Thankfully, Adam King doesn’t take offence easily.
Any sporting endeavour that doesn’t involve an O’Neills football in the slice of heaven on earth that is Ballinskelligs is subject to the commencement of a no holds barred line of enquiry.
And when the sport in question is hammer throwing...
“Don’t worry, you are not the first to ask that question,” laughs the 17-year-old who represents Ireland in the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China this week.
“I’ve always been into athletics and about four years ago on a summer camp in Castleisland we were given the chance to try out the different events, hurdling, long jump and so on. And that was how I started hammer throwing.”
From day one, it was obvious King had found his calling. All the complex component elements required to master the sport came naturally to him. Within a season he was crowned All-Ireland U14 champion; since then he has claimed national records at U15, U16 and U18.
The massive strength required is useless without technique and King hoovered up whatever advice was sent his way. Crucially too, he had been taken under the wing of Brian Akers — one of the foremost coaches in the country.
Training, though, was a challenge. Flinging a hammer weighing up to 5kg requires space, and lots of it. In the early days King would journey to Killorglin and Castleisland for purpose-made facilities. When he needed to work out at home he commandeered ground in the shadow of the Old Reenroe Hotel overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. “I used to train down by the abandoned hotel but I could only do that in daylight. So in the end my dad decided to build a hammer throwing arena in the field alongside the house. We put down a big slab of concrete, a big net and a few lights. And off I went”
And the net is especially important. “The net is great, it cuts down on having to go down and pick up the hammer every time you throw it! Otherwise you are up and down the field all day or night!”
Don’t be fooled into thinking the sport is simply about hurtling the hammer as far as possible. That is merely the end result of a huge training programme.
“It now boils down to two sessions — gym work and throwing sessions. The gym stuff is all power based which isn’t surprising. The throwing sessions are all about technique. It is a very technical sport so it is all about repetition. In the course of a single week I might have five sessions minimum. A throwing session could last for an hour-and-a-half.”
Journeying to training is an endurance sport in itself. “My coach, Brian, is based in Bodyke in East Clare. From my house in Ballinskelligs it is about an hour to Tralee where I get the bus to Limerick. Brian collects me there and takes me back to his place. That trip takes about four hours. To cut down on travelling I stay with him and his family for a few days at a time. His daughter Alice is my age and we train a lot together.”
Akers can’t disguise his regard for young King. Nor does he want to. Hammer throwing in Ireland seldom has to reach for the protective cream given its lack of days in the sun.
And when that attitude changes, Akers is delighted to soak up the rays.
“Adam is outstanding in Ireland, he has broken all the records in his age categories and has the potential to be one of our best. He is a big fish in a small pond at home but has reasonable expectations in China.
“What makes him stand out? He is a natural competitor who has been handed a God-given gift. It is very difficult to succeed if you have one without the other.
“In the early days we saw that he had this natural ability for finding a low point before the throw. He had that before he could learn to throw properly. It was just there.
“But the mot impressive thing is the way he took to challenges and tasks. In the early days we would only see him once a week or a fortnight. We would give him a certain technique to work on and develop. And every time he came back to us he would have that lesson practiced, practiced, practiced. Mentally and physically he is so committed which is some achievement given all that he is balancing in terms of school, sport and the travelling.
“Throwing is often a distant, forgotten cousin in athletics in terms of profile and recognition. And again that is what makes Adam’s drive and desire all the more commendable.”
This week the sport has taken Adam King to China where he mixes with the best and brightest underage talent on planet.
“I’m absolutely delighted, it is the highlight of my career. All the family are heading out — my dad Brendan, my mother Noreen and brothers Liam and Mark.
“It is my seventh international event I was in Azerbaijan earlier this year, that was a strange place.”
Though King stands 5ft 11ins he is, in his own words, up against the big boys in China.
“I’m up against the best in the world. My personal best is 71.9m but the world record holder in my age group is throwing it a full 15 metres further that me.
“Admittedly he is a freak of nature — the Usain Bolt of hammer throwing. !Realistically I would be delighted with a top-eight finish.”
And yes, of course we did ask if he ever played football.
“I did and really enjoyed it. I played football all the way up to U16 with St Michael’s Foilmore but the injury risk was too much so I had to pack it in. But the support down around home has been great considering it is viewed as such a strange sport.”
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