The one-year delay of the 2020 Olympic games may have come at just the right time for a group of young athletes who are now training in Rome two or three times a week.
The Rome Throws Center off Riverside Parkway provides specific training space for the javelin, hammer, shot put and discus events.
Daniel Haugh, Kord Ferguson and Haley Teel all have high hopes of making the team in 2021 in either the hammer, discus or shot put. Whitney Simmons — who specializes in the hammer — thinks that, realistically, 2024 might be her year.
The Tokyo Olympics were delayed until 2021 in late March because of the rapid spread of the coronavirus.
All four of the young athletes are training under the watchful eye of Mike Judge, a former javelin and shot put thrower at the University of Georgia. He has been coaching youth in the throw events for the past 22 years at his Throw 1 Deep Club out of Marietta.
Judge started coaching Daniel while he attended St. Pius X High School in Atlanta, and helped him win a scholarship at the University of Alabama. It was there that Daniel, who finished his career at Kennesaw State, met Kord and Haley. He was able to convince them to come from Tuscaloosa to Marietta after they completed school, to continue their training regimen together.
Haley was No. 2 in the shot put at the USA Track and Field Indoor Championships in February, and would have competed at the World Indoor Championships in China but those games were canceled by COVID-19.
Daniel made the U.S. World Championships team last year after winning the NCAA Division One National Championship. Kord also made the U.S. team, which participated in a dual meet with a European team in Belarus last September.
“I think those three have a real legitimate chance of making the Olympic team,” Judge said.
The team had been training at Kennesaw State but the college decided to turn their throws space into greenspace on the campus. Judge knew Berry track coach Luke Syverson, who hooked him up with Rome High Coach Nick Bridges.
“There are very few places in Georgia that have a hammer cage; they are few and far between,” Judge said. “Daniel throws so far that, most fields, his hammer would land outside the throwing area. Where my club throws, that would be out in the street.”
To make the Olympic team in the hammer, he has to throw 77.5 meters. That’s just 14 meters short of the length of a football field — or 2.7 times the length of a basketball court.
David threw a personal record in practice in Rome Monday at 76.65 meters Judge said if he can get up to the 80-meter mark this time next year he would have a good chance to medal in the Olympics.
“It’ll happen. It’s just a matter of time,” Daniel said.
Haley hails from Portland, Texas. She said Daniel and Kord talked her into moving to Marietta to continue to train with them.
“I moved here with both of them to follow my dreams,” Haley said. “We think Coach Mike is the one that’s going to get us there.”
Kord played just about all sports growing up in Kansas.
“I just gravitated toward the throws because I was bigger and stronger,” Kord said. “I ended up being fairly decent at it and found out you could go to college for free doing it.”
His best toss with the discus is 63.5 meters and he needs 66 meters to hit the Olympic standard. He said the COVID-19 related delay of the games helped him out with another year to train.
“Being 24 is an advantage for me,” Kord said.
Whitney Simmons, from Tyler, Texas, threw hammer for a Division III school in East Texas. She didn’t even know what the hammer was when she got to the school but said her coach told her to give it a try. She was willing to do whatever it took to compete.
Her coach moved to Newnan, Georgia, and knew about Coach Judge so he told her she ought to come to Georgia to continue her training.
“Women’s hammer is pretty (competitive) right now, so it’s going to take me a few years. My biggest focus is on the 2024 Olympics,” Whitney said. “I’m still a ways away but I know that this is the place where I need to be to get there.”
She threw a personal best in training Sunday with a toss of 65.52 meters.
The 2021 Olympics are slated to begin July 23, 2021, in Tokyo. The 2024 Olympics will be held in Paris, France.