Port Alberni’s Bella Hall threw some solid distances in pre-Olympic hammer throw events on Vancouver Island last week to keep her No. 1 ranking in the U18 category. Hall competed with a handful of other high-performance throwers in events in Duncan, Port Alberni and Nanaimo.
“It wasn’t the week Bella was hoping for from a performance perspective,” said her coach, Darren Willis. “She ended up throwing a couple of metres below her best. Each of the competititons had moments where things looked like they would come together and then they just never did.”
Hall’s best throw out of six was 56.90 metres in hammer on Saturday at Bob Dailey Stadium, two metres less than her personal best, but still a decent distance, she said.
Hammer throw requires an athlete to hold the round weighted “hammer,” attached to the end of a wire, and spin around—using balance and centrifugal force to gain height and distance when they let go of the handle.
“It’s been fair to say we’ve been struggling the last couple of weeks in terms of rhythm,” Willis said. “She’s been working through it in this competition and today was really good. She’s been working really hard.”
Hall is currently ranked No. 1 in Canada and No. 23 in the world as a U18 athlete.
Other athletes throwing in Port Alberni on Saturday, May 15, included:
Greg Stewart (Shot Put) – A member of Canada’s Tokyo Paralympic Team this year.
Adam Keenan (Hammer Throw) – A three-time Canadian Senior Champion in Hammer Throw and has been ranked No. 1 in the country for four years.
Ethan Katzberg (Hammer Throw) from Nanaimo – Katzberg set a new Canadian record in the U20 age class in Duncan last week using a 7.26kg hammer. After his performance this week (75.60 metres) he will be the No. 1 ranked U20 hammer thrower in the world so far in 2021.
Sam Willett (Hammer Throw) – Second place at 2019 Canadian Senior Championships.
Mason Andulajevic (Hammer Throw) – Fourth place at 2019 Canadian Legion Championships as a U16 athlete.
Port Alberni’s was the second of three Island Series events in a week on Vancouver Island. The third took place Sunday, May 16 in Nanaimo. The events were designed to prepare some of the province’s top athletes for the lead up to the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo in a few weeks.
“Some of our top throwers in the province are based on Vancouver Island so we wanted to have some opportunities here,” Willis said.
The original concept was to have track and field club athletes join the competitions, but when COVID-19 cases began to rise in the province “we just couldn’t have it. The high-performance group had to stay separate from the local athletes. There wouldn’t have been any benefit for the younger kids.”
A group called the B.C. Throwers Project—part of BC Athletics that promotes throwing events—helped move throwing events around B.C. “This was a good opportunity to put three of them together and give the athletes a chance closer to home.”
There are few hammer athletes that compete at Hall’s age and skill level, so she finds herself competing with athletes in different age groups. “There’s not that many hammer throwers, especially right now,” she said. “Even though I’m not in the same group as them we still compete together; otherwise I would have to basically throw by myself.”
COVID-19 travel restrictions has further limited where she can go for competition. That’s why setting up the Island series was so beneficial to throwers on Vancouver Island, said Willis.
The City of Port Alberni’s Parks, Recreation and Heritage department upgraded its hammer facility at Bob Dailey Stadium to Olympic-regulation for the event, and earned kudos from competitors, Willis said. The facility leaves the city well placed for their B.C. Games bid, he added.
Once the Island Series is finished Hall is looking forward to returning to a throwing camp in Kamloops, B.C. “Kamloops has got a Russian (coach) up there and he came here and helped establish a program for throwing in western Canada,” Willis explained. “He was an Olympic champion, he coached the world record holder in hammer, and they’ve helped all of us around the province get better at these events.”