The dust has settled (in this case, maybe from the amazing Alaska Snow Marble trophy by hand carved by Carl Hind). As I mentally unwrap the incredible weekend, and recover from the jet lag and constant daylight, there were five specific performances at this year’s IHGF Worlds that stuck out to me; five performances that really stirred things up and altered the final tally.
1. The massive shoulder punch from Vladislav Tulacek (Czech Republic)
This was my first-time throwing with “Vlad” and I have to tell you, he’s already a force to be reckoned with. This 6’6” 275 lb. beast was by far the most athletic man on the field (and he’s only 28, so he’s got plenty of time to improve). We all knew we were in for something special from him in the stones; let’s be honest, if you’re good enough to have an IAAF profile online, then you know your way around the throwing implements. Vlad didn’t disappoint in the open stone, as he side-shuffled (yes, side-shuffled) a massive 57’4”. Vlad expanded on his shot put prowess to me the day before, “I can throw 18.50m from the stand and 19.00m from the glide. Glide not so good.” In my days of throwing, I’ve not seen a stone leave a shoulder with that kind of speed and force.
2. The third round light hammer clutch throw by Nathan Burchett
The light hammer was a bomb fest by the group. There were seven throws over 130’, five of those over 135’, and two throws over 140’. Nathan was sitting seventh after two throws and headed into the final throw needing to make a move and earn some points back for the overall. If you’ve ever seen Nathan throw hammer, you know how gifted he is in the event, and his speed is unparalleled. On his final throw, Nathan threw a clutch 136’1” bomb to move up three spots into fourth. When day one had ended, Nathan, a late addition due to injury, found himself in third place overall.
3. Surprise, surprise – Vlad can chuck a Braemar stone
Day two started with the 23 lb. Braemar stone and to no surprise, Vlad smoked a new field record in the event. Keeping with tradition, the stone simply exploded out of his hand as he intimidated it into the distance. Now, the 45’11” bomb was impressive, but we have to take into account that second place was 41’9” thrown by Lukasz Wenta. Lukasz remains one of the best stone throwers in the world, and I’ve seen him throw 44’+ in this event with a heavy stone, but Vlad was just in a stratosphere by himself. If he gets his hands on a smaller stone that’s closer to 22 lbs, I’d fear for that world record of 47’.
4. Matt Vincent continues to dominate the weights
Matt won both the heavy and light weight for distance events, which I think he does just about every time he steps on the field. But, when we came to the light weight for distance, we were throwing what looked to be a short weight. The tell-tale sign of that was in the results … from the rest of us. Matt blasted a throw at 87’8”, only a few inches off the field record set by another amazing weight thrower – Larry Brock. Aside from Matt, only two others even broke 80 feet, which for a competition at this level was a surprise. We all looked that weight over and were sure it was short; whether it was true or the mountains were playing tricks with us, we didn’t throw it that far. Well, Matt did. Even more impressive, was that Matt was falling away from almost every throw – had he connected it … well. I can only imagine what he’ll throw at the Celtic Classic later this year.
5. Lukasz Wenta (Poland) skies the weight over bar to secure his podium spot
You’re always tired at the end of a two-day competition, but Worlds takes it out of you even more. The tension, nerves, stress, and competitiveness prove difficult to be fresh for both days. If you don’t believe me, just look at the marks of the final events of championships – many times they are less than what you’d think. We closed with the weight over bar and there were still positions on the line; most notably, Lukasz Wenta and Matt Doherty were tied for third place. They couldn’t catch Matt or me, but they would secure their spot on the podium. Lukasz didn’t disappoint, as he blasted an easy 17’ pull on his second attempt. Lukasz went on to win the event and place himself on the World Championship podium for the first time in his career.
What an amazing experience and honor it was to throw in the 2016 IHGF Heavy Events World Championships. This, coincidentally, was the 35th year for the Alaskan Scottish Highland Games. Tim Kincaid is an incredible athletic director and has been organizing these games for all 35 years. Tim is a long-time bap piper and his appreciation and accommodation to athletes is unlike any other in the bag pipe community; it’s a great lesson as to what we can accomplish when we understand that a great games is comprised of quality throwing, entertaining music, skilled dancers, and vibrant vendors. This is certainly a games I’ll never forget – thank you, Francis Brebner and Ryan Vierra of the IHGF, for making this opportunity possible for us throwers.