Throwing superstars turn up the heat at Landy Field

A warm Geelong afternoon greeted competitors at the 4th AV Throws Challenge of the season. With four notable throwing guests drawing a crowd throughout the day. Paralympic F20 Gold medallist Todd Hodgetts OAM, Rio Olympians Damien Birkinhead (Corio), Dani Stevens (NSW) and Matthew Denny (QLD) all took part in their favoured throwing events. The atmosphere was an entertaining, yet insightful one, as Western Australian thrower, budding comedian and commentator Matthew Cowie manned the turntables to provide commentary and music throughout the afternoon.

Birkinhead dominated the Shot Put competition, winning with a distance of 20.27m, emphasising a level of consistency that has been evident throughout 2017 and is likely to catapult the Olympic finalist to greater distances during the international season.

Stevens showcased the level of consistency which has previously won her Gold at events such as the World Championships, Commonwealth Games and World Universiade, with a series of 61.56m, X, 65.11m, X, 66.78m, 66.50m – comfortably eclipsing the World Championships qualifying standard of 61.20m.

Denny struggled to find his rhythm, but demonstrated impressive glimpses of the form that helped him qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, putting together a series of X, X, 49.99m, 60.65m, X, 63.15m. Denny finished the competition slightly frustrated, but excited by his ability to work through issues early in the competition to find distance as the series progressed. The upcoming National Championships will provide another opportunity for Denny to chase the World Championship qualifying mark of 65.00m.

Athletics Victoria were fortunate enough to speak with Stevens and Denny following the conclusion of the discus competition, alongside event co-organiser, Kim Mulhall (Sandringham).

How did Kim and Jack (Dalton) manage to get you guys to visit Geelong?

Matthew: I first noticed the event through some of the throwing group Facebook pages, I knew Geelong was a great place with good throwing conditions, because of Julian Wruck throwing his qualifier here back in 2012. I wanted to come down and help put on a good meet and throw well. Dani sent me a message asking if I was going to come down, and once she said she was coming too I knew I’d compete, as there aren’t that many other people to throw against in Australia in such good conditions.

Brilliant. You were back in the 63-metre department today, are you happy with how that level of throwing is coming along?

Matthew: I’m happy that I’ve finally got a season’s best, because the last two weeks have been quite useless, and Canberra was even worse. So, it’s really good to be able to back up well and throw 5 metres further, whilst still feeling like I had a lot more throwing left in the tank.

Awesome news. Dani, an equal season’s best today?

Matthew: Really, to the centimetre? *laughs*

Dani: Yes, 66.78m, that’s exactly what I threw at the NSW State Championships. It’s funny though, conditions were very different, I was hoping for a little bit more today, but I’m rapt to get another throw in the high 66’s, I’ve really been trying to get more consistent at a higher level. Every time I go out (in the circle), I need a high 66m or 67m throw to be in the mix with the top girls in the world, and to get my confidence up. I’m happy with that, and it was such a fun competition. Matt and I had been looking forward to it for quite some time, even in Canberra we kept talking about how much fun this weekend was going to be. It’s great, I love throwing meets, they’re a really exciting style of competition, you’ve got a crowd, music pumping, everyone here knows about throwing and wants to see everyone throw, which makes for a great atmosphere.

Dani you mentioned earlier, as you head toward another major championship, you’ve been happy with your ability to replicate throwing distances in different conditions, that must give you a sizeable confidence boost?

Dani: Definitely. When you arrive at a World Championships or an Olympic Games, often they’re held in a stadium, so I need to be able to throw those sorts of distances without assistance from the wind, but you also need to be able to handle those conditions if it does rain, or there is a strong wind or anything of that sort if you have a more open competition stadium. So being able to adapt to several different conditions is a big part of my mental preparation, so I don’t shy away from wind, rain, extreme heat or any environmental variables, which helps me in being a better all-rounder of an athlete.

Will this be the last competitive outing for everyone prior to the National Championships in Sydney?

Matthew/Kim: Yes.

Dani: Yes, it’s my last competition before Nationals, but I’m happy to have competed here in one of the most exciting meets of my season.

Kim, you must be happy with how everything came together organisationally today?

Kim: Jack approached me with this idea in October of last year (2016), and at first, I wasn’t entirely sure how to get the process going, but Jack’s got some great ideas, which I tried to work into this meet. We’ve had a few throws meets prior which hadn’t been quite as successful, but they all built towards the big meet here today, so I’m thrilled that it’s all worked out.

Fantastic. So, you’ll look to build on that momentum and attempt to create the same style of meet next season?

Kim: Certainly. The competitive element of today was successful, and there’s a huge group of younger kids waiting to take part in the throwing clinic now. Overall, it’s been so cool to see people excited about throwing again, and I think we’ll really look to expand upon that next year.

Dani: I’d be keen to be involved and come back down again!

Matt: Guaranteed, this is the best place to throw in Australia.

For full results, check here:

Image courtesy of Gus Puopolo