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"In The Ring with Coach V" by Vésteinn Hafsteinsson with Dan McQuaid. Issue #3: More Discus Days

Vésteinn Hafsteinsson, one of the most accomplished coaches in the sport and himself a four-time Olympian, has agreed to share regular updates as he prepares his athletes for the Tokyo Olympics. Vésteinn will share insights on training, stories from his long career as a coach and athlete, and observations on the state of the sport.

In his last post, Vésteinn related his impressions of the discus competitions at Oslo and Stockholm. Here, he describes the final comps that his two Olympic discus throwers, Daniel Ståhl and Simon Petterssen, participated in prior to leaving for Japan.

Gyulai István Memorial - Hungarian Athletics Grand Prix (July 6th)

I was very worried about this competition. Six meets in fifteen days is not ideal, and when I originally wrote our training plan, there was only going to be four meets during this period. But with changes due to Covid two were added, so we adjusted, and as I have already described, we threw very well in the competitions leading up to the Gyulai István Memorial.

But it was very hot in Hungary that night, and the guys were tired. I was back in Sweden, watching live on television, and I kept wondering, “Are they going to make it?”

Daniel ended up winning with a throw of 67.71m, and Simon threw 63.03m to finish sixth.

Daniel has won every meet he has been in so far this season except for our May 29th competition in Växjö when Simon beat him. And he has been remarkably consistent. In his best ten meets this year up to that point, Daniel had thrown an average of 68.68m.

Simon was disgusted with himself over his performance in Hungary, but I reminded him that if 63.03m is a “bad meet” he is in a good place. Just a year ago, a “bad meet” would have been fifty-nine meters. Now, it is sixty-three meters, a distance that will get him into the final if he throws it in the Tokyo qualification. He had also averaged a solid 65.53m in his top ten meets at that point in the season.

Simon is in an interesting spot in his career. In the past he was always an underdog, but right now he has the third best throw in the world--69.48m--and he has beaten a lot of the top throwers this season, so his expectations for himself have changed.

He is also stronger than he was a year ago, and that makes it tempting--especially when feeling frustrated--to rely on strength rather than timing to make the discus fly.

It will be a good challenge for him to throw with rhythm in Tokyo.

Bottnaryd (July 10th)

I wrote previously about how important it is to maintain the rhythm of the training schedule, even if that means lifting the same day as a competition. But, you must be flexible in this business and listen to what your eyes tell you.

Watching the meet in Hungary and talking to the guys afterwards, I knew it was time to make a change in our plans so we could arrive for our training camp in Japan ready to do some work.

I spoke with Daniel and Simon after the competition, and both said they were feeling off. Simon felt off with his timing, and neither felt really good in the circle. Daniel said that he was so tight he couldn’t feel his feet or calves. This was not the time to risk an injury, so I made a change to our plan to give them a week of active rest. Our physio was in Hungary with them, so they got treatment right after the competition, the next morning before traveling, and again after their flight landed.

We did not lift weights after the Hungarian Grand Prix meeting as we had planned, and Daniel took two full days off.

The question then became, how best to handle the throwers meet in Bottnaryd, Sweden, our final competition before departing for Japan.

I decided that we would go into the Bottnaryd meet with the same approach we used for the Swedish Cup on June 29th. We would treat it as a training session, and try to produce six controlled throws with submaximal effort.

Bottnaryd is a small town near Gothenburg. The throwing facility there was constructed twenty years ago by a man who has six sons. Two of them wanted to throw, so he made a throwing facility, and now every year the Swedish elite throwing community gathers there with sometimes one or two athletes from other countries--this year, Sven Martin Skagestad from Norway and David Wrobel from Germany in the men’s discus.

Daniel is extremely popular in Bottnaryd, and a few hundred people showed up to watch, so it was a really nice atmosphere for throwing.

He looked extremely powerful in warm ups, very similar to how he was warming up before our May 29th competition in Växjö where he ended up fouling a throw of 73.83m. On this day in Bottnaryd, he threw three into the cage, but two of the three he got out of the cage were over seventy meters: 70.27m and 71.40m.

There is still an improvement that can be done at the end of his throws, but what he was doing in the middle looked okay on film, and even better in reality. He was rhythmical, fast, and smooth.

Simon was still struggling a little bit. He smashed into the cage what would have been his best throw, but he ended up second to Daniel with a throw of 65.91m, which is pretty good after six meets in fifteen days since we competed at Kuortane on June 26th.

Sven Martin threw 61.13m, and what we will take away from this is that he beat David Wrobel who has a PB of 67.30m, and he has beaten some other good throwers this summer, so he has competed well even though he is not at his best--he has a prolapsed disc in his back that he will get repaired in August. He is a phenomenal physical talent and will only be twenty-nine years old in 2024. If he commits himself to the sport, he has a chance to do some special things.

All in all, I was very glad that we made it through this unusual and intense period of competing. On July 12th we began our journey to our training camp in Fukuoka, Japan. I’ll post updates from there soon.

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