We are happy to announce that "In the Ring with Coach V" by Vésteinn Hafsteinsson, will continue throughout the 2022 season.
After participating in four Olympic Games as a discus thrower, Vésteinn embarked upon a remarkably successful career as a coach, guiding shot putter Joachim Olsen to a silver medal in the 2004 Olympics, and discus great Gerd Kanter to Olympic and World Championship gold.
Vésteinn’s success has continued with his current training group, which consists of World and Olympic discus champion Daniel Ståhl, Olympic discus silver medalist Simon Pettersson, indoor European shot put silver-medalist and Olympic finalist Fanny Roos, former European U23 discus champion Sven Martin Skagestad, and Nordic Indoor shot put champion Marcus Thomsen.
"In the Ring with Coach V" features insights into how these athletes train and compete, stories from Vésteinn’s long career as an athlete and coach, and thoughts regarding the current state of the sport and how it can be improved.
In this edition, Vésteinn focuses on the current situation with Marcus and Sven Martin.
My current training group consists of three athletes (Fanny Roos, Daniel Ståhl, and Simon Pettersson) who have proven themselves on the international stage and do not have to worry about qualifying for the upcoming World and European Championships, and two athletes (Marcus Thomsen and Sven Martin Skagestad) who are still fighting to achieve that level.
This makes for an interesting mix, as the priorities of these athletes are very different.
In this post, I would like to focus on the two who are working to establish themselves as international contenders.
We will start with Marcus. He is twenty-four years old with a shot put PB of 21.09m and a history of success at the U20 level. He finished seventh at the World U20 Championships in 2016, and was European U20 champion in 2017.
Marcus has shown promise at the senior level as well, twice finishing seventh at the European Indoor Championships. His situation right now gives a good example of the challenges facing an up-and-coming thrower.
Last summer, Marcus missed qualifying for the Olympic Games by one centimeter.
As you probably know, qualification for the Olympic Games and for the World Indoor and Outdoor Championships is based on achieving an entry standard (currently 21.10m) and/or reaching a certain position in the World Athletics rankings.
Marcus threw 21.09m last year and was ranked number thirty-four by World Athletics. Thirty-two throwers were accepted in each throwing event, so Marcus barely missed out based on ranking as well.
In order to qualify for the 2022 Indoor Worlds, to be held on March 18th thru March 20th in Belgrade, Marcus needs to achieve the entry standard–still 21.10m– by March 7th. Since only sixteen throwers are admitted into the Indoor Worlds, Marcus will probably also have to improve his current ranking position as well. He is currently ranked at number twenty-six, and if sixteen of the throwers ranked higher than him also achieve the entry standard, he may be out of luck.
So what we have to do with Marcus is to enter him in as many meets as possible, even those with very little ranking points, to give him a chance to establish himself as a top thrower who will start getting invited into the more prestigious competitions. At the meets with small points available, our goal is to throw far. At meets that offer a decent amount of points, our goal is to win and get the maximum amount of those points.
This season, he has already competed five times, once in Manchester, twice in the Czech Republic, in his National Indoor Championships in Norway, and most recently at the Nordic Indoor Championships in Uppsala, Sweden. His best result came at the National Championships, when he threw 20.87m. He won that competition (and the Nordic Championships as well) and gained some valuable experience and picked up some ranking points at all of these meetings.
The 20.87m distance is promising, as we have been in a heavy phase of training and throwing a lot with the 7.75k shot. His best with the 7.75k implement is 20.16m, which tells me he is in shape to throw past twenty-one meters with the normal 7.26k shot. It usually takes a little time to get a good feel with the regular implement after a period of training like that, and I am confident that Marcus will get a PB sometime within the next few weeks.
Sven Martin is in a similar situation as Marcus, but he is ranked much lower right now–number 53–and as his event is the discus he will not be able to start moving up until the outdoor season.
Sven Martin is twenty-seven years old, with a PB of 65.20m. Like Marcus, he had some international success when he was younger. In 2014, he finished third at the World U20 Championships, and in 2017 he won the U23 European Championships.
Sven Martin showed great promise in 2016 by finishing thirteenth (one place ahead of Daniel) at the Olympics and missing the final by only twenty-three centimeters. He was twenty years old at the time.
But then, his career went into the wilderness, and he has not achieved a PB since 2016. The low point came in 2019 when his season’s best was 59.44m.
I began working with him right about the time that Covid hit, so at first much of our sessions took place remotely. He was also suffering from a lingering back injury that he finally got taken care of last August.
Sven Martin continues to live in Norway (his home country) but comes to Växjö often now for training camps. He is an extremely talented young man, and last summer I told him that if he was ready to fully embrace the life of a professional thrower, he would have a chance to be in the final at the 2024 Olympics and maybe even have an outside shot to take a medal. That is how much I believe in his talent.
This was not necessarily an easy decision for Sven Martin, as he has a full life at home in Oslo. He is married with a child on the way, and is extremely smart and well-educated. He could put away the discus right now, and have a great future without sports. But he told me that he was ready to commit fully to reaching his potential, and so we will proceed.
Because of his low ranking, it will be important for Sven Martin to throw the qualifying mark for the European Championships (65.20m) and hopefully also for the World Championships (66.00m) as early as possible this season. That would be his first PB in seven years, but with a few months of concentrated training, especially now that he is healthy, he can do it.
Our plan is for Sven Martin to attend our training camp in Chula Vista this spring. There, he will be able to compete in good conditions against good people, and with a little luck he will be able to get some far throws and start making a name for himself so he can get invited to some Diamond League meetings. If he does, he can earn big points for finishing in the top six at those meetings.
By improving his ranking and hopefully throwing the World Championships and European Championships standards, Sven Martin can get back in the game and get a chance to compete regularly against the best in his event--an important step if he hopes to make a noise at the 2024 Olympics.
In the next post, I will give an update on Daniel, Fanny, and Simon.