Behind the discus throw

BY MATT CABEL | MAY 01, 2013 5:00 AM

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Gabe Hull stepped into the ring, just a man with a small silver saucer gripped tightly in his hand. The sophomore took a deep breath as he swung his arm over his chest and back, quickly beginning to spin. When he reached the top of the circle, he let the discus go, sending it flying through the air. “Go, go,” Hull yelled at the top of his lungs to the quickly spinning disk, which looked to be curving out of the white lines painted in the grass.

“Sometimes I talk to it,” Hull said after he placed second at the Drake Relays with a distance of 190-5. “I don’t know.” It worked: The disk curved to the left and landed inside the boundaries.

“If you’re at this level of competition, you know almost immediately after it leaves your hand whether it will be a good or bad throw,” Hull said. The concept of discus, one of the oldest field events, is simple: See who can throw the small, 4.4-pound disc with a metal rim the farthest in three tries during the preliminary round. Hull said the top nine distances are usually taken into the final round. There are two sector lines in between which the discus must land in order to be counted as fair.

Hull said concentration in between the reps is crucial to success. Majesty Tutson, the women’s discus champion at the 2013 Drake Relays with a distance of 181-01, said she does imitations of her motion and thinks about her technique before her turn arrives. “I try not to focus on other competitors,” Hull said. “I try to stay in my own head, to make sure that my technique is what I want it to be, having the mentality of getting out there and throwing it far.”

Hull calls the process of throwing the discus simply “the spin.” Iowa Director of Field Events Scott Cappos described it as a rotational technique. The throwers face away from the throw, step with their right foot to the middle of the circle, plant their left foot before they “let it go.” “You wind up at the back,” Hull said. “I try to be the most relaxed at that point. If I think about anything, it screws my whole technique up. I just go through what I’ve been taught.”

Cappos described the typical thrower as “strong and fast.” “Physiologically, throwers are the most explosive people,” he said. “They have the highest fast twitch muscle fibers, along with Olympic weight lifters. You have to be very fast, very strong. Most throwers can probably beat sprinters for five to 10 meters, because they’re so explosive and fast — they just don’t have the endurance.”

Discus, like many field events, is more of an individual competition, which Cappos said requires a strong mentality when the thrower steps into the ring alone. “It’s just you and the discus,” he said. “It’s a team sport, but it’s also very individual. With a lot of field events, all eyes are on you when you step into the circle. It’s your time to perform, to step up.”

Tutson agreed, comparing discus to a race. “With races, there’s always eight lanes, relays with four people — it’s not about just you,” she said. “When you’re in the ring, it’s just you and what you’ve been working on.

“It makes me nervous sometimes, but once you get used to it, it’s just between me and the ring.”

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