LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
TRAINING FOR THE HAMMER AND WEIGHT THROW
OF PERFORMANCE IN ELITE DISCUS THROWERS
CONSIDERATIONS FOR THROWERS
ROLE OF THE LEFT SIDE
THE FLIGHT OF THE SHOT PUT
THE BIG SKY
By Torsten Huelsemann
If you donít know the name Rolf Oesterreich,
donít be ashamed. A native
of East Germany, the under-sized shot putter (1.81m [5-11ľ]/99kg
) competed curing the 1970ís,
but never represented the DDR.
Oesterreich was treated as an outsider by the East German
bureaucracy during the height of the cold war.
While never imprisoned like Wolfgang Schmidt, he was denied the
grand stage his talents deserved, as well as the validation of one truly
Oesterreich persevered in the face of athletic
persecution and continued on as a trainer in Germany. Oesterreich was something of a rotational pioneer in his
country, and continues today as a successful private coach.
LSTJ: How did you end up putting the
RO: I started late with athletics. Until I was
14 years old, there was only soccer for me.
I was always good in throwing, and because of that I participated
in district championships for athletics and won gold in the discus and
silver in the javelin. This
success encouraged me to start real training.
Since there was no athletics club in my hometown, I
had to go to a neighboring city for training.
From the beginning I was obsessed with the throws disciplines.
It was also important to me to expand my knowledge throughout my
training. Specialty books
about the throws and power training gave me the opportunity to expand my
knowledge to constantly improve my training.
After a few years, at age 18, I started to participate in county competitions in the discus and javelin for men. I was thinking about becoming a trainer. Because of that I attended college to become a sports teacher. I discovered very fast, that our high school team had a retired professional who was still able to throw the spear 70m, and because of that did not see a chance in that discipline. But the best shot putter just barely made 12.80m (42-0). That was my future. This was decided by coincidence.
LSTJ: How was your performance
development as a shot putter after you dedicated yourself to this
RO: At the beginning it slowly went ahead,
because I didnít agree with the trainer from the high school team and
his limp training method, which resulted often in disagreements.
After approximately six months, with mutual
agreement, I went my own way and my performance in the shot and discus got
better, as did my motivation after I started intensive training. I won for the first time in the district competition.
Every year I raised my goal with the shot about
1.80m. After I reached 16m
the first time in 1974, I was looking for training methods and technique
improvement to better my performance even more.
I also looked at the spin technique.
I had a row of pictures from Baryshnikow and Oldfield,
as an example. I tried it and
to my surprise, the shot flew the first day as far as with the glide
technique. The turn with the
shot was easy for me, since I had the discus technique pretty well under
In training I was able to get a pleasant result with
18.05m (59-2), but almost nothing worked in competition. I was too excited
and was asking for too much. I
often took my last throw from a standing position or glide, which most of
the times would not work. Therefore,
in 1975 I registered an official competition performance of 15.64m (51-4). My stand performance from training was 15.98m (52-5).
With the shot I was set back, but the discus flew
surprisingly 54.26m. With
this performance I was entitled for the first time to participate in the
DDR (German Democratic Republic) Championships.
The twelth place finish wasnít much, but it gave me
confidence to increase my effort. After
that, I had lots of time in the winter half-year to think about it, and
I realized that I had large reserves in the spin
technique. I increased my
power training again and discovered the importance of the special power
for the spin technique. I
accomplished a training performance of 19.60m (64-3) in winter.
I did not participate in any inside competition.
Together with that I had an important experience that
influenced my consideration of power training.
I watched the European championship in weightlifting as a spectator
very closely. At that time in
middle heavyweight (up to 90kg), David Riegert managed 220kg in clean and
After the competition, this small athlete jumped from
standing up to the 1.20m tall winners podium.
I remembered the power weight proportion and that is how I realized
that you can increase your power without a high bodyweight, as most of the
shot put colleagues had. So I
found a way to improve even more my speed-power performance.
In the spring of 1976 I was able to train at a high
level without any injuries and my competition performances (20.74m [68-0],
21.46m [70-5] and in the autumn, 22.11m [72-6.5]) spoke for themselves.
LSTJ: Your technical idols were
Barryshnikow and Oldfield. Did
you try to copy them exactly, or did you try your own ways?
RO: Of course I have tried at the beginning to
copy my two idols. With my
model of Baryshnikov, I had lots of problems, because he didnít hold his
head vertical during the turn. I often lost my orientation.
In comparison Oldfieldís technique was better. Every technique has its strengths and weaknesses, so you are never able to take over a technique exactly. From the first week on I used my own right leg swing from the discus throw and felt comfortable. The frame by frames did not play a role anymore. I always counted on my feelings, and because of that I created my own spin technique.
LSTJ: Did you expect a performance
of 20.74m (68-0.5) at the beginning of the season (May 2, 1976 in
Ehrenfriedersdorf)? What was
your best training performance at that time?
RO: I never expected a performance like that
at the beginning of the season. My best performance during training was
19.80m (64-11.5). I was hoping silently to reach the 20m (65-7.5) mark.
I couldnít forget and get over my failures from
last year at the competition. When the judge announced the distance, I
almost didnít believe him and he had to say it a second time to convince
LSTJ: How was your series in this
RO: In the first try I had 20.74m, and the
second attempt I wanted more, and I hurt myself pretty bad. With lots of
power, the turn technique proved a failure most of the time. With that, my competition ended.
LSTJ: How did your goal setting
change after this performance?
RO: Since I knew which performances the other
DDR shot putters had until then (only a few centimeters more), I had in my
head the subject of the Olympics. A
couple of days later, I was called to SC Karl-Marx-Stadt and there they
encouraged me in the direction of Olympics.
I took the challenge.
LSTJ: Did you experience any
promotion or encouragement?
RO: As of May 9, 1976, I was excused from
work. Because of that I had
much more time that I could be treated every day by physiotherapy.
The excuse from work was a very important point for my performance
development. For this special
treatment I had to thank the district authority. But because of the
influence of Berlin, they immediately withdrew this promotion.
LSTJ: The first result of the season
from 20.74m, and three-and-a-half weeks later it was 21.46m. That
should have caused some awareness in the DDR. How was the reaction of the
RO: These results definitely caused awareness.
I was immediately courted by all the big sports clubs. It seemed that the
union was almost helpless, but in the background they already pulled
What really happened, I didnít find out until after
the turn (uniting East and West) when I was able to take a look at the
Stasi file (that is a file which was put together by the DDRís highest
secret intelligence, the Stasi, which was like FBI).
For me there were just other rules, but nobody knew them before.
To qualify for the Olympics, the qualification
distance was 20.90m (68-8.75), but for me it was 21.85m (71-8.25) - they
asked from me the world record! [The world record of
21.85m was reached on February 21, 1976 by Terry Albritton of the
LSTJ: Did you believe at that time,
that you were able to make it to the Olympic games in Montreal?
RO: When I didnít know that the
qualification distance of 20.90m (68-7) had no meaning, I had big hopes to
accomplish the jump to the Olympic Games.
When I discovered that only a
world record would make Montreal, all my dreams died. But they came
alive one more time, when I reached 21.46m (70-5).
LSTJ: What made your short flames of
hope go out completely?
RO: One week before the Olympic qualification,
they let me know that the doctor of sports and medicine disqualified me
with the reason that my body could not handle the permanent load of
stress. That meant for insurance technical reasons, I couldnít get
nominated for international competition for the DDR team.
With that I also was not able to become officially a Performance
Athlete in the DDR, which was necessary to compete in larger or
international competitions. With
not taking part of the Olympic qualification, a lot of the officials later
on took that as I was afraid to compete with the Ďbig opponents.í
LSTJ: Juergen Bloss wrote in his
documentary about your performance that an injury was also the reason that
you were not able to be part of the Olympic qualification.
RO: I did have had an injury.
I had a tear in my back muscle.
That happened three days before the qualification, because I
didnít keep a clear head during my training anymore.
This injury was officially announced to the officials as the reason
for me not taking part. The disqualification by the doctor was never
brought into public light. The
disqualification by the doctor I only mentioned again when I had proof -
the Stasi files.
LSTJ: With what kind of feelings did
you follow the Olympic Games in Montreal on TV?
RO: On one side I followed the exciting
competition with enthusiasm, because with surprise Udo Beyer won.
Otherwise it was nostalgia to see what kind of role the two other DDR
participants played at the competition.
LSTJ: Was there any reaction from
the side of the other athletes from DVfl (German Democratic Republic
Athletic Association) in regard to your case??
RO: Of course I was talking to the other
athletes about my problem. I
experienced very different reactions.
The negative experiences with this situation I would not like to
mention here, because most likely they happened because of ignorance.
The athletes were only given the same official information as the
public about myself. The most
positive experience I had was with Udo Beyer.
He was interested in my problem and stood by me, even though he was
not always able to show this in public in the DDR at that time. We are still good friends.
LSTJ: This of course explains why
you wished him good luck at the Olympic Games. This was not naturally in
your situation. Did you ever have a chance to compete with Udo Beyer
RO: I never had the chance to compare myself to Udo in competition. There were several more quality competitions, but they were only by invitation. Only official Performance Athletes were able to compete. I was never a Performance Athlete. Two years later there was a chance to meet Udo at a competition, but that again was prevented by the unfair ways of the union officials. *LSTJ *
This interview is
available in its entirety in print in the January 2007 issue of LSTJ.
* German to English translation by Kerstin Hocker.
Oesterreich images courtesy of MacThrows.com