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"In The Ring with Coach V" by Vésteinn Hafsteinsson with Dan McQuaid. Issue #7: Fanny's Season

Vésteinn Hafsteinsson, one of the most accomplished coaches in the sport and himself a four-time Olympian, has agreed to share regular updates from his throwing group. 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 sums up an historical season for shot putter Fanny Roos.

Fanny Roos SWE, Report & Statistics for the season 2021

Best Performance Shot outdoors: 19.34m

Average of all 18 outdoor meets in shot: 18.81m

Average of top 10 outdoor meets in shot: 19.02m

Best Performance Shot indoors: 19.29m

Average of all 9 indoor meets: 18.60m

Average of top 10 meets indoor and outdoor: 19.08m

Average of all 27 meets indoor and outdoor: 18.74m

PS: 6 meets over 19.00m, 13 over 18.75m, 22 over 18.50m, all 27 meets over 18m

This season for Fanny was historical in many ways.

She won the first international senior championship shot put medal ever for a Swedish woman with the silver at the European Indoor Championships in Torun, Poland. She broke the Swedish indoor record four times during the season with performances of 18.64m, 18.66m, 18.85m, and finally, a huge PB of 19.29m in Torun.

Outdoors, she broke her national record of 19.06m (which she set in 2019) on three different occasions with throws of 19.30m, 19.33m and 19.34m.

She had a great success at the Olympic Games by throwing 18.91m and finishing seventh. This was the first time she qualified for a final in a global championships—Worlds or Olympics.

In the Diamond League final in Zurich, Fanny finished up her season with a throw of 18.75m to take third place.

And she achieved a higher level of consistency than ever before. Her previous best outdoor season, in terms of the average of her top ten best competitions, was 2019 when her top ten average was 18.69m. This year, her top ten average outdoors was 19.02m.

Looking back, we can identify a couple of factors that contributed to Fanny’s outstanding season.

Physically she got a huge breakthrough this year. Because of the way she is built, Fanny will always be light compared to most world class shot putters. She will never have the size of Valarie Adams or Auriol Dongmo. Fanny is a light, dynamic, shot putter similar to Adam Nelson in that she relies on explosiveness to compete against larger athletes. But, she has worked hard to improve her strength.

This year, she back squatted 175 kilograms for a set of four. We do not often do single-rep maxes, but when we did earlier this year, she made 185k. These numbers are fifteen-to-twenty kilos better than in 2019 when she set her previous PB of 19.06m.

Also since 2019, she made a twenty-kilo improvement in the deadlift, doing a best of 200k for a set of three this year.

In behind-the-neck split jerk, she improved ten kilos over 2019, with a single-rep best of 130k, and also 120k for a set of three.

In 2019, I had her doing bench press with a pad and she made 120k for a single rep and 110k for a set of five. In 2021, she achieved those same numbers without the pad, which showed a significant improvement in her upper body strength.

A word about that.

Throwers are sometimes criticized by powerlifters and Olympic lifters for not lifting correctly. Powerlifters say everyone should do strict bench presses, and use heavy knee wraps when squatting. Olympic lifters say to use no wraps but to squat deeply and strive for perfect technique in cleans and snatches.

For my throwers, though, I try to borrow what we need from the worlds of powerlifting, Olympic lifting, and even bodybuilding, and to adapt the exercises we use to fit the needs and preferences of each athlete.

With Fanny, we have used the power lifts to build muscle and overall strength. Since these are her areas of greatest need, she has spent more time doing bench presses, back squats, and deadlifts than she has doing cleans or snatches.

And since we do a lot of bench pressing, it is sometimes useful to bench press in different ways, especially when an athlete hits a plateau. In 2019, I had Fanny do bench presses with a pad and a little bit of a bounce for maybe three months to help her get a PB. It felt good for her to do that, and since then I have taken away the pad and she has slowly gotten to the point where she has achieved those same numbers with no bounce and no pad.

In the future, we may use the pad again. It all depends on how she progresses.

The bottom line is that a throws coach should do those things in the weight room that best serve their athletes whether that means strict bench or bounce bench, deep squats or partial squats, heavy wraps or no wraps.

Along with the strength gains Fanny made has come a five-pound increase in her bodyweight since approximately the fall of 2019. That probably does not sound like a significant gain, but it made a difference for her.

Fanny has also worked hard on the mental aspect of competing. In 2020, because of Covid there were no major championships and, for Fanny, no competitions abroad. As a result, she was focusing only on throwing a PB, and probably fell into a wrong way of thinking, which carried over to the 2021 indoor season. I was a little stupid there, and contributed to this wrong way of thinking by also focusing too much on her setting a PB at every competition. This made us both very frustrated for much of the winter, and the way we eventually worked through this is a big part of the story of her 2021 season. It was a difficult process, which I will describe in the next post.

The silver medal at the European Indoor Championships was a huge breakthrough for Fanny, and the next goal for her was making the final at the Olympic Games, which present the greatest mental challenge for a thrower because of all the hoopla. This year, the challenge was even greater due to the Covid situation.

The key to performing well at the Olympics is to focus on the simple act of throwing the shot put and not let yourself get caught up in thinking that you are at the Olympics.

Fanny did a fantastic job of this. In the qualification round, in spite of having to deal with a knee injury, she opened with a throw of 19.01m to advance to the final. This was exactly one meter farther than she threw in qualification at the 2019 World Championships.

She also made an excellent performance in the final. It is not uncommon for a thrower to screw up and throw badly in their first Olympic final, and for two rounds it looked like that would happen with Fanny. She opened with 17.99m, and followed that with 18.01m on her second attempt. This would not be enough to make the top eight.

But then, with the knife against her neck, so to speak, she managed a throw of 18.91m, which eventually got her seventh place.

When I told her afterwards how happy I was about her performance, she said, “Well, I just did what you told me to do. I just focused on what to do.”

That made me feel very happy.

In 2022, Fanny will have many opportunities to test herself against the best at the World Indoor, World Outdoor, and European Championships. I am confident that she will keep getting stronger, and now the next step is to improve her technique to match her increasing strength levels. When you are used to driving a normal automobile, it takes some practice to be able to handle a Formula One car. As hard as Fanny works, I have no doubt that she will someday have the horsepower to produce twenty-meter throws. The trick will be to develop the technique and timing that will allow her to maximize her potential.

Here are some more numbers from Fanny’s 2021 season:

Won Swedish Indoor Championships in shot 18.51m

Won Swedish Outdoor Championships in shot 18.50m, 3rd in discus 54.10m

Won Karlstad FGP 18.75m, Sollentuna FGP 19.33m, Göteborg FGP 18.56m

Won Finnkampen in shot 18.65m, championship record

Silver medal at the European Indoor Championships in Torun: 19.29m

7th place at the Olympic Games in Tokyo: 18.91m

3rd place at the DL Final in Zurich: 18.75m

(5th Stockholm DL: 18.96m, 5th Gateshead DL: 18.33m, 3rd Bern DL: 18.81, 2nd Budapest DL: 19.01m)

Broke her old PB of 18.61m in shot indoors to: 18,64m, 18.66m, 18.85m and 19.29m

Broke her old PB of 19.06m in shot outdoors to: 19.30m, 19.33m and 19.34m

World List: Indoor 6, Outdoor 10

European List: Indoor 2, Outdoor 3

World Athletics Ranking: 4-5, 1307 points

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