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"How to Become an Olympic Champion" is a video series by coach Vésteinn Hafsteinsson on example of Discus Throw legend Gerd Kanter. The first video series puts focus on Olympic Lifting for Throwers. Click here for more info.

 

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Happy Birthday Vésteinn

Here is an article from Team75plus (Gerd Kanter, Raul Rebane and Hans Üürike) to celebrate the 60th birthday of Vésteinn Hafsteinsson. Article was published on Õhtuleht newspaper in Estonia.

Vesteinn 60

On 25 November, 2000, two meetings took place within one hour that, as it turned out later, changed the lives of all who participated and many more.

That was the day I went to Tallinn Airport to meet and pick up Vesteinn Hafsteinsson, an Icelander whom I had never met before. As we know, first impressions are often decisive. My immediate decision at that point was, “This is the man. He is the right coach for Gerd Kanter!” Something in him instantly instilled trust and that never changed.

It wasn’t easy for Vesteinn either. Based on just a phone call, he travelled to a country he didn’t know at all in order to meet a person whom he didn’t know, who had promised to introduce him to a discus thrower he knew nothing about. I have often thought about what made that spark ignite in him to undertake that kind of an adventure…  

Without further delay, we drove to the sports hall to see Gerd, and then the decision was up to the Icelander. Gerd was waiting for us in front of the building. Later, Vesteinn has described the immense expectation and the fire in Gerd’s eyes, as he looked at him, hoping that maybe someone had finally come along to help him become a better discus thrower. Vesteinn understood that desire right away and at that moment, he also made the decision to take on the task of coaching of this kid, since this kind of natural hope isn’t one that you just leave lying on the street.

That very hour a long and arduous process began that led to the first medal in 2005 at the Helsinki World Cup. It led to success, medals, and more titles than anyone in the history of Estonian athletics has ever achieved.

It is clear that without Vesteinn, Gerd would not have become an Olympic champion. Vesteinn came with completely different knowledge, visions and ideas about the process of how to learn to become a winner. Uno Ojand, Gerd’s assistant coach, said in his characteristically humorous manner, “I’m the head coach, but Vesteinn is the coach with the head!”

Today, Vesteinn is a discus throwing guru. Even a chance to converse with him is a major thing for people in the field. We hope that his new super star Daniel Stahl from Sweden will become an Olympic champion in Tokyo. His win would make Vesteinn the only coach, who has taken two beginners to the podium!

So what is his secret? The biggest one is that he is a natural born coach. He wrote down his first training programmes at the age of 14. As an athlete, he stood out for his unique behaviour, often times teaching his competitors during the competitions – as the saying goes in Estonia, where you see a fault, come and help out.

Vesteinn is a fan of long-term planning. In the fall, he would take 3-4 weeks to calculate and analyse Gerd’s yearly plans, instead of just showing up to practice and telling him to “Go harder!”.

Although he lives in Sweden, as a passionate patriot of Iceland, he fervently roots for his state and is very well updated with all the latest developments. At a conference in Pärnu in 2011, he gave a very well received presentation about the Icelandic financial crisis! How many coaches are capable of that? He is also a top conference presenter on athletic issues, in fact, one of the best in the world. If there’s anything that there’s a lack of at this point is perhaps a book about his work as a coach. Hans Üürike, the manager of all of Vesteinn’s athletes, is sending promising messages of that situation being remedied soon.

To better understand what kind of a man this is, let me just quote a series of Vesteinn’s opinions on sports and life:

The formula for success
Knowledge –
read and learn about what’s new in your field
Experience – organise a system, believe and be patient
Common sense – be decent, listen, feel joy and enjoy life

His philosophy - 
The slowest process brings the fastest results!
  Which means that taking small steps in the right direction is better than running in the wrong direction.
You get good at what you do – a discus thrower has to throw, a runner has to run, and a violinist has to play the violin.

What is important for an athlete?
Training 25%
Resting 25%
Eating 25%
Sleeping 25%

What guarantees success?
Physical talent 25%
Mental strength 25%
Technical ability  25%
Social life  25%

His commandments to himself as a coach
I am in charge
I listen
I organize
I am responsible
I do not know everything
I win and lose
I am patient
I believe
I educate myself
I ask for help
I compete against myself

Vesteinn’s opinion of us Estonians
Quiet, reserved
Good discipline
Great work ethics
A great desire to be good
Respect their country
Thirsty for knowledge
Desire to be modern
Believe in the future

I really want to believe that we haven’t lost one of the characteristics that he values in our people and what in Gerd has developed to the absolute maximum, “You guys still believe that you are capable of becoming the best in what you do, and you are ready to work like crazy to achieve it!” Actually, he is exactly the same himself. Happy birthday, friend!

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Our athletes in 2020

DISCUS THROW
 
1 Daniel Ståhl 71.37m  
2 Simon Pettersson 67.72m  
3 Niklas Arrhenius 66.46m  
4 S. M. Skagestad 63.35m  
5 Nick Percy 63.02m  
6 J. Gardenkrans 60.40m  
       
1 Fanny Roos 55.33m  
2 Daniella Persson 50.97m  
SHOT PUT
 
1 Marcus Thomsen 21.03m  
2 S. M. Skagestad 17.15m  
       
1 Fanny Roos 18.77m