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Joe Kovacs Seeks First National Title

Published by
RunnerSpace.com/Pro   on Jun 23 2014, 02:47 PM

Shot Putter’s Stock Is On the Rise

By Scott Bush

In Oslo earlier this month, shot put standout Joe Kovacs won his first Diamond League shot put title, besting a tough field and building some terrific momentum heading into this week’s USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, where he’ll seek his first national title.

The former Penn State University All-American, who now resides at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, has risen among the ranks of elite U.S. shot putting, becoming one of the odds-on-favorites to win this week’s event at the California State Capitol.

We caught up with the 24 year old, chatting about his recent Diamond League win, his expectations heading into Sacramento and his consistent improvement since graduating Penn State.

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Scott Bush (SB): You recently won your first Diamond League competition, besting a loaded field at the Bislett Games in Oslo. How thrilled were you to win on such a big stage and what did you take away from the competition?

Joe Kovacs (JK): Coming away with the win in Oslo was a great stepping-stone for my professional career. Up until that point I've had three second-place finishes in the Diamond League, but have never come away with a victory. It was great to win in a loaded field of other shot putters that I've always respected and looked up to. I have my sights high for my upcoming years in the sport. Oslo was a great step for me, and it shows I can be in the mix for future titles.

SB: You've always been a top tier shot putter, but this season it seems like you've taken it to a whole new level, both in terms of consistency and results. What's your secret?

JK: I attribute this season's consistency and bigger throws to the work I'm doing with my coach Art Venegas. I moved out to the Olympic Training Center last January to work with Coach Venegas. Now that I've had a full year in his system, I am able to start implementing what he is teaching me in the meets.

SB: With USAs right around the corner, how are you feeling and what are your expectations heading into Sacramento?

JK: I am extremely excited to be able to compete in the stacked shot put field in Sacramento this year. I think USATF is doing amazing job highlighting the shot put downtown at the state capital. I am definitely looking forward to coming away with some big throws and a great performance.

SB: Transitioning out of Penn State and basing yourself out of the USOC Olympic Training Center in Southern California, what are one or two things you've learned from Art that have allowed you to really progress as a professional athlete?

JK: The transition to Venegas from Penn State was something I definitely needed. At Penn State, I had a great training partner in Ryan Whiting, but I knew I wanted to work with Art because his system of training has produced so much success over the years. Art has really helped me to understand the complexity of becoming a professional shot putter. It's not just about having big numbers in the weight room and good technique in the circle. His system of training has complete devotion to hitting the big throws in the important meets.

SB: The shot put is ridiculously stacked right now in the United States. What's it like for you being such an integral part of a group with so much talent and really six or seven guys all capable of medaling at the world level?

JK: The shot is definitely stacked this year! I just looked at the entries for the USATF outdoors and there are 22 guys over the 20m mark. Not only is our high-end at top of the world stage, but the bottom end is getting better and better every year. I am proud to be in an event that is so strong both nationally and internationally. Because of our strength, being a part of the USA shot put field makes throwing in international meets less intimidating.

SB: You're only 24 years old and are traveling the world competing in some of the biggest meets. What the heck is that like?

JK: It is rare to be able to do something you love and be able to see the world while doing it. I am very grateful to all the people who helped me to get to this point. I feel truly blessed to be able compete in so many amazing places.

SB: Competing nearly every week at this point, what does a typical week of work look like for you?

JK: Now, as we get close to the prime of the season, the weight-room becomes less of an emphasis. Entering into our USA Championships I will be focusing more on the rhythm of my throw and the timing of my finish. So in short, depending on what type of meet is coming up, Coach Venegas would adjust my lifting to three days for a week with a meet and five days for a week without.

SB: How did you first get into the sport of track and field?

JK: I started the sport of track and field my freshman year in high school. I joined the sport as a way to stay in shape for my primary sport at the time which was football. I focused on the sprints and then was introduced to the shot put. My mother was my throws coach in high school and I also worked with club coach Glenn Thompson on the weekends.

A turning point for me was when I was a sophomore in high school and I met Reese Hoffa at a track clinic. He suggested to me that I should try the spin technique. Once I learned the rotational movement and started to understand its complexity I fell in love with the sport.

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History for USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships
YearResultsVideosNewsPhotosBlogs
2014 1 646 25 686  
2013 1 754 38 942  
2012 1 1009 63 3500  
2011 1 1298 36 1777 1
2010 1 928 16 938  
2009 1 446 4 875  
2008 1 138 51 961  
2007 1 27 2 295  
2006 1   2 341  
2005 1   1 433  
2004 1   1