VOLUME 2, ISSUE 3
TABLE OF CONTENTS
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
WINDING THE WEIGHTS
USATF DRUG TESTING What you thought you knew, and what you dont
FUN IN FINLAND
1999 CELTIC CLASSIC
FIELD EVENT JUDGE
THE PROSPECT OF FAILURE...
STILL GOING STRONG!
HIGH, VALLEY LOW
Interview with Randy BarnesBy Glenn Thompson
Those of us that are old enough to remember ABCs Jim McKay uttering that classic line, "The joy of victory, the agony of defeat," each weekend during the intro to Wide World of Sports. Perhaps no track and field athlete has lived that experience more than Randy Barnes. His athletic experience has been a rollercoaster of emotions. Barnes erupted onto the American track and field scene as a Texas A&M freshman in 1986. Using the spin technique, Barnes tossed the 16 lb. ball an incredible 71-9 ½. He ended that year ranked number nine in the world. Barnes went on to set a World Record 75-10 ¼ in 1989, as well as winning an Olympic gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Games. But interspersed in his amazing trail of success were major setbacks, including 1989 and 1998 run-ins with the drug-testers.
Randy was kind enough to take a few minutes to reflect on his career and future with Long & Strong.
Long & Strong: Describe your experience in Seoul.... hitting the big throw, and then having Timmerman steal the gold away.
Randy Barnes: The 1988 Olympics were a great time in my life and career. I was only three years out of high school and still very much a kid at heart. The whole idea of actually going to the Olympic Games seemed larger than life.
I remember after the first three qualifying throws, my teammates, Jim Doehring and Gregg Tafralis didnt make the final eight cut. I watched the expressions on their faces as they gathered their things and were escorted off the field. I remember being so thankful that I had three more throws. The fact that I was still on the field suddenly felt like a gift.
Before my last throw I was in fourth place and out of a medal. I dont remember thinking about much in detail. The mechanics of the technique were burned in months before anyway. I just wanted to attack the board. I felt like I was flying through the ring almost out of control until I found myself at the front of the ring with the ball back. I just wanted to break my fingers back at that point. The release was as close to perfect as Id ever remembered and it went 73'-5½, which took the lead. You have to remember that Timmermann comfortably lead this competition starting with his first throw without ever really being challenged. My throw should have shocked him and with only one chance left to get it back, I knew the pressure would be enormous. I mean I knew he was capable, but I believed the odds had to be against him doing it now with only one chance left. I remember walking into the javelin runway beside the shot ring and watching him on the big-screen at the end of the stadium. When he released it and I heard the crowd react I knew it must have been close. When I realized hed done it, I was more amazed and impressed with his composure and nerve than I was pleased with my own performance. What an incredible competitor. I dont remember feeling that disappointed because I knew it had to be one of the best shot put competitions ever, and I was very proud to have contributed a pivotal moment to it.
LSTJ: What were you thinking in Atlanta coming into the ring for your sixth throw? Did you know you had hit it when it came out of your hand? How did you feel watching and waiting after what had happened in Seoul?
RB: While I was walking around and getting ready to be called for my sixth throw in Atlanta, all I could think about was the words of consolation I would have to hear from everyone I knew if I didnt hit my last throw. I absolutely didnt want to have to go through that. Its impossible to pursue something like this without dragging your entire family and all your friends with you. I know this sounds a little dramatic, but I could just picture all these people after my failure trying awkwardly to find the right words to make me feel better. What a helpless feeling that would be.
I thought about waiting eight years for this chance again, and how finally I didnt have to wait anymore. I mean, it just occurred to me at that moment, that in a few short moments Id be entering the ring again for the last time. No more waiting! I still had time to control how this would end. Its kind of funny...I even remember wondering why anyone would want to bring this on themselves. It wasnt a pleasant feeling at all.
Atlanta wasnt the kind of competition where I needed a PR to win as in Seoul. It seemed more like survival. Maybe my fear of losing was even stronger than my desire to win? In any event, the win produced more feelings of relief, rather than the starry-eyed euphoria I felt in 1988.
LSTJ: Some people say that your technique was different prior to 91 and after then. Do you think so? Can you describe your technical philosophy?
RB: It was absolutely different. I never did regain the technique that was the result of several consecutive years of progress. In fact, I didnt come to fully appreciate the technique I had by 1990 until I had to spend so many more years later trying to re-capture it again. I never did. That was a constant source of frustration for me. I threw far again, but never as easy as Id worked it down by 1990. The suspension broke my momentum and it was never as fun for me again. After all the battles and bitterness, a big part of my heart was taken out of it.
The way my technique evolved really started by emulating Brian Oldfield and basic trial and error. This made it a challenge for me to later explain or teach what Id learned or discovered about the technique because it was based on feel to begin with. It wasnt taught to me in a way I could simply repeat to you.
I would force myself to over exaggerate every move I worked on to fully explore the physical boundaries of that move. For example, if it was leaning the head into the ball out of the back, I might try for 90 degrees flat on my shoulder and take some throws that way to see how it felt and how it affected everything else. It might have looked ridiculous at the time but it also caused other areas of the technique to react differently and be revealed. I was able to identify different feels at the front on release because of such an extreme head lean in the back, that I never would have felt otherwise. Once felt and identified, I could relax the exaggerated move some but continue to seek out the new position at the front. I took this approach with every phase of the technique. Explore and over exaggerate to the point of diminished results and then bring it back a bit. That way I was confident Id felt every possible combination, which hopefully resulted in kind of an amalgamated technique unique to my body type and physical ability. I think this approach really worked for me.
LSTJ: How would you like to be remembered? How do you think youll be remembered?
RB: In 1985 I graduated high school in West Virginia with a full track scholarship to Texas A&M. I dreamed about being the best shot-putter ever. I idolized Brian Oldfield and watched endless loops of his 75-foot throw in El Paso, Texas 1975. I watched it so many times I was sure I could feel the texture of the circle he threw on that day.
Many times during my classes at A&M I had a hard time hearing the lectures because in my mind I was in the circle coming out of the back and bringing my right leg to the center. I swear my right knee would twitch in my seat as I imagined reaching the center and turning my right foot into the ground.
That fall we Olympic lifted twice a day, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. First in the morning at 9 AM and then we threw at 2 a.m. and lifted the exact same workout at 4 p.m. My hands were raw from the pulls we did. We did upper body work on Tuesday and Thursday. I went from a blocky soft 295 lbs. down to 273 lbs. all while eating plenty of greasy dorm food. It was the hardest Id ever worked in my life. In the spring we dropped the morning workout and I immediately went back up to 287 lbs., but I was transformed. The workouts were insane. In later years Id never have agreed to them, but I was young and very excited to be at such a large university. It was a big stage and I was anxious to perform. I really didnt know any better, and it was the best thing I ever did. It set a tone and pace for later years.
I went from 57 feet in training that September 1985 to a 75 feet 11 inch foul at Mt SAC Relays in April 1986. I tore the sheath around the tendon of my middle finger in the process because Id been using tape around the palm of my hand, which was permitted in college. At Mt. SAC I competed open for the first time and of course it wasnt allowed under international rules. I thought nothing of it and took the tape off, then proceeded to have the best throwing day of my life to that point. If I hadnt gotten hurt, theres no telling how far it may have gone that year. Plenty of speculation went around like, "nobody can improve like that without something blowing up". What went wrong was so simply explained regarding the tape. The truth is, it didnt have to happen and could have been avoided if Id had the presence of mind to protect my hand.
A 19-foot improvement in 8 months is impossible to describe. I still sometimes shake my head in disbelief over that one. Those who know me know I am not a braggart. So I say this with all the modesty a statement like this will allow. I knew that kind of rapid improvement was pretty good at the time, but after 14 years in this sport Ive come to learn that its unheard-of.
I cant control how Ill be remembered now any more than I could control what the technician really did with my urine sample back in the privacy of his lab in Sweden in 1990.
But I do know this; in spite of what some may believe about me, there is no drug on the planet that can make a 19-foot improvement happen in 8 months. It took talent, and an unbelievable amount of hard work. Im extremely proud of that. Thats what I know and remember. Those who were around me throughout my career know and remember that too. Others, who care enough to look a little deeper than a headline, will come to understand and hopefully appreciate what I was able to achieve in my career, and thats good enough for me.
LSTJ: What does the future hold for you?
RB: I look forward to more stability in my life. Im currently pursuing a career in computer network engineering and administration. Enterprise website technologies interest me very much, as well as non-linear video production work and 3D animation. I enjoy it because its a great form of creative expression.
I will continue to be in involved with track and field in the form of clinics, instructional videos, and video critiques offered on my website.
I would also like to help some other high-level athletes affordably produce instructional videos of their own sometime in the near future. Video production is very expensive through conventional channels. A thousand dollars per finished minute is pretty standard, and if you get into 3D animated effects for technical applications, demonstrations, or visual interest, it can be $1,000 per finished second for the animated segments only. Thats simply cost prohibitive for most athletes who arent Michael Johnson or Marion Jones.
My future will certainly center on my two daughters as well. My oldest is 6 years and my youngest is 8 months. They are fantastic.
You can find out more about Randy Barnes, including his instructional video, at his website:http://www.randybarnes.com/ *LSTJ*