Adam King remembers a summer Saturday about five years ago when he was lying on his couch icing a leg injury he received in a Gaelic football match earlier that day. The injury meant the 16-year-old couldn’t take part in the Munster Athletics Championships set to take place on the Sunday. “It may have been a blessing in disguise, but it was then when my father and I decided I couldn’t keep up football and hammer throwing, I chose the hammer.”
The second year DCU student grew up in Ballinskelligs, Co. Kerry where, like the majority of his friends, a Gaelic football was never far from his hand.
However, it is fair to say that King is not like the majority of his friends. As we chat at his training base at the sports centre in DCU his focus and ambition dominates. “I want to represent my country at the Olympics”. The 19-year-old says so with such assertion and confidence that you would be surprised if he doesn’t.
Indeed the national u15, u16, u18 and junior hammer throw record holder was a talented footballer having represented his county at u14 level. Middle distance running was another option for the Munster juvenile 800m champion. “I realised that I couldn’t keep up every sport, I decided on the hammer because I was probably better at it than I was at football or middle distance running. My Coach told me that if I worked on my technique, I could become really competitive at it.”
The work he has done on his technique has obviously paid off. “It’s fair to say I’ve travelled to places that a Gaelic football could never have brought me like the three week holiday in China for the world youths in 2014” to places like Azerbaijan and Poland where he finished in 11th place in the World juniors this summer.
The rich history that Ireland has had in the unglamorous hammer throw is easily forgotten. Pat O’Callaghan was a double Olympic Gold medallist in the discipline. King doesn’t have to look far for inspiration with his coach Seán Egan having represented Ireland in the 1980 Moscow Olympics. “It’s great having Sean with me, he’s been there and done that and he’s great for giving advice and inspiration”.
Hammer throwing is one of the most complex sports in the business. King describes it as “spinning around in circles at a serious speed, while staying in a seven-foot circle and putting (the hammer) in a very narrow sector”. It is not just about hurtling the hammer as far as possible. “Sometimes it is frustrating when people say hammer throwing, ah sure it’s just about being stronger than the lad beside you. It’s a combination of strength, speed, technique and various other factors.”
To be able to compete at this event, training is often and intense. “I train six times a week. Three of those sessions are power based in the gym and the rest are throwing and technique based.
“It’s a lot handier for me now than it was a few years ago when I had to travel two or three hours for training. I have a serious coach and serious facilities nearby here in Dublin. There is a hammer throwing cage five minutes away in Santry and a gym on my doorstep in DCU.”
King doesn’t have a moment to spare but you get the impression he wouldn’t want it any other way. “I’m loving life at the moment; a typical day involves waking up for breakfast at around eight before lectures from nine to four.
“I am living in the athletes’ house on campus which is a great environment for me. We generally train at the same time in the evenings, at around six. I’d be back in the house at around eight when I might do some revision on the day’s lectures followed by stretches before bed at ten or 11.”
Being an elite athlete, King obviously doesn’t have the opportunity to take part in the party and drink-driven culture that is the modern college experience. However it is not something he feels he is missing out on.
“To be honest it’s not something that I’d miss too much, no. We have great craic ourselves in the athletes’ house where I’ve made some great friends. We are all focused and driven to work hard and to achieve. When the opportunity arises to let our hair down out on the town, we’ll do that.”
King’s next big target will be to reach the qualifying standard for the European u23 Championships which take place next summer in Poland.
“I am competing against a standard which is set for lads who are two or even three years older and more physically developed than I am so it is obviously a fairly stiff task. I still hope to make it, however.”
It is this type of unwavering self-belief that leads you to believe that the sky really is the limit for Adam King and his hammer throwing career.
Image credit: Irish Examiner