Consistency is a prominent word in Dylan Armstrong’s vocabulary to the point where it’s actually become a mantra.
And, when the Canadian shot putter won the 2011 Diamond Race event title of the Samsung Diamond League in the event, captured the IAAF World Championships silver medal and set a stunning world leading mark of 22.21m, it was clear his approach to competition had paid off handsomely. Consistency summarised his year.
Victories from April through October
Armstrong threw over 21 metres in no fewer than 22 meetings. His tenth best throw was 21.50m which is near his pre-2011 best of 21.58m. Most remarkable is that his season stretched from 20 April, when he won the Kansas Relays with 21.52m, until 25 October when he successfully defended his Pan American Games title with 21.30m.
“You know I was very pleased with my consistency this year,” he declares with characteristic humility. “I trained extremely hard through the winter and obviously through the competitive season. I have to give a lot of credit to my coach. I now have a World championship medal under my belt and I feel I am set up very well going into London.”
The coach he speaks of is Dr. Anotoliy Bondarchuk or “Dr. B” as he is affectionately known to the athletes of the Kamloops Track and Field Club, a community located in British Columbia’s interior. Though he works almost anonymously in Kamloops his reputation as the 1972 Olympic Hammer Throw champion and coach to World record holder and two time Olympic champion, Yuriy Sedykh is not lost on others.
The 30-year-old Armstrong saw firsthand the respect ‘Dr B’ has garnered when their meals were constantly interrupted by coaches and athletes in the Daegu athletes’ village cafeteria. Among those seeking photos and autographs was none other than Koji Murofushi, the World and 2004 Olympic hammer throw champion. He has learned, too, that perseverance and commitment are necessary characteristics of a champion. The morning after his medal winning performance in Daegu he was out training with the coach. The mighty, it seems, don’t rest on their laurels.
In addition to his devotion to the sport the 1.93m/140kg Armstrong has a deserved reputation as a Canadian patriot, one who may always to be counted upon to support the national team programme.
A year ago he won the Commonwealth Games gold medal and, more recently, when most Canadian athletes were enjoying time off, he was in Guadalajara wearing the Maple Leaf at the Pan American Games. The Mexican odyssey conflicted with his annual season ending hunting trip with his father. But everything he does these days is with the London Olympics in sight.
“I skipped the (hunting) trip to go to Pan Ams,” he admits. “I didn’t go hunting this year but will probably go next year.
“I am training anyways at that time of year. It’s close to home, it made sense to me and obviously to get a medal for Canada is also an important thing to look at. Being able to make a presence there and help our team is great.”
Prefers training solo
Since the close of the 2011 season Armstrong hasn’t missed a beat. A celebration at home with a few close friends, where he briefly showed off the Diamond Race trophy, was quickly followed by his return to pre-Olympic training. As the weather turned colder he once again re-located to Phoenix, Arizona, where he plans to remain until the end of March. A typical day sees him putting in six hours of hard work – three hours in the morning, three hours in the afternoon. Eating and sleeping is his relaxation, he jokes.
Unlike many of his competitors who enjoy the company of others when they are training – Adam Nelson and Reese Hoffa for instance train together – Armstrong is happy to be on his own.
“I prefer to be alone. I don’t need a training partner to throw far,” he says. “My coach is definitely my motivator. I want to do everything I can to try and get ahead of his reputation. That’s what drives me. It’s fun. We work well together. I am very fortunate to have him coaching me.”
Though he’s a loner when it comes to training he is nevertheless an outgoing individual who socialises with his fellow competitors once the event is done.
“The shot putters are a great group of guys,” he declares. “We definitely have fun together. We celebrate after a competition. That’s the way we are. It definitely makes it fun.”
On the circuit he tends to hang out most with Christian Cantwell, the 2009 World champion. They are both from small towns. Both are keen outdoorsmen who are fond of fishing and hunting. Armstrong, who hunts moose and elk each autumn hopes to find a time to show his colleague British Columbia.
“We are trying to get something together, so hopefully next year,” he says. “We have been talking about it but our schedules definitely are hard. We hunt elk and moose in B.C. I think he would be hunting deer (in Missouri). We have the big boys. Hopefully one day we can get it organised. It would be a lot of fun.”
On 2011 success: ‘I think I am really finally starting to figure this thing out’
Armstrong was fourth in the 2008 Beijing Olympic final with a then Canadian record of 21.04m and was obviously delighted with the performance. That result gave notice of his potential as a shot putter since he had originally been a hammer thrower and only converted to the shot in 2004. But as he collected Diamond League victories in Zurich, Rome, Birmingham and Doha this year he demonstrated that he truly belonged to be ranked with the world’s best. At least he sensed a growing camaraderie.
“I think everyone obviously knows I am in better shape and I am starting to figure things out from previous years,” he explains. “As far as Beijing I was playing catch up with everyone. I hadn’t been training for shot put that long seriously anyway. Now that I have been working with my coach I am hoping for better things. For me it’s just all about getting more years under my belt with my coach. That’s what it is. I think I am really finally starting to figure this thing out.”
With London 2012 the next major objective and, quite possibly his final Olympics, Armstrong is as focused as ever. He will bring Dr B down to Arizona occasionally to keep him on track before the competitive season gets underway. On that score he expects some changes.
“The number of competitions will be different. I haven’t really looked too far ahead. I am just training now, Obviously I can’t compete as much as I did last year so I will be doing different preparations,” he reveals.
“Obviously I have got to go for a gold medal and get on the podium in London. That would be anybody’s goal. But I have just got to keep training right here and just really stay focused and concentrate on the task at hand.”
And remain consistent.
Paul Gains for the IAAF