Indian javelin throwers take time to trust a coach’s methods, which are new to them in terms of technique and training regimen, and this is one of his biggest challenges, says coach Uwe Hohn.
The legendary German, the only man to throw the spear over 100 metres, says he is in a constant battle to win over the confidence of the athletes he is coaching. He hopes throwers see the light, sooner rather than later, in an Olympic year where time is of the essence.
What has got his hopes high is a recent chat he had with 24-year-old Shivpal Singh, one of his trainees who qualified for the Tokyo Olympics by throwing 85.47 metres at the ACNW Meeting in Potchefstroom, South Africa.
“After Shivpal met the qualification standard, we spoke and now it looks like both us will work more in the same direction. It takes time to gain the trust of athletes because they are used to a method or a particular way and are not ready to change it because a previous coach told them it was a good method or they are just used to it. Trying to make athletes change their technique or training methods is a challenge. It takes time, but hopefully things will move in a better direction now. When they start to perform after following the method you have told them they will trust and listen faster,” Hohn said.
Shivpal is the second Indian javelin thrower after Neeraj Chopra to qualify for the Tokyo Games and there is growing enthusiasm about the sport in the country. Though Hohn is excited about the prospects of the athletes he trains, the German is a stickler for technique, which unless perfected won’t help throwers reach their full potential, he says.
“The javelin throw is not only about trying to apply the most force. The release speed is also important and every movement of the body has to be perfect. A thrower has to understand the event and trust the process, believe in the coach and work as a team,” Hohn added.
The coach has made observations about specific aspects of the throwing technique that Shivpal has to change.
“I am happy that Shivpal could qualify for the Olympics but overall I am not happy with his technique. His technique is not at the same level as it was last year. At the moment, he does not have a ‘block’ (locking the non-throwing side of the body at the point of delivery) and also his left side opens up too early. He has been throwing without a block, so though he has qualified, his technique needs work. He tried to get into intensive throwing without the block but if he gets his technique right, it will lead to better throwing efficiency, greater distance and fewer injuries. But it will take time because Shivpal needs to realise this,” the coach said.
Shivpal’s decision to participate at the South Asian Games (SAG) in Kathmandu in December was not ideal, according to Hohn, because it robbed him of precious time to fine-tune his technique, The games were held in the first week of December, two months after the World Championships in Doha. Shivpal won a silver at SAG with a throw of 84.43 metres, which was short of the Olympic qualifying standard of 85 metres.
“He was not ready technique-wise after the World Championships. But he wanted to try and qualify for the Olympics fast so he went to the South Asian Games. His technique was not at a good level and he needs to continue to work on it,” Hohn added. Shivpal also picked up an injury during the SAG which was a setback. “Currently he is still not where he should be as he needed uninterrupted preparation time.”
Shivpal has a personal best of 86.23 metres and Chopra’s best is 88.06m and these distances can move into the 90-plus mark if processes are followed and the athletes remain injury-free, the coach believes.
“At the moment with Neeraj, the aim is to slowly move him into the 91, 92- metre mark. It will take time but it is possible. If you ask me about Shivpal’s potential, I believe he can also reach the 90-metre- plus mark. There is a lot of talent so things can move in a positive direction.”
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