We talk to a British hammer thrower on the rise who is feeling his way to the top level
To throw as far as you can is a simple concept, but there is something beautiful about the moment when art and science combine to create a seemingly effortless mark.
Taylor Campbell respects the science, but the Loughborough-based athlete, who qualified for the Tokyo Olympics with a 78.23m effort in early June, admits he’s a man with feelings.
He thrives on the art of hammer throwing and the basic principles he learned as a teenager from coach Paul Dickenson. “I had this nice connection, a feel for it,” he says. “You can’t teach those feelings.”
Campbell, now 24, has been coached by John Pearson – also the technology lead for the innovation team at Rolls Royce – since 2016. Pearson’s approach is fact-based and data driven, but he values Campbell’s zeal and creativity. It’s not so much about logical thinking versus artistic creativity, but a hybrid approach which is proving fruitful.
“[The relationship] works because John has all the knowledge, whereas I just love the event and the art side of it, the feeling side of it,” he explains. “John pulls together all the stuff I like and the stuff I do well and he meets me in the middle. He also keeps me grounded and stops me believing my own hype.”
In a discipline which arguably favours power and technique over passion, Campbell believes his lifetime best throw was at odds with what should be possible based on his current physical capability and some basic engineering principles.
According to his coach, however, it was due to the exact combination of his biomechanics, physical attributes and excellent technique that he threw beyond 78m.
“He may not be as big and strong as his peers (Campbell is 6ft 4in and 107kg), but he has great levers so the orbit of the hammer is big, and he’s brilliant at developing a feel for it,” explains Pearson.
“His ‘hammer awareness’ is exceptional and I’m in no way surprised that he achieved that mark given the way his training has been going. I can understand that it might have felt easy for him because everything came together at the right time in the right competition, but I have seen better throws from him [technically] and I know there is plenty more there.”
Campbell says he’s inspired by his fellow athletes and the positive energy that drives them. There is a collective willingness to succeed and a sense that the mood, or perhaps the attitude, at his Loughborough base has changed for the better in recent years.
“I think in the past people used to moan about how high the standards were, but now if the standard is 77.50m then we just have to throw it, we can’t moan about it,” he says. “We just have to step up and compete.
“That’s the great thing that people like Nick [Miller] and Sophie [Hitchon] have demonstrated. We can do these things. They’ve paved the way and shown us we can do it, now it’s up to us.”
In addition to an Olympic qualifying mark, his performance in Budapest was the second-furthest hammer throw ever by a British athlete (behind Nick Miller). It has given Campbell a new-found confidence and perspective on what’s possible.
At the Tokyo Olympics he threw 71.34m and did not make the final but he is now looking forward to a 2022 season that features the Commonwealth Games, European and World Championships.
“Last year I believe I could have gone high 75m at minimum, possibly 76m,” says Campbell. “When I came out this year I’d had another good winter, but I wasn’t throwing too well. I was throwing 73m and 74m and I wasn’t quite hitting them, but they still felt relatively easy. I was thinking ‘if I can throw 74m easy, then what happens when I really hit it, when I get that feeling again?’”
He found out in Budapest in June. In the end, Campbell’s feelings won over physics. “I trusted the throw,” he says.
It looks likely there’s much more to come.