Sitting Down With Hammer Thrower Camryn Rogers

“...The coach, Richard, pointed to a hammer and said, “Okay, throw that.” I said, “Excuse me, what is that? It looks like a murder weapon!”
By Camryn Rogers, as told to Katherine Blesie

I didn’t play a sport until 2012, when I picked up my first hammer.

I showed up to my school’s track practice late—I wasn’t even going to go—and I went to the back area of the track where there was this rusty cage, and the coach, Richard, pointed to a hammer and said, “Okay, throw that.” I said, “Excuse me, what is that? It looks like a murder weapon!” I picked it up, swung it around a couple times like he showed me, said a quick prayer, and let it go. And he kind of looked at me and crossed his arms and pursed his lips and said, “Okay, I think we can work with that.”

That was my introduction to the sport, because hammer isn’t really a sport where you go to your parents and say, “Hey, my friends and I are going to go throw hammers after school.” I think when you have the chance to be exposed to such an interesting event you have to take it. I did, and I fell in love with it.

When I went home last March, I planned to stay for the weekend and ended up staying for seven months. I think a lot of people, myself included, kind of got lost in the process. Like, how are we going to be able to get back to doing what we love? But in one of the conversations I had with my coach, when the NCAA ended up canceling the season and then other national bodies started pulling out of the Olympics, he told me, “All of this—everything that’s happening right now—is going to end. It will end. Even though we don’t know when right now, it will end. And when it does, we need to be prepared for anything that comes next.”

Training at home was really nice, but I missed my team, and I especially missed my coach. Most of the time I was out there alone, or my parents were able to come out and film me so I could see what sort of progress I was making. There were moments where it was really hard, but keeping my goal in mind and my eyes on the prize kept me going. I repeated my coach’s words like a mantra: “This is going to end. We need to be prepared.” I think that hoping there would be some light at the end of the tunnel but not knowing when it would come meant that I did everything I could to be ready for it when it arrived.

Training definitely had to change a bit to suit the circumstances. Normally, we would be practicing in a certain way until indoors was over, around mid-March, and then we would transition into hammer throw in the spring and summer part of the season. Not knowing when that transition was coming—it felt a little bit like “just-in-case training.” We were still working on building that foundation, but always doing a little bit to be ready just in case they suddenly said, “Hey, we’re going to be able to have a meet in a month.” I think that sort of preparation training was good because it teaches you to be flexible and adaptable. But it was hard, too, at least for me, to know that I was training for this thing that might never happen.

When they announced that the Olympics were going to be postponed, I was heartbroken, of course. I was able to talk to a lot of other Canadian athletes and Olympians to see how they were handling everything. I wanted to know: What were these more experienced competitors doing? What can I learn from them? What have they learned along the way? Most of them ended up saying the same thing: You just have to be prepared, and you just have to be flexible because nothing will ever go perfectly. You can’t predict everything.

I hit a new lifetime best a few weeks ago when I was in Oregon, and I think that’s partially thanks to the time during lockdown to go out on my own and really work on those little parts of my throw that were inhibiting me.

It makes me so excited to think that there’s still more to come—even if I achieve this one goal of qualifying for the Olympics this year, there are still so many goals that need to be met, so many throws to be taken. There’s always more you can do to get to that next level. It’s a long road but one that I’m very, very, very pumped to be taking.

To see Camryn Rogers in action, watch our short film, “The Dragonfly and the Hammer.”

From the Summer 2021 issue of California.
Image source: Andi Arai
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