When Britney Henry, 31, throws a hammer, a nearly nine pound steel ball attached to a wire, it’s like watching an athletic explosion.
Speed, agility, and power come together in one fluid motion.
But during the past year of training, Henry’s athletic artistry moved in a more scientific direction with the use of a device called “The Track Man”.
The training tool was developed specifically for USA athletes and became a regular part of practice sessions for Shot Putters and Hammer Throwers, like Henry, at the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center last year.
The Track Man uses Doppler radar and a built in video camera to track the hammer from it’s release to landing, gathering information along the way.
“We know the feeling of what a good throw feels like, we know what we need to do physically to get a throw, but having the instant feedback of what the angle of release was or distance or velocity was a little new to us,” said Henry.
Phil Cheetham, a senior sport technologist for the USOC and former Australian Olympic gymnast, says athletes and coaches get the data within seconds.
“So if your throw was flat, or too high, you know, so you can go back and adjust. It wasn’t just a feeling, you’re not just running by the seat of your pants, you’re running by the actual measurements” said Cheetham.
The Track Man measures distance, velocity, angle, height of release, and direction and pushes the information via wifi to a trackside laptop and into an excel spread sheet for easy access.
“Any bit of extra confidence we can get going into the Olympics and Olympic Trials is going to be an added bonus to us,” said Henry.