Early on in her profession as a hammer thrower, Janee’ Kassanavoid discovered a easy but essential lesson from her coach, Greg Watson.
The equation for energy, he informed her, was work over time.
Kassanavoid retains this physics lesson in thoughts every time she competes in her chosen sport, which, as legend has it, originated 1000’s of years in the past in Eire when a Celtic warrior grabbed a chariot by its wheel and tossed it airborne. Over the centuries, the hammer throw has advanced into the Olympic sport it’s at the moment—maybe not as recognizable as different monitor and discipline occasions like, say, the 100-meter sprint, however nonetheless staggering within the mastery it requires to carry out on the prime stage: Power, precision, velocity, and pressure stay simply as essential within the sport’s present day because it did in its earliest folklore iteration.
So as to carry out on the pinnacle, Kassanavoid has to maneuver rapidly, exactly, and forcefully to switch power from the motion of her physique to the weighted ball of the hammer, giving it energy to journey a whole bunch of ft. First, she takes a deep breath, then steps into the ring. She winds up, swinging the heavy ball—the one utilized in competitors weighs about 9 kilos—a number of occasions on its lengthy wire. Then, she spins round and round to construct velocity earlier than letting go of the grip at simply the suitable second to ship it crusing. Her longest, personal-best throw is 78 meters, greater than three-fourths the size of a soccer discipline (and the six-farthest throw, ever, within the occasion).
Watson’s pronouncement about energy additionally had one other which means, one which grew to become extra clear to Kassanavoid as she progressed as an athlete. The extra work she places in every day, week, and 12 months, the higher the payoff. With time, all that may mix right into a second that may enable her to actually shine.
The street there, although, hasn’t been easy: In faculty, she coped with a number of accidents and surgical procedures that impeded her progress. After which when issues had been wanting up a couple of years later, Kassanavoid missed the Olympic crew by simply two inches on the 2021 US Olympic Observe and Area Trials.
However in 2022, after eight years of devoted effort, Kassanavoid has clearly come into her energy.
On the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon, this summer season, Kassanavoid gained bronze. In doing so, she’s believed to be the primary Native American girl to earn a medal on the prestigious occasion, as NBC Sports activities reported. She went on to win the NACAC (North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Affiliation) Championships within the Bahamas in August.
“All I wished was to return again fully robust and completely different, and be a type of athletes that was going to proceed to interrupt obstacles,” Kassanavoid tells SELF. “I need to present up, I need to work exhausting, and I need to make historical past.”
As Nationwide Native American Heritage Month attracts to an in depth this week, Kassanavoid continues working exhausting to make historical past not solely in monitor and discipline, however on a broader stage as properly—she desires to encourage extra younger indigenous women to seek out their very own spot in sport, too. And she or he’s utilizing her platform on social media, the place she has amassed over 575,000 followers as @naethrowsheavyrock on TikTok, to assist unfold that message. By posting her successes like medal ceremonies and podium topping together with the much less glamorous elements of sport (together with a wipe-out or two), she takes delight in offering an inside have a look at the what’s concerned in attending to the highest. And by posting nods to her tradition and heritage, she’s hoping the following era of athletes can envision themselves there, too.
A Legacy of Power
Kassanavoid grew up within the small city of Lawson, Missouri, with three older (and in addition athletic) siblings. From an early age, she dabbled in every thing from cheerleading and gymnastics to soccer and softball.