AMY CHRISTIANSEN-PALMER: American Hammer Throw Record Holder
Her strength is at an unbelievable level and her desire to capture the world hammer throw record is just a high.
By Reed Sainsbury
Published: Summer 1999
When Amy was a freshman in high school she was approached by her friend's dad, Reed Thomas, and encouraged to come out for the track team, and try throwing. Amy decided to take his advice, since she was the reigning arm wrestling champion at Grantsville High. Shortly after joining the track team, she entered her first meet and won. Hard work and a lot of practice on her technique paid off for Amy as she went on to become the 2A state champion in the shot put, discus and javelin. To win a state championship title is quite an accomplishment, Amy took state in the shot put all four years of high school and three times in the discus and javelin. Despite the fact that Amy is very strong and powerful she is also amazingly fast as she was the anchor of the Grantsville High 4-by-100 relay team.
Adding to her list of success, Amy was a starter on the volleyball team. Her mother Helen explained how when Amy jumped up to spike the ball, you could see the look of fear in the opponents eyes, for they knew that ball would be spiked with an almost unstoppable amount of power and speed.
After having a tremendous amount of success in high school, Amy went on to share some of her talent with BYU's track team. Her first year of college she was named All-Western Athletic Conference (indoors), while taking 2nd in the shot put and All-WAC (outdoors) for winning 1st in the shot put. When she competed in the NCAA outdoor championships she placed 8th with a 50-4 shot put. Later she competed in the USA Canada track meet in which she won 1st place and then hit the USA Junior Nationals and won it with a 51-3 performance. This qualified Amy for the USA Junior Team. She traveled to Lisbon, Portugal to throw and finished 11th overall, at the World Juniors.
As a sophomore, Amy kept her throws soaring to the top as she was All-WAC indoors and outdoors, with a 1st place finish in both the 20 lb. Weight throw that she sent sailing 53-6 1/4 and a 52-4 shot put. She competed in the NCAA championships and took 5th in the shot put, both in the indoor and outdoor meet. She was named All-American and qualified to participate on the US National Track and Field Team.
When 1996 came, Amy was through playing games. She shattered school records when she heaved the shot put 55-7 feet. She wasn't satisfied breaking just one record, so in the 20 lb. Weight throw she launched it 65-9.75 feet, a new school record and third best in the nation! She was awarded Performer of the Meet at the WAC indoor championships. She competed in the US Olympic Trials placing 5th with a 57-7 shot put and was once again named All-American.
She continued to throw but things didn't go as planned. She was plagued with frustrating back injuries that suppressed her talents. Disappointed and discouraged she finally had to discontinue throwing the javelin due to the extreme amount of stress it placed on her back. Perhaps the ordinary common athlete, would have quit and given up on throwing, but not Amy. She adapted, overcame and altered her training in a way that allowed her to continue throwing the shot put and discus.
Then it happened, Amy found her true love, (that is next to her husband Rick) she was introduced to the hammer throw. Believe me, I have been privileged with the opportunity to watch Amy train and it is truly impressive. I couldn't believe the intensity and the tremendous amount of energy this athlete is able to generate and thrust into the hammer throw. As she unleashed every ounce of energy that she was able to put in that throw, I thought to myself, "Man, the great cannons of the civil war would have been put out of business if Amy could have been there to launch one of her hammer throws."
When Amy competed in the Texas Relays, a top event on the US Track and Field circuit, she crushed Dawn Ellerbee's American hammer throw record of 210-8, by nearly ten feet. Amy stepped in the ring using her three turn spin technique, hurled that hammer towards the blue sky, setting a new American record of 220 feet 1 inch, third best in the world! Incredible, for someone who has only been throwing the hammer for three years.
Tapio Kuusela, an Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting champion from Finland (who also happens to be an old lifting buddy of BFS President, Greg Shepard), is Amy's coach. He commented on Amy's technique by explaining, "Most throwers use four turns, but Amy will never have to learn a fourth turn because she reaches her max speed in three. The fourth turn was designed for people who are quick, but not explosive. Being explosive is talent." Kuusela is a former BYU All-American hammer thrower himself.
Since Amy picked up the hammer in 1996 she has only gotten better. It is amazing that Amy has only been throwing the hammer for such a short time and is doing so awesome. This last year she placed second in the hammer throw and fourth in the shop put at the NCAA finals. She competed in the US Track and Field Championships and took second place. Having so much success, she was selected to participate in the Pan-Am Games and took third. While competing in the Goodwill Games in New York, she won the bronze medal. Coach Kuusela said, "Amy is a very talented athlete that knows what she wants. Good athletes need to be able to think and understand and Amy does a good job at that. She has lots of potential with a good power level, but it is not fully converted at this point. As a young athlete still in the beginning phase of hammer throwing, she has a real shot at breaking the world record."
Weight training is very crucial to a thrower's success. Coach Kuusela explained, "the power clean is the most beneficial lift you can perform for the hammer throw, but remember, as a hammer thrower, she only trains with weights, to help benefit the throw."
So what is the key to Amy's success in the hammer throw? Many coaches and teammates claim she has great technique and I will agree to a point, but, the key comes from her great explosive power, which she has developed through training with heavy weights. Amy is the strongest female athlete I have ever met in my life. I watched her power clean 220 for 3 reps with perfect form as if it were nothing. Then we went over to the squat rack where she worked her way up to 410. She was just recovering from the flu and said she wasn't feeling that great, I can't imagine how she trains when she is feeling well and at total capacity. I was disappointed to hear from Coach Kuusela, that I had just missed watching her squat 520 for a new personal record, a few weeks ago. Since then, Amy has moved into a different training phase where she focuses on taking the brute strength that was gained from heavy weight lifting and incorporating it into throwing the 8.8 pound ball they call the hammer.
Amy loves to explode on the weights. Her favorite exercise is the power clean. Her best is 253 lbs.! Since her attention is focused on the hammer throw she doesn't bench press, but she has done 275 lbs.
Many athletes in this day and age have stumbled across road blocks in their lives, yet managed to overcome these trials to be labeled champions. Perhaps the rough and rocky road they have been forced to walk is what polished them into first class, fine tuned athletes. Amy is an athlete that has had to work hard to overcome adversity. When Amy was in high school her parents divorced. As we talked about overcoming hardships and coping with negative aspects in life, Amy commented by saying, "Everyone has obstacles and you can make them to be as big as you want, it's just the way you go about handling them. The important thing is how you react and deal with the problems, that's what makes you a better person. I could have used my Dad's drinking problem and my parent's divorce as an excuse not to be happy and accomplish my goals, but I didn't. Some people choose to use negative things like this as a crutch to lean