Hammer throwers – an endangered species?
The Weltklasse-Meeting in Zürich is a fantastic event. When I was a young lad Christmas was a far distant second favourite to my yearly trip to Zürich to watch the best athletes in the world. In fact, this meet is what got me hooked on athletics in the first place. The meet has always been a spectacular show. When I attended in 2009 I saw only one real difference, apart from a new stadium, and that was the extra-curricular show elements that make the meet even more of a spectacle now, without in the least detracting from the sport. The star athletes are presented to the crowd in the most extravagant ways, and the night ends with fireworks.
When I reflect back I notice that I never saw the hammer throw in the Letzigrund stadium, but when I recently read an article in the Swiss paper Basler Zeitung (BaZ, 6 July 2012) featuring the meet director, Patrick Magayar, I realised just what a neglected event the hammer throw has become, and why some of the more prominent throwers have to fight so hard for acceptance.
Below a few translated* extracts from this interview, which would have to be of concern to hammer throwers:
BaZ: Sports continue to develop. How about new events for athletics?
Magayar: I would say if anything we have too many events and would have to cut away old ones. Not invent new ones.
BaZ: Which ones would you leave out?
Magayar: We have to distinguish between what we want to maintain as core events within athletics, and what can be accommodated for in one-day meets.. Events such as our meet are primarily for the entertainment of spectators. And in a large stadium the heavy throws – shot, discus, hammer – are not really suitable. But here too the entertainment value depends on who is competing. If Gregory Ott puts 21 metres in three years, then we will once again be a united nation of shot putters.**
BaZ: So much for which events are suitable for one day events. But if there are too many events – which ones would you get rid of?
Magayar: I would really think hard about where I still have how many registered hammer throwers. In the hammer throw we are approaching a category [of sport] like the bobsled. These are sensational athletes, but that’s not the point. A long time ago I tried for fun to beat Sergei Litwinow in a 30 metre sprint. I didn’t even see him, that’s how fast he reached the finish line. But there are fewer and fewer of them, so one has to ask whether it makes sense that stadia are equipped for such an event.
No further comment required.
* My own translation.
**Gregory Ott is a budding young Swiss shot putter, who is tipped to follow in the footsteps of the great Werner Günthör.