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 this piece, Vésteinn details the final training sessions of Daniel Ståhl, Fanny Roos, and Simon Pettersson before their qualification rounds in Tokyo.
How Hard Can It Be?
During the qualification round at the Olympics later this week, each athlete will likely be given two warm up throws. They will then take either one, two, or three throws in the competition, depending on whether or not they achieve the automatic qualifying mark. If each throw requires the athlete to focus for one minute, then the qualification round will demand a maximum of five minutes of concentrated work. I try to give my athletes one thing to think about when they compete, one simple technical point. All they need to do is focus on that point five times for one minute at a time.
How hard can that be?
What makes it hard is when you start thinking about how you had a lousy breakfast, or the weather is bad or you forgot your water bottle. Or, if you let yourself make the Olympic Games bigger than other competitions and decide that you have to press down hard on the gas pedal to get a big throw.
Our final meet before traveling to Japan took place in Bottnaryd, Sweden, in front of maybe three hundred spectators. When we compete in Tokyo, millions of people might be watching on television. But, we are doing the exact same thing in both instances. We are throwing the shot put and the discus. We are focusing on a single technical point one minute at a time.
How hard can that be?
Our Final Training Sessions
On Monday the 26th and Tuesday the 27th, we held our final training sessions before the qualification round.
Each of them worked on the “one thing” they are meant to focus on this week.
With Daniel, we are emphasizing his posture and separation as he moves out of the back into the middle of the circle. Essentially, we want to see the position he establishes in his swing--that really good separation--as he runs the ring. It is a position similar to the second step in the javelin approach.
When Ryan Crouser was asked to explain his world record throw last month, he spoke about the feeling of having his chest up and facing the direction of the throw for a long time as he began his sprint. That is another way to describe what Daniel is trying to do.
In his throwing sessions on Monday and Tuesday, Daniel began with five full throws at submaximal effort from a static start with no reverse. When we say “static start” we are talking about a throw done without the full windup at the back. If you can picture the way Gerd Kanter set up for his throws, that is a static start. It turned out that Gerd threw his best using a static start, so that became his “normal start,” but in Daniel’s normal start, he uses a long windup.
Those throws were followed by five non-reverse throws using his full windup, then ten full throws with a reverse. None of these throws was taken at maximal effort. We emphasized maintaining control--no fouls--and just rehearsing that one technical point of keeping his chest to the front as long as possible as he sprinted to the middle of the ring.
Daniel typically has great focus in the days before a major competition, and this week was no exception. Over the two days his technique was solid on one hundred percent of his throws.
In the weight room, we lightened the load by five-to-ten percent over what he had been using the past few sessions. When we arrived in Fukuoka, we used lighter loads while adapting to the time change, then we went a bit heavier last week, somewhere in the 70 to 87.5 percent range, but now we are back to using the lighter loads.
On Monday, Daniel did 3x3 on back squats and bench press. On Tuesday, he did push press and sumo deadlift with the same sets and reps.
On back squats he used 65 to 75 percent, 210k, 225k and 240k. On bench press he used 75 to 82.5 percent, 162.5k, 170k, and 177.5k.
On push press he did 72.5 to 80 percent, 150k, 157.5k, and 165k. For sumo deadlift he used 62.5 to 70 percent, 250k, 265k, and 280k.
During our time in Fukuoka, I was in daily contact with our physio and was always prepared to modify the loads I had planned to use in the weight room if it seemed like Daniel was getting worn down, but he has felt great the whole time, and I only had to make one modification--I lowered the weight we used on one session of push press.
With Simon, I had to make several modifications. Originally, he was supposed to do snatch and bench on day one and jerk and back squats on day two, but he was experiencing a little tightness in his thighs when we arrived here, and throughout the season he has dealt with a little soreness in the groin and sometimes one knee, so I have changed his program as needed.
With snatch, he was supposed to do 4x2 with 72.5 to 82.5 percent at the beginning then go up and do 3-2-1-3 at 75 to 90 percent, but we did not end up doing that. I took snatch out of his workout and replaced it with snatch pulls from boxes. At first we did 5x5, then we switched to 5-4-3-3-3 at a weight that I would call “medium heavy.”
Simon also did push press, light sets of 5x3 with 100-120k, very fast and explosive.
Instead of deep squats, he did box squats, 5x5 for the first two rounds here, then 5-4-3-3-3 with 240-300k.
Bench press was the only exercise that we did not have to modify. During our first two rounds of training here, he did 5x5 at 75 to 80 percent, then for two rounds moved up to 5-4-3-3-3 at 75 to 90 percent before switching this week to 5x5, also at 75 to 80 percent.
None of the modifications we made to Simon’s program were a big deal. It is normal for an athlete to have minor injuries, knee soreness or something, and you find the best way to manage those situations and keep moving forward.
One funny thing that came up in Fukuoka was that Simon developed a feeling like a muscle cramp in his upper back on the right side. At first, we could not figure out the cause of this, but then we realized it was from pulling the trolley (basically a child's wagon) we use to collect the discs during training. On one of the throwing fields you have to pull the trolley up a small hill to get back to the ring, and this gave him an ache in his upper back.
Simon’s throwing sessions were similar to Daniel’s, except that he can usually do about ten more throws because of his higher work capacity. He has been throwing well on his non-reverse throws, so the last two days we alternated one non-reverse throw with one reverse throw to try to carry over the good things he does non-reverse to his full throws.
The “one thing” that Simon has been working on is going out and around a bit more with his right side as he begins the throw rather than cutting the corner. He has been doing well with this, and has had many comfortable throws in the sixty-five to sixty-six meter range.
Fanny’s lifting program on day one for each of the first two rounds after our arrival was light cleans 3x3 at 70 to 80 percent (85-95k), 5x5 back squats 75 to 85 percent (140-160k), and bench press 5-4-3-3-3 with 82.5 to 92.5 percent (95-105k).
On day two she did jerk behind the neck 3x3 at 77.5 to 87.5 percent (100-115k), and deadlift 5-4-3-3-3 at 70 to 80 percent (155-175k), along with military press 3x5 at 75 to 85 percent (55-60k).
That was the first two rounds to get through jet lag. We went heavier during the next two rounds. She did 3x2 at 75 to 85 percent (90-100k) in cleans, 5-4-3 in back squats at 80 to 90 percent (150k, 160k,170k), 5-4-3 in bench at 82 to 92.5 percent (95-105k). On the second day of each round, she did jerks 3x2 at 80 to 90 percent (105-120k), deadlift 5-4-3 at 75 to 90 percent (165-195k), and military press 3x5 at the same weight as the earlier sessions.
We did two rounds of these heavier sessions, and on the second round, which we did on the 23rd and 24th of July, I put a little plus mark on some of her lifts, which meant that she could go a bit heavier if she felt like it. She ended up doing 170k for a set of 3 in squats, 112k for 3 in bench--which was a PB--and 3x2 at 125k in jerks. I knew she wanted to do 200k for her set of 3 in deadlifts, so I let her and she made it easily.
For her final two lifting sessions before competing this weekend, we did 3x2 in cleans, 3x2 for jerks, 5-4-3 for back squats, deadlifts and bench, and stayed with 3x5 for military press--but, she went 5 to 10k lighter on each lift.
Fanny has thrown very well during our camp in Fukuoka. She hit 19.11m during a slam session on the 20th, and then on the 26th had one of her best practices ever with throws of 19.45m, 19.43m, 19.37m, 19.32m, 19.28m, 19.13m, and 19.05m. She has thrown further than this only twice in her life, this May when she threw 19.67m during warm ups for a meet in Växjö, and another time when she hit 19.61m a practice.
All in all, I am happy with our preparation for the Games. Now, we will see how it turns out!