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About.com Interview: Discus Champion Mac Wilkins, Part 2

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About.com Interview: Discus Champion Mac Wilkins, Part 2

Mac Wilkins

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Mac Wilkins is best known as an all-time great discus thrower, but he was a versatile performer who also threw the shot, the hammer and the javelin. Today the Olympic gold medalist and former discus throw world record-holder – who broke the world mark on three consecutive throws in 1976 – is a throws coach at Concordia University and at the Mac Wilkins Throwers Academy in Oregon. Wilkins was interviewed in February 2012 while attending the Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association’s annual track and field clinic as a guest instructor.

About.com - How did it feel the first time you broke a world discus record?:

Mac Wilkins: “My thought was, ‘That’s curious that it went that far, but it wasn’t that great of a throw; I know I can do better. It was a life record, and I know I can improve on it.’ So I was anxious to try and improve.”

Which you did a week later, on three consecutive throws.:

“That was one of the highlights of my career, because it was actually three life records in a row, as well, obviously. So, to throw three life records in a row is, I can’t imagine doing that. Usually it’s a one-time thing and you’re searching for that magic for awhile, when you get a life record. But I had a plan for what I wanted to focus on, on my first three throws, and I followed that plan. I was able to do it – and each throw was farther than the previous throw. So it was, ‘Holy cow!’ That was one of my best days of competition, the best days of throwing the discus. Not that I broke the world record, but that I threw three life records on consecutive throws.”

Were there any emotions on the other side when your record was broken?:

“No. It’s bound to happen sooner or later. That’s the way it is. You hope that it lasts for a long time but I knew that it was not a throw that was out of reach of the rest of the world. So, no, it wasn’t a huge surprise.”

Is there a different mindset when you’re on the big stage at the Olympics?:

“Yeah, you know, what I focused on was, ‘What am I going to do in the circle?’ And, ‘What do I have to do in the weeks and days leading up to that, so that I can have a real clear focus on what I’m doing in the circle?’ And the first Olympics I was able to – every distraction only made me more focused. And I was extremely focused in those Olympics. And my winning throw was, I felt, a mediocre effort, and I was disappointed and I thought I should’ve performed better, because I was so clear about what I had to do. In subsequent Olympics I was not as clearly focused, my life was not as organized, and a little more chaotic and that showed in the way I performed in the competition. And it’s not just a one-day turn on the switch, but it’s, ‘What have you been doing for the last 18 months? What have you been doing for the last nine months, to set your course for how you can perform during the Olympic final?’”

How did it feel to win the Olympic gold medal?:

“That was obviously terrific, and now I would look back at the experience and say, in the big competitions sometimes you can’t always perform the way you want to – you don’t always perform the way you want to. But where you finish can provide some satisfaction, too.”

Why did you become a throws coach?:

“I kind of determined about 10 years ago that sharing my knowledge and experience was probably the best thing that I could do; probably my life’s calling. So I found ways and eventually I was able to get back into the world of throwing.”

What type of satisfaction do receive from coaching, as compared to competing?:

“It’s tremendously satisfying to share with talented, motivated young people, and help them learn. And help them learn how to learn. And then to see them go through their career and improve and progress and increase their skill development, and increase their understanding of what they can do if they set their mind to it. And then to see them go off and, in some cases, be coaches and have the same attitude towards teaching skills and life lessons that I try to impart to them.”

What further goals do you have as a throws coach?:

“I’d like to develop an athlete to compete in the Olympic Games or the World Championships or both, and do well. And take that athlete from being in the top 10 in the U.S., maybe, to the top five in the world. That’s a goal I have.”

Read more about the Mac Wilkins Throwers Academy, discus throw technique and discus throw rules.

Check out part 1 of the Mac Wilkins interview, plus Wilkins' advice for young throwers and coaches.

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