Hammer time: old and young get spinning with Yate Athletics Club

December 19 2017

Hammer throwers are different from other athletes.

Hammer throwers are different from other athletes. Often bigger than their teammates, they are often found in the scrum at rugby when not actually throwing hammers. Their conversation is all about distances thrown, the number of turns before releasing the hammer, the various weights they have to throw, angles of swing. They tend to go around in groups, convinced that no one else can understand the fascination of their chosen event.

It would be easy to assume that bulk is the main requisite for hammer throwers, but in fact speed is much more important. Watching top throwers perform can be mesmerising, as their circling feet become a blur. Watch Sophie Hitchon throwing and it’s not hard to believe that she used to be a dancer.

Yate & District AC is blessed with a fine group of hammer enthusiasts. They hang around the throwing circle eying each other’s efforts critically. Or they compete at tipping tractor tyres over and over, or hurling medicine balls at each other. 

Outstanding this summer has been the achievements of Karen Jones, who competes in the V50 category: that is for ladies aged fifty to fifty-five. On one day in June she became British champion with the three-kilogram hammer and also with the 7.25 weight, which is like a hammer but heavier and with a shorter chain. She is ranked number one in the country at both events and recently has been ranked number fourteen in the world.

On a technical note, Karen still only throws with two circles of the hammer, when top throwers usually turn three times, if not four.

Eugene Lawlor, who competes as a V55, is also a two times British Champion. His personal best throw with the five-kilo hammer is an impressive 50.27m, enough to rank him number eight in the world.

Not yet world ranked but with an English Schools silver medal to his name is under 17 athlete Toby Conibear. His personal best of 52.05m is enough to rank him number four in Britain. He is improving all the time and has clearly caught the hammer bug and rarely misses a training session. However, his best achievement of the summer almost didn’t happen. 

Hammer throwing is a very technical event. Swinging a heavy steel ball round your head, then spinning round as many times as you can control before hurling it out of the cage in what you hope is the right direction, takes a massive amount of practice and there is a multitude of things that can go wrong.

For Toby, competing at English Schools, they did. Twice he no-threw, meaning that he had just one more chance to register a throw and stay in the competition. It was no help at all that his main rival had already thrown farther than Toby’s personal best. Concentration and preparation were called for, and Toby proved to be up to the challenge His third throw was enough to win the silver medal. The winner went on to no-throw a further five times!

The Yate group is completed with Owen Merrett, Tyler Molton, James Viner and Leah Hale, all of whom are ranked in the top British hundred. Holding them together is coach Matt Spicer, whose personal best with the 7.26k hammer ranks him eighth in the country. Matt is assisted by Paul Thorn.