To the untrained eye, hammer throw and figure skating might seem like chalk and cheese.
But when you watch Sultana Frizell in the hammer cage on Tuesday 10 April, look out for the early influences that shaped her dominance in the sport.
Frizell is a two-time Commonwealth Games hammer throw champion, dual Olympian and the Commonwealth Games and Canadian record holder.
She started her athletic career on the ice and competed in figure skating. As she kept growing - Frizell is 183cm - she started to think she might be destined for another path and gave up the sport at 16.
“Puberty. That’s exactly what happened,” Frizell told GC2018.com.
“I hit puberty and game over. Our figure skaters, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, I was coming for them and then puberty hit and ok, time to be a hammer thrower.”
While the similarities between the sports might not be obvious at first glance, Frizell is certain the prowess on the ice has paid dividends in the hammer cage.
Specifically, the spinning part.
“Figure skating has definitely helped hammer throwing in a sense that when you’re spinning and you’re not throwing up and you’re able to spin back out of it, it’s pretty good,” she said.
“Being able to do the four revolutions in there and try not to hit the uprights is a good idea. I have good spatial awareness and all that good stuff.”
Frizell won her first Games gold in Delhi in 2010, before successfully defending her title in Glasgow and setting a Games record of 71.97m, but she is the first to admit that three-in-a-row won’t be an easy feat. The 33-year-old has had a challenging couple of seasons. A foot injury in 2016 meant she didn’t qualify for the Rio Olympics and she just missed out on the 2017 IAAF World Championships.
But if everything goes her way, a third gold medal isn’t out of the question for the Canadian athletics team co-captain. Her Canadian record of 75.35m would clear her own Games record by almost four metres.
“I would absolutely love to win again,” she said.
“I took an injury in 2016 so it hasn’t really been the best and I haven’t been over 70m since my injury.
“I know that there are girls who can go over that, but we’ll see on the day and you know, anything can happen.
“The fight and drive is definitely not gone and if I absolutely connect with one, who knows.”
Frizell is a character on and off the field. Talking about the balance required to compete in hammer throw, she recounted a story where one of her teammates was lying on the ground when an ant crawled into her ear.
“We were torturing her that the ant had laid eggs in her inner ear,” she laughed.
Frizell has been based in Australia for the last month, calling the Gold Coast home to prepare for the Games. With her local connection and larrikin sense of humour, there’s a chance the crowd at Carrara Stadium could adopt her as an honourary Aussie.
“I got the SIM card, I got the car, I basically live here,” she said.
The crowd at Glasgow Games was one of the highlights, according to Frizell, and she has high hopes for the spectators looking on at Carrara Stadium.
“It’s been pretty magical, the last couple of golds,” she said.
“Delhi was an awesome one and Glasgow was amazing. Where the hammer cage was, pretty much right behind the cage was all hammer fans so you could totally hear them and vibe off of them the whole time.
“I’m expecting the same from Australia, just so you know! Get out there, 9 o’clock at night on a Tuesday.”
But even with the support of the stadium behind her, it’s going to be a tough battle for the gold medal.
All three medallists from Glasgow are returning to the Games and while Frizell holds the Games record, the other contenders have showed they’re ready to challenge Frizell for the crown.
“Sophie [Hitchon] is amazing at international level competitions, the main events, so she will definitely be out to fight and Jill [Weir] has been really consistent this year.
“We have the three podium people back for this Games so we’re definitely in this bit of a wrestle.”
Hitchon, representing England, won bronze in Glasgow and will enter the competition with the season best of 73.97, with Julia Ratcliffe (New Zealand) winning silver behind Frizell. Jillian Weir, also a Canadian, has a season best of 72.50m.
It’s a reunion of sorts and having competed together before, the hammer throwers get along – “off the field,” Frizell clarified. On the field, she won’t be holding any punches.
“On the field, I am going to slice you up. All of you,” she laughed.
All of the world’s top 25 set to compete at season’s first major
photo Getty Images
photo Getty Images