Harold Connolly, Olympic Hammer deity, R.I.P., by USATF, note by Larry Eder

In less than twenty-four hours, two of my biggest heroes, Hal Connolly and Scott Davis
have died....a thoughtful obituary by USATF....please keep Mr. Connolly's family in your
thoughts and prayers....Harold Connolly competed, coached and promoted a website on
the event he loved...


Update, August 20, 2010-Thoughtful piece by Phil Hersh on the passing of the two greats,
Scott Davis and Hal Connolly:
http://newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/sports_globetrotting/2010/08/track-and-field-loses-two-of-its-best-halconnolly-scott-davis.html

Olympic hammer throw great

Harold Connolly

dies

INDIANAPOLIS - Four-time Olympian, 1956 Olympic gold medalist and former men's hammer throw world record holder Harold Connolly died on Wednesday.  He was 79.

Following his triumph at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Connolly represented the U.S. in three subsequent Olympics, finishing eighth in 1960 and sixth in 1964 before failing to qualify for the final in 1968.

Recognized as one of the greatest hammer throwers in track and field history, Connolly broke the world record six times, helping to place the U.S. in the forefront of an event that historically had not been one of the nation's best.

A graduate of Boston College, Connolly won 12 national titles, including nine in the hammer outdoors and three indoors with the 35-pound weight throw. While at Boston College, Connolly took up the event to strengthen his left arm, which was slightly withered at birth and weakened from injuries in football and wrestling.

By 1955, he became the first American to surpass 200 feet, throwing 61.39m/201-5. That was just the beginning of his record-setting exploits. He gained his first world record with a throw of 68.52m/224-10 shortly before the 1956 Olympics.

Wearing ballet shoes to improve his footing in the concrete ring, he beat long-time world record holder Mikhail Krivonosov to win the gold medal in Melbourne. Also in 1956, Connolly grabbed world attention when he met Olga Fikatova, the Olympic women's discus champion from Czechoslovakia. A romance developed and they were married in October 1957. They divorced in 1975, but a son by that marriage, Jim, later became an outstanding decathlon competitor at UCLA. Connolly subsequently married the former Pat Winslow, a three-time Olympian in the 800 meters and pentathlon. Their youngest son, Adam, carried on his father's tradition, ranking third among U.S. hammer throwers in 1999.

After retiring from competition, Connolly became a schoolteacher, manager of Special Olympics International, and publisher of a web site to promote his event, www.hammerthrow.org.

Connolly coached American standouts such as Kevin McMahon before turning his attention to teaching youngsters about hammer throwing, and becoming USATF's Youth Hammer Throw Chairman.  For the past decade Connolly conducted clinics across the country advocating the inclusion of hammer throwing at USATF youth events.

Earlier this year, Connolly's USATF Youth Hammer Throw Development Program was awarded a grant by the USATF Foundation of $7,500 per year for four years that will support training grants for up-and-coming 13-17 year old youths, and could also defray travel and room and board costs at a one-week camp for top male and female throwers. Through these increased efforts to improve the quality of youth hammer throwing in the U.S., it's no coincidence that Americans were victorious in the men's hammer throw at the two most recent World Junior Championships, with Walter Henning winning in 2008, and Conor McCullough capturing gold last month in Moncton, Canada.  Both were mentored by Connolly.

 

About USA Track & Field
 
USA Track & Field (USATF) is the National Governing Body for track and field, long-distance running and race walking in the United States. USATF encompasses the world's oldest organized sports, some of the most-watched events of Olympic broadcasts, the #1 high school and junior high school participatory sport and more than 30 million adult runners in the United States.
 
For more information on USATF, visit
www.usatf.org

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