The text below is a post written by Kathrin Klaas and signed by many major hammer throwers.
…but still not part of the Diamond League. Since the exclusion of the hammer throw from the world’s most important competition series our discipline has become ostracised to the point of complete exclusion.
A replacement series for the hammer throw was created and in its second year became a farce with the International Association of Athletics Federation giving it the title of Hammer Challenge. The challenge meetings have definitely not progressed in any manner. The quality of the meetings compared to the quality of the athletes competing in the meetings are nothing more than unsatisfactory and there is little to no consideration taken into the planning of the meets whatsoever.
The athletes of the hammer challenge are not only disadvantaged by the lack of organisation however, the opportunity to have access to equal prize money to that of the diamond league is also an impediment.
After the announcement of the hosts of the Hammer Challenge for women in 2011, it was apparent that four out of seven challenge meetings clustered between mid to late May. Two other meetings were to be held a month later in July, and a final meet to decide the placing of the Hammer Challenge to be held in Rieti in mid September.
The Diamond League meetings however are precisely planned and managed. Understandably, not every meet can host all disciplines yet the competition schedule is put together in a way that allows the athlete to plan his or her personal competition schedule.
Unfortunately, all athletes do not enjoy the same royalties.
An example of this was evident when the organisers of the Rio De Janeiro Hammer Challenge in 2011 decided just shortly before the proposed date of commencement to postpone the meeting to a week later, and the Hammer Challenge Meeting that was supposed to be held in Madrid was cancelled.
The Female Hammer Challenge in Rio was to be rescheduled to the 26th of May, with another Challenge meeting to be held 2 days later in Dakar on the 28th of May. There could be no chance whatsoever for athletes to be available for both meetings and therefore leaving the athletes at a disadvantage in the race for points in the Hammer Challenge.
The Rules of the IAAF Hammer Challenge stipulated on the 29th of April 2011, that there were to be seven (7) mens challenge meetings, and six (6) womens challenge meetings. (Note to be made that in 2010, there were both seven meets for men and women)
After the cancellation of the women´s hammer challenge meeting in Madrid and the complication with Rio and Dakar, there were five women´s competitions from a previously guaranteed six.
The mission statement
The mission statement of the IAAF includes “promoting global development of athletics by creating a friendly and loyal cooperation among all members for the benefit of athletics, peace and understanding among nations.”
This vision includes the promotion of the entire sport of athletics. Both track and field disciplines co-exist to form a unique diversity that characterises athletics as a sport.
Currently, without knowledge of the existing Hammer League it could be assumed that the Hammer Throw fails to be included as a discipline of athletics.
It goes without saying that due to the spectator friendly schedule arranged by the media and the financial framework, that all disciplines cannot be competing at one time both from a Diamond League and Area Permit Meet perspective.
It is obvious that the hammer throw is the only throwing discipline of athletics that has never existed in the previous Golden League and has also, until this date, never been given the opportunity to start in a Diamond League competition.
In the second highest category of competition held by the IAAF, the hammer throw is represented in nine of the fourteen meetings of the World Challenge framework. The men have seven opportunities to start, and the women have six opportunities. For the women´s hammer this equates to less than fifty per cent of the world challenge meets.
In addition, some of these competitions have special conditions which have been created solely for the hammer thrower, and leads to the further exclusion of the hammer throw.
The hammer throw competition in Ostrava is held one day before the main competition on a warm up field every year. In Rio, the competition was conducted in an adjacent facility near the Olympic Stadium free of audience and media.
In Zhukovsky, Russia and Rieti, Italy, the meetings created their own competition format. The hammer throw is contested the day before the meeting in a knock out style of competition, where the top four throwers qualify themselves after three attempts to have the privilege of throwing in the main competition the following day. These throwers will then receive three more attempts to decide a winner.
This mode requires that the best hammer throwers in the world prove their worth in order to qualify for a start in the actual meeting hidden under the guise of two opportunities to reach a good mark. It is rare to find what would often be the top 8 to 10 athletes in the world having to first guarantee a good performance before being permitted perform before an audience.
Although Zhuhovsky and Rieti have their own special conditions they are still required to follow the Hammer Challenge rules. Which are: the best three (3) results accumulated to give an overall ranking, and this ranking decides how the prize money is distributed at the end of the season.
A major issue with the special conditions mode arises when a thrower who returns a longer mark in the qualifying competition proceeds to the final the following day and throws a shorter distance. The shorter distance is the performance that counts towards the hammer league ranking.
As only the top 4 athletes proceed to the final competition, it can happen that an athlete who finishes lower in the qualifying competition can have a higher ranking at the end of the season than the athlete who advanced to the final and threw less than in the qualifying competition.
This mode is complicated and most definitely not athlete friendly. Having only four finalists with three throws each competing in the main competition suggest that the goal is to have the competition over as soon as possible. The question is, however, if it would come up to limit a far more time consuming event such as the pole vault to one attempt per height due to time restraints. Furthermore the hammer challenge format in Zhukovsky and Rieti is difficult for the spectators to follow. The hammer is continually reinforced to the spectator as being a kind of demonstration competition as opposed to following the format the most people see at any major championship meeting.
It would be unlikely that these conditions be seen in any other discipline of track and field.
I draw attention to an incident that occurred this year, 2011, to athletes from Cuba, the United States of America and Egypt when they competed in the World Challenge Meeting in Zhukovsky. The afore mentioned athletes did not enjoy the same royalties as other athletes staying in the meeting hotel however, they were accommodated under the stadium stands. They were then served beetroot salad, beetroot soup accompanied by a glass of water and a glass of juice only. The following two days the athletes were given even less food and beverages and then asked to compete at the best of their abilities.
The IAAF World Challenge quality standards have surely not been satisfied in this case.
This level of inadequacy is simply disgraceful to athletes of any level, let alone the top athletes in the world. For the IAAF to even condone such standards is a complete abomination. It is questionable whether these things would happen in a Diamond League meeting not to mention the fact that if it did, the Diamond League would be spending a great deal of time distinguishing media inquests after hundred of complaints were made. Furthermore would an incident like this ever occur to a sprinter??
The majority of meetings will host the hammer throw discipline before the actual opening of the official meeting. There are little to no spectators and most of the time the event is over before the main program has even begun.
At this years SPAR European Team Championships the hammer throw competitions were held before the official opening and were completed before the start of the main program on consecutive days.
The fact that the hammer throw competition is often not integrated into the competition program is a clear deviation of the IAAF model. The IAAF supports the development of track AND FIELD events. Ensuring that there is equality for all disciplines however, the truth is evident in the fact that the hammer throw event is seldom given the chance to present themselves in front of spectators and also the media.
The question “Why?”
The European Team Championships are just one example of many competitions that the hammer throw is consistently excluded from. The question of WHY the hammer throw is consistently the ONLY throwing discipline excluded from meetings raises a great deal of concern. What exactly are the true arguments for this reoccurrence for the majority of the past and present meetings?
Why is it exactly that the Hammer Throw is the ONLY throws discipline removed from the Diamond League?
It is often stressed that there is a concern that the hammer throw is a discipline that endangers both spectators and other athletes in the arena yet the last major accident by a throwing implement was in Rome in 2007 when a long jumper was unfortunately hit by a javelin.
The throwing cage is by IAAF regulated dimensions, at its lowest point four meters high and the width of the opening at six meters wide. At the opening point, the cage is 12 meters high. Athletes who compete in the Diamond League do so with IAAF certified implements as well as years of experience and would therefore have a great deal of expertise when they train everyday to release their implements into a sector.
Wires can break just the same as poles can snap and athletes can injure themselves or make technical errors hence the reason why nets are used to contain any unforeseeable incidences.
In a statement made by the IAAF justifying the exclusion of the hammer throw from the Diamond League implied that the event required a special cage in which almost none of the hosting cities of the Diamond League had available.
Meaning Doha, Eugene, New York and Paris, who have previously hosted major hammer throwing competitions, lack the necessarily facilities?? Additionally one must ask why cities like Rome, Oslo, Stockholm, London and Brussels lack the collateral to provide the adequate cages?
The javelin and discus throw are also considered long throw disciplines and it could be argued that these disciplines are equally as dangerous. So then what would occur should an athlete or a spectator be struck by either of these implements?
It is therefore clear that the hammer throw is in no way more dangerous than any of the other throws events.
Another justification made by the IAAF as to why the hammer throw is continually excluded states that the throwing cages prevent the television cameras and spectators from having a view of all events.
The World Championships in Berlin has proven that this simply is an untenable argument. Black mesh netting cannot be seen by the human eye at a certain distance.
At every major event flying cameras are used, which are steel cables held and controlled, and thus cover the entire field and the track from above.
The Benz Company, supplier of the 2009 world championships in Berlin and the German Athletics Championships, has developed an IAAF-certified cage, which can be constructed in any arena because it does not require to be anchored to the ground. The cage can be adjusted in seconds for left handed or right handed throwers and is equipped with a reinforced, black net, which after a few meters away is no longer recognisable by the human eye. It can also be deconstructed in a matter of minutes post usage.
The cage made by Benz with its unique opening structure can host both discus and hammer competitions as both disciplines have a sector opening of six meters. There are therefore no delays in competitions time and for a meeting with six attempts for 8-10 throwers, would take no longer than one hour.
Had this not been the proof that you could if you wanted to?
Damage to the football field is another argument that is being constantly used to prevent the inclusion of Hammer into major meetings. With modern technology and the availability of turf, a Green Keeper after a rain game can repair damaged parts of the turf by replacing it with new turf. Considering the larger of the hammers is 121cm in diameter, there should be no problems when replacing a hole of this size when they do the same for large sections of game day damage.
It has also been argued that too many disciplines in a meeting program take too long to be interesting for both spectators and television media. There are however fourteen stations of the Diamond League who are sharing the load of sixteen events. Hammer throw would be the seventeenth discipline and could hardly have the ability to extend the meeting for hours given the proficiency of the majority of Diamond League meeting promoters and operators.
Of course the subject of cost also arises. The Diamond League meetings must include discus throw and javelin throw as a long throws discipline. Another long throw (or simply another event added) equates to additional costs and the need for an appropriate time frame in an already tight schedule. How could it not be foreseeable to share the long throws equally amongst the already fourteen Diamond League Meetings? Furthermore the Hammer Challenge is conducive to its own costs, so there would be little to no challenges from a financial point of view.
Why should the fact of additional costs argue against the event of hammer throw of all things?
There are a total of nine track events and seven field events in the Diamond League. The throws are represented by three events however; the track is represented by a total of nine. When the question of marketability of a discipline arises and the answer is consistently that track events are easier to promote, one must question the integrity of the marketers themselves.
The public are enthusiastic about skills that are foreign to them, or that they cannot themselves execute hence the attraction of an exciting competition and the hunt for records.
In terms of distances, the men´s and woman´s hammer throw records the longest marks after the men´s Javelin. Hammer throw is the only event, where even the women throw consistently over 70m.
A well prepared sector with appropriate distance markings promises for a spectacular competition both for experienced and inexperienced viewers. When an athlete has an attempt that lands farther than the markers on the field, which happens more often than not, the viewer can observe and become actively involved in lifting the athletes to better performances as well as witnessing how athletes battle and drive themselves for longer throws and higher placing.
The financial difference
Since the change in status of the IAAF in 1982, athletes are provided remuneration for expenses incurred when competition in the Track and Field circuit. Premiums are also set for the Diamond League and for the IAAF Hammer Challenge. In the Diamond League the winner of the competition series is awarded $40,000 USD, and the winner of the Hammer Challenge is awarded $30,000 USD. Furthermore the bonus awards allocated for placing in the Diamond League are characterised in a scale of $10,000 USD for first, $6,000 USD for second and $4,000 USD for third place. In the Hammer League however, the winner of the meeting is awarded $2,000 USD equal to amount earned by a sixth placed finisher in any Diamond League meeting.
The IAAF was to provide hammer throwers equal high quality competitions as a replacement for the non inclusion in the Diamond League however, the reality is, as read above, that from a financial perspective there are significant differences between the meetings accentuating yet another point that the IAAF Hammer League does not enjoy equal opportunity compared to their counterparts.
How can we justify this difference?
The consistent exclusion of hammer throw incurs a number of consequences for hammer throwers. The lack of media coverage and promotion makes it difficult for athletes to justify or acquire personal sponsorship. Lack of television coverage, few competitions before an audience or in a stadium constitute common reasons as to why hammer throwers are not sponsorable, not to mention the consistent banishment from main competition sites or competitions being held in preliminary programs. Hence it can be seen that one exclusion escalates the other, providing inequality when compared to athletes of other disciplines.
In order to keep up with the ever-growing participation in contemporary sport, track and field must be promoted strongly across all disciplines. Failure to do so leads to a decline in the number of athletes entering into or participating in athletics. It is increasingly difficult to keep the athletes of tomorrow in athletics when they are not able to watch their chosen event. These children and young athletes need role models to emulate and to motivate them to new challenges.
On television primarily, the competitions of the Diamond League are presented consistently. Young athletes can track the stars of the individual disciplines, aspire to improving performances and develop technical models.
Hammer throwers are seldom ever seen on television. When considering the example of the world championships in soccer or handball, young boys and girls and people of all ages watch with keen interest and want to emulate their heroes. In the sport of athletics however, there is no discipline with as little developing interest as the hammer throw.
What hope and direction can be offered to young athletes in the hammer throw?
Without the opportunity in the world famous, supreme racing series of athletics, lower premium payments when compared to almost all other disciplines, competitions without an audience before the opening of most meetings or in an alternate location, there can be no arguments to keep the passion to continue to throw hammer.
In conclusion, since 1998, the year of the first award ceremony of Athlete of the Year an athlete from the throws discipline has been awarded the prestige of Athlete of the Year on only two occasions.
Never was a female thrower athlete of the year.
Were there no outstanding performances such as world records or European records in the throws events?
It is continually emphasised and stated that the IAAF has only 25% share of the Diamond League. However, the IAAF created the Diamond League as the successor to the previous Golden League. The exclusion on the hammer throw was decided in advance.
The aim of the Diamond League is to raise the profile of athletics through increased television presence and continue to expand as mutually agreed by the IAAF and the various meeting directors that make up the council of the Diamond League. The exclusion of the Hammer Throw to a preliminary competition therefore provides admission that this discipline will be denied the opportunity to be a part of this aim supported by the IAAF and Diamond League organisers. The opportunity for Hammer Throwers to present themselves before an audience in a stadium and on television in the most importantly promoted athletics competitions series is non existant.
The IAAF Hammer Challenge offers an alternative that is in no way comparable to the conditions of the Diamond League: Events on ancillary facilities with little to no audience (Rio de Janeiro, Ostrava) or the day before the actual meeting (Ostrava). Competitions in Rieti and Zhukovsky have a specialised competition mode devised especially for hammer throwers where athletes must provide a qualification standard for the main competition that is then held with only four throwers who execute only three throws from the usual six the following day before an audience.
These conditions should definitely not be compared with the Diamond League.
Translated to English by Benn Harradine, AUS
1.Kathrin Klaas, GER
2.Betty Heidler, GER
3.Markus Esser, GER
4.Michael Deyhle, GER
5.Sergej Litvinov, RUS
6. Symon Ziolkowskiy, POL
7. Primoz Kozmus, SLO
8. Libor Charfreitag, SVK
9. Ivan Tikhon, BLR
10. Yuriy Sedykh, UKR
11. Tatiana Lysenko, RUS
12. Dilshod Nazarov, TJK
13. Marina Margieva, MDA
14. Zalina Margiev, MDA
15. Nicolas Figére, FRA
16. Sergej Litvinov (sen.), RUS
17. Igors Sokolovs, LAT