Britney Henry: Putting the Hammer Down!

Imagine whipping a hammer – a 4 kilogram steel ball attached by a nearly 4 foot long wire to a handle – around your head before letting it fly.  To me this sounds like a recipe for humiliation if not serious injury.  But for Britney Henry, it’s something she is able to do with perfect “timing, balance, power, and speed.”  The end result looks something like this:

Even though I have never attempted a hammer throw, it is obvious from the video above that hammer throw is an incredibly technical combination of athletic skill and coordination.  Many readers can probably relate their own experiences with an Olympic lift, an action that when done correctly looks simple but involves numerous nuanced movements.  With respect to the hammer throw, Britney Henry has spent the past decade refining and perfecting those movements.

After moving from Alaska, to San Diego, to Spokane, Britney eventually ended up attending the University of Oregon, the mecca for the elite of track and field.  At Oregon, she was an NCAA All-American and won the Pac 10 title in 2007.  Since graduation, Britney has continued to excel and in 2010 threw a personal best of 71.27 meters.

Like several other athletes that we have recently profiled, Britney also trains at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California with her gaze set squarely on London.

How long have you been training at Chula Vista?

I have been training at the Olympic Training Center (OTC) since 2008. I moved to San Diego after the 2008 Olympic Trials to be closer to my family and train at the OTC.

I did have a little twist to my athletic resume – after about a month in San Diego, I flew out to Lake Placid to try out for the US bobsled team.  I made the team and trained in Lake Placid until January of 2009 when I came back to San Diego to get ready to track season.

How did you bridge the gap between college and your training at the Olympic Training Center?

Basically, I just kept myself busy.  Once I graduated from Oregon, I worked whenever I could and trained around it.  It mimics my school life and kept me from over-thinking training and only thinking about training.

When I spoke to Mike Hazle, he mentioned that field event athletes tend to peak a bit later than their track counterparts as there is a larger strength component to their events.  Do you find this to be the case?

Yes, I do.  Not only because Mike is one of my best buddies, but it does take a while for our bodies to get strong enough to hold positions and learn the technique.  I am still refining technical elements that I learned when I first began to throw the hammer.

What does a “typical” day of training for you look like at the Olympic Training Center?

Well, my day is pretty long because not only do I train but I also work.

Wake up at 6:30am

Leave for practice at 7:30am

Warm-up at 8am

Throw for about an hour

Med-ball or General Strength for about 30 minutes

Eat lunch and relax for about an hour and a half

Starting at noon, lift for about an hour and a half

Around 1:45pm get ready for work

2:15pm leave for work

Work from 3pm til 9pm (during which I eat dinner)

Get home at 9:15pm

Bed by 10pm

Repeat Monday through Friday.

Weekends include more sleep and rest.  I do train on Saturday, but it starts when I wake up and get moving enough to function.  It is pretty short and sweet, mostly throwing and a quick circuit or lifting session.


Speaking of lifting, what are some of your personal bests in various Olympic and/or power lifting exercises?

I really don’t keep track of personal bests in the weight room, but I did have a goal last year to Power Clean 100 kg, and I did.

You have stated that you have a goal of competing in the Olympics in London next year.  What areas do you need to improve upon the most to make that goal a reality?

My head (hehe).  My body knows how to throw far, it is just my head that gets in the way.  This year is all about getting my swagger back and knowing that whenever I step into the ring, I am going to throw far.

What people, entities, and organizations have been helpful in pursuing your Olympic objective?

USA Track and Field Foundation – They have been a huge help to my athletic endeavors, financially.  Track and field can be a pretty expensive sport when you don’t have a sponsor, like myself. Every single person within the USA Track and Field Foundation is passionate about helping athletes achieve their goals.  They truly believe in, respect and support the athletes of the sport and it is quite refreshing.

The Britney Henry Project (BHP) – Every single person that is part of the BHP has made sure to get my face out into the world through images, illustrations, videos, and interviews.  The crew is an amazing group of volunteers that have made sure that my story is out there for everyone to read.

My family – I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for them.  They have giving me the strength to be an athlete and take on anything that gets in my path.  Their love and support gets me through the ups and downs of life as an athlete.  I can’t thank them enough for all that they do for me.

I believe you are currently working for the San Diego Padres and would like to work for them after you have finished career as a hammer thrower. Can you describe both the current and future jobs for our readers?

I used to work for the Padres but left my position there in September and took a job working the front desk at Embassy Suites.  The reason is that the USOC and its sponsors have set up something similar to the jobs program that used to be with Home Depot.  Basically, Hilton/Embassy Suites has agreed to work around my training and competition schedule, pay me a fair wage, and I get full medical benefits.  It is a great program and I am so thankful that Hilton/Embassy Suites has hired me.  It is a great company to work for and they truly care about my endeavors.

I also work game days with the San Diego Chargers, which lets me keep a foot in the sports industry and see what goes on behind the scenes of a sports event.  I hope to get back into the sports industry one day but right now I am having a great time checking people in at Embassy Suites in La Jolla, CA.

Thanks Britney and best of luck!

photo credits:  BHP, Brent Haywood