also worked tirelessly to try to get the hammer introduced as a regular high school event and produced the best literature for young throwers and their coaches. Hal wrote down much of what he knew about the hammer so that he could pass it on to other throwers and coaches, but it is nothing compared to the knowledge of the hammer throw that he had and the compassion that he had for his athletes as people. He will be missed by all who knew him, but his legacy will live on in all of the young hammer throwers whose lives he touched and hopefully we can continue his legacy of great American hammer throwing in his memory.
    -Emma Ruggiero

  38. Shawn Hall August 20, 2010

    I was greatly saddened to hear of the death yesterday of Harold Connolly, the best United States hammer thrower of all time, at the age of 79. I’ve known him as long as I can remember. He and my father, Al Hall, were teammates and competitors for four decades years. They both were on the same four Olympic teams in the hammer: 1956, 1960, 1964, 1968. As a youngster, I would go to a lot of track meets with my dad, and it was always a special time when Hal was there. A flood of memories come back: meets in the Columbia Bubble with the 35 pound weight, hammer meets in the middle of nowhere when Harold, my dad, and others from the New England group felt the urge, and when Harold slipped while throwing and the hammer sailed into the parking lot and through someone’s windshield! He was most comforting when my father died two years ago and I had kept in contact with him over the years. I will greatly miss him and treasure the memories. I had just found this photo and had it on my desk to send to Hal this week. It was taken at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games. Harold is to the left, ’68 Olympic champion Gyula Zsivótzky (Hungary), my father Albert Hall, and the 8 year old kid in the front is me! With the recent passing of Tom Gage, Ed Healey, and now Harold Connolly, this has been a very rough spell for the hammer throwing community. Rest well, my friend, and I am sure there is one heck of a hammer competition going on upstairs right now. My deepest condolences to Harold’s family.
    Harold Connolly, Al and Shawn Hall, Gyula Zsivotzky

  39. Guest August 20, 2010

    Coach Collolly coached me while I was in college — I learned a lot from him that I passed on when I became a coach. He will be missed! RIP Hal

  40. Margaret Fox-Hall August 19, 2010

    Harold Connolly was one of my delights in track and field and life.

    Such unsurpassed knowledge, wisdom, zeal, and encouragement not just for hammer, but for life.

    Not to be forgotten are his sense of humor, his humble nature, and the twinkle in his eye.

    Honored and Blessed by Harold~Margaret Fox-Hall

  41. Jim August 19, 2010

    On July 4th, we ran the Santa Monica stairs together. It was so much fun. He was in such great shape and was blowing past people half his age. What an incredible athlete he was.

  42. humphreyhj August 19, 2010

    I’ve worked with Hal for years in the development area. His love and continued efforts to include the hammer in meets and to teach our youth will be hard to equal. While I’m in shock at losing him today, I want to be sure his efforts don’t stop now. We must continue to improve the coaching
    and competitive opportunities for men and women hammer throwers!

  43. Mike Weiner August 19, 2010

    You go through life and enjoy so many experiences. Some are cherished forever because of the emotional power they contain. A lot of my greatest memories are primarily from Family and Coaching. Meeting and spending time with Harold @ Chulla Vista is a Top 10 in my life. It is something i will never ever forget, because he was one of “Them”. One of the people that inspire great coaches to want to be great coaches. He lived for it! He loved it! He made you do the same by being himself. I will never forget his Tenacity.. His Wit.. His Stubborness.. His Smile! I will treasure the few times that i had with Harold forever.

    The most important thing i will never forget, and we as a sport MUST ensure, is the positive impact this man had on his event in this country that should endure for some time.

    Harold Connolly was, is, and forever will be an ICON of US Track and Field!

    Rest in Peace, Hal

  44. Ron Morris August 19, 2010

    Hal was a true friend for many, many years. We had worked together recently in an attempt to promote hammer throwing among young athletes. He will not only be remembered as a wonderful person who will be missed by those who were close to him, he will long be revered by the sport of track and field.
    Harold, rest in peace, dear friend — Ron Morris, Rome 1960

  45. Frank Ruggiero August 19, 2010

    Harold Connolly introduced my skinny young daughter to the magic of hammer throwing in a wonderful and supportive manner. I will always be grateful for his many years coaching her at Ironwood as well as the interest and guidance she received from him after he introduced her to Ken Weinbel, her coach in her high school years. My daughter’s hammer throwing has changed all of our lives in so many ways and it all began with Harold Connolly’s magic. Thank you Harold.

  46. Kevin McMahon August 19, 2010

    One of the greatest blessings in my life was having Harold Connolly, our last American World Record Holder and Gold Medalist in the hammer throw, as my college coach. In the time we worked together, he added 44 feet to my throw – but immeasurably more to my development as a human being.

    Simply put, Harold was a force of nature the likes of which I had never seen before, nor since. Just being around him – and getting caught up in his drive and sense of purpose – made you better. From small remarks like “you know you are alive when you are sore” and “if you don’t have a goal, it’s over” he taught the arts of both hammer throwing and life.

    He constantly modeled the willpower and work ethic it takes to succeed in athletics (lifting more weight on his 70th birthday than most athletes can in their 20s), but what is more is that he applied this same commitment to excellence toward life’s more important domains as well. On long road trips to meets, conversation would reveal the same level of passion for Family, Friends, and Education that so many only saw in the ring. He spoke with great pride about each of his talented children, kept in contact with a huge circle of friends (from former students and competitors to Gov. Arnold), and to receive a letter from Harold was to grasp what beauty can be achieved with the English language.

    For those who never met the man, I am compelled to note that to be an American hammer
    thrower is to have benefited from Harold Connolly. From his days in the media spotlight (his many victories over the Soviets and even his wedding were major international news stories) to his fighting the AAU for athletes rights in the 1960’s to his humble determination to promote youth hammer throw development, Harold set the standard for what can be done in our sport – as serves as a model for a life well-lived.

    He changed my life forever (“indelibly” as he would say), and I will miss him greatly.

  47. Duncan Atwood August 19, 2010

    A great loss. I was always delighted to see him and to hear more of the excellent stories/comm ents/perspectives. We were at a conference of some sort and he needed to go to a craft store for some leather shoelace material for a hammer product of his. I walked with him about an hour to get there, and we stopped to have lunch on the way back. A very memorable time, and I felt honored to have his undivided attention for those hours. He had real class.

  48. Cindy Lea Arbelbide August 19, 2010

    How lucky we were at the Potomac Valley Track Club. Harrold (as he introduced himself to me) would occasionally be on hand and when he was – he often helped at the throws rings.

    On one of these occasions he approached me inquiring if I wanted some tips on throwing the shot. After recovering from the initial shock of such generosity – I took him up on it and listened attentively. That day I received his assistance with the hammer, weight, and superweight. I loved his straight forward no nonsense communication. I just thank the stars that I was in the right place and the right time to meet him.

    He wore many hats: a family man, an accomplished athlete, an exceptional coach – one that really knew what he was talking about. But more important a gentleman and friend. A wonderful legacy for any human being.

  49. Darin Schmitz August 19, 2010

    I have known and worked with Hal for the past 10 years. I first met him at a clinic and ever since then he has helped guide me as a coach in the hammer. We have talked and discussed the hammer on many occasions throwing ideas back and forth on technique, lifiting, and the sport in general and I can tell you first hand there was no one more dedicated to the hammer than Hal. If I ever had a question or an idea I would just call or send him an e-mail and would always get a great reply back. We have not only lost a great coach and athlete, but a great man. RIP Hal you will be missed.

  50. Tim Miller August 19, 2010

    Hal worked with me for 4 days at a coaching clinic at the OTC. The first thing that struck me was how blunt he was with his coaching style. I had never known anyone to absolutely demand perfection on every attempt. This more than anything else I learned has stuck with me. As coaches we must sometimes be salesmen, mentors, teachers, and students. Hal personified all of these traits with one goal in mind: Advancement of the USA in the Hammerthrow on every level. We might not have had any great hammer throwers in the year since I met Hal, but his coaching style had a significant role in our team’s success in the other throws. He was the greatest teacher I have ever had and I only knew him for 4 days. Hal will be missed but I know there have been many inspired to champion his unfinished cause of putting an American back on top of the podium at the Olympic Games. My deepest condolences go out to Hal’s family.

  51. Scott Corrado August 19, 2010

    Harold changed my life in the best way possible. I love him and am very sad of his passing. Right now Harold is coaching god on the toe turn. Great american but better husband, father and friend.

    Scott Corrado

  52. Peter August 19, 2010

    I am one of the “ordinary” hammer throwers. In 2006 when I went to Boston for my very first indoor National Masters Track and Field Championships, I took pictures of the Harold Connolly statue, and was inspired by the story of Harold’s accomplishments and dedication to helping others. I was taught techniques of hammer throw by my college coach, Len Olson, but Harold Connolly serves as an inspiration to every thrower. I hope that the event will grow and be recognized, and that his family and survivors hear how much he will be missed by throwers, even those who never met him.

  53. Martin Bingisser August 19, 2010

    When I first met Harold, I was struck by his honesty. He told me I didn’t have a future as a world class shot putter and that I needed to lose weight. Even then, I knew he was correct, but he was the first person to tell me this to my face. Someone told this might often be deterred, but not when you are told it by Harold. His secret was that he could tell me this all during an optimistic conversation since it was all part of his pitch for my new event: the hammer throw. In the hammer throw, he explained, I could make up for my physical shortcomings with technique and hard work. After he worked with me one-on-one for a weekend, I was hooked and haev never looked back. That was ten years ago. Ever since then, Harold has served as a coach, mentod, and friend to me. My life was headed down the wrong path, both athletically and academically, and Harold provided me with a goal that helped turn it around. I began to improve every aspect of my life after Hal entered my life and I don’t like to think about where I would be today without his guidance. I’ll miss you Hal, but I’ll still try to keep making you proud.


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