Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Vol. 4 No. 44 Joe Kovacs, an Emerging Force in the Shot Put

Joe Kovacs with George Brose.

The Willamette River rolls past Eugene, Oregon through a series of eddies and low rapids.  Wikipedia says it is 187 miles long, was formed by plate tectonics about 35 million years ago.   Friday night, May 30, 2014 , the plate tectonics were about to be pushed back into motion by the weight and power of nine world class shot putters, among, them a new member of that elite club, Joe Kovacs.  

Joe placed second, coming through with a 21.46 meter  result on his last throw in a competition where 67 or 68 feet just wasn't going to get your name on the scoreboard.  He started well with a 69 footer and was leading the competition after two throws, but then two others went by him and finally Reese Hoffa took the lead with a 70 footer.   On Joe's second and third  puts he had what might  have been leaders, but he was judged to have barely touched the top of the board.  Though disappointed he was able to pull himself together.  Going into his  last throw , he seemed a bit more relaxed and rallied with his 70' 4 1/2"  throw which brought him into second place where he finished a few inches behind Hoffa.

Here is the link to shot put results

Here is Joe's 21.46m throw

During this world class meet, the organizers allowed fans to come onto the infield to watch the event more closely and  hundreds came down from the stands and surrounded the throwers.   I could exaggerate a bit and say that when these guys threw, their explosive force and speed sucked the air out of the stadium.  It wasn't far from that.  I have to admit I never watched a field event from ground level through every throw.  This was a first for me.  The close presence of the spectators seemed to have an effect on everyone, and every throw was made followed by polite applause or rousing cheers.  What was interesting too is that there seemed to be a camaraderie between all the athletes.  No staring down of each other like an MMA fight.  Yet these were some of the strongest men in the world doing what they do best.  
After the event was over,  people returned to their seats and watched Galen Rupp break the American record in the 10,000 meters.  What a night!

  We met in the press tent  and had a very cordial chat.   I asked him about the comeback on his last throw.  He recalled that  though disappointed with the fouls on the third and fourth throws, he focused off the emotional side and went to the technical side to get him back in the groove.   Being able to do that in athletics is just part of being a pro, but he really showed a lot of maturity and control in that situation.  We talked about his career and feelings of joining the elites.  He said he came to Penn State on a sort of mixed bag of track and football.  He found he was too small to play in the line where he had played in high school and was moved to fullback.  But in his freshman year, he also threw the shot and got to 46 feet with the 16 pound weight.  Finally he decided to focus on the shot and the rest is history in the making.  He said,  "Just a few years ago, I had these guys' (Reese Hoffa and Christian Cantwell) posters hanging in my room, and now I'm throwing against them."       Is there a Joe Kovacs poster out there yet?   There should be.  
Joe is from Nazareth, PA and now lives in Chula Vista, CA where he trains.  He plans to go to Oslo for the next Diamond meet.  He said having a good agent is really important now because it is their negotiating that gets you into these meets.  Especially if you are an up and comer.   Somehow I think the 70 foot throws Joe has been making will give his agent some leverage in the negotiations.  That's the way the Diamond League appears to operate   from our distant perspective.  There were no prelims to anything.  The field was set before most people arrived.  Probably there was a little politicking in the distance fields and adding of pacers.   But when most of the athletes arrived they knew exactly where they stood in the order of things.  

Interesting little sidebar.  Joe is related by marriage to the Andretti family of Nazareth, PA.   Marco who finished third at the Indy 500 this year is Joe's second cousin.   Joe said he has yet to see a 500, but that is on his list of things to do.   I think the Andrettis may want to consider going to Oslo in two weeks.

Comments from readers on this post
"The need to be resonant with the current American culture and it's relationship with track and field is well pointed out here.  Promoters or others are making that familial quality and closeness fans have to their sport a key variant in 'personalizing' the experience in bringing the fans out of the stands and on to the field.  Continued innovative thinking may reverse the trend we've seen in so many of our universities, which have dropped men's track outright, including mine, Western Michigan University.  I am writing about why this sport is extraordinary in the terms of the values it embraces and how the moral relativism that seems to pervade other sports is getting hard knocks from this most conservative of sporting events, track and field.  We must change with the times, but with innovation and clarity, we can make those changes without encroaching on the fundamental integrity of the sport. Thank you for these 'alternative' pieces, George! " 
          Richard Mach

George...You have gone big time and soon will not have anything to do with Bill, Dick or me. Congrats on the interview with the ex Penn State thrower....nice color picture too ! Like many I suppose, I had not even heard of the guy. I will send on to our UF throwers and coach. There are now several "blogs" that one can subscribe to. I got/get "Flo Track" for a couple of months at 20 bucks a month.......mostly to see the big meets that aren't televised. Ever think of doing that ? If you are like me, probably not but give it some thought. By all your hits, there are many folk who are interested in what you are spitting out ! 

Great you got to see Bob Roncker in Eugene. I enjoyed John Jacobs' " This ain't no county track meet" and your mention of the Willamette, accent on the Will-right? Chris and I stayed in a cabin right smack dab on the river when we there for Olympic Trials. There is a park/falls further East where Marc and Lisa were married.
           Steve Price

sounds like you had a blast in eugene.
at the kansas relays in april they held the men's shot on a sidestreet in downtown lawrence. I told my ku team mates that we had to attend.. They served beer outside and we were right up next to the throwers.
when they introduced the participants the crowd gave former mizzou olympian , chrisitan cantwell, a good round of boos.
There were people standing on the buildings around the event for a good view.
one of my former ku classmates, dick grove, from hutchinson,. showed up since i gave him a pass for the relays. He had some good stories to relate to the guys when he was jim ryun's campaign manager for the house of representatives( which jim won) but after two years he decided to switch sides and was the campaign manager for ryun's opponent .. He claimed that the good people of wichita got tired of jim's political views and decided to vote him out.
Dick has  his own media company in kansas city, missourti.

* G

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