Hammer throwers take aim in Naples, Italy

Chanell Botsis and Kaila Butler are spinning.

That’s understandable, considering they’re both hammer throwers.

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Botsis, a Dr. Charles Best secondary school grad, and Butler, who went to Terry Fox, are excited to be competing for Canada at their first international multi-sport event, the 2019 World University Games that open today in Naples, Italy.

(Also wearing the red and white will be Port Coquitlam javelin thrower, Brittni Wolczyk.)

For Botsis, the trip to Italy is sweet consolation to salve the disappointment the third-year University of Connecticut student felt when she failed to qualify for the NCAA national championships in Texas as illness hampered her performance at the regional finals in May.

Butler, who attends Bowling Green University in Ohio, finished 12th of 24 competitors at the national meet. She said while the result fell short of her expectations going into the event, she was pleased her one scored throw of 64.64 metres was the third best she’d ever done.

In an email interview from Ohio, where Butler was getting ready for for the World U games, Butler said the toughness of the competition in Texas will pale in comparison to the level of athletes she’ll face at the Universiade.

“[This] will give me a chance to see how I can perform on the biggest stage of my career,” Butler said. “It will really help me to understand where exactly I place in this sport.”

Botsis, who trained in Richmond and was competing at smaller regional meets locally to stay sharp for Naples, said despite the setback of not qualifying for the NCAA finals, she’s happy with the progress she’s made through the season. She threw her personal best of 62.66 m at the Larry Ellis Invitational in Princeton, N.J. in April.

More importantly, Botsis said, her failure to proceed from the East regionals in Jacksonville, Fla. taught her how to put a poor result behind her.

“You can’t dwell too much,” she said, adding she recently threw the hammer just 40 centimetres shy of her personal best at a meet in Langley. “You have to focus on the season as a whole.”

In the days counting down to her departure for Europe, Butler said that focus remained on staying in the moment and honing her own performance.

“I’m trying not to look at the start list too much,” she said of the prospect of facing top international athletes.

Butler said the Universiade will be a test of the technical changes she started working on last season when she redshirted. She changed her rotation prior to releasing the four-kilogram hammer to four turns from three.

“I think that contributes greatly to the increased performance that I saw this past year,” Butler said.

While the two Tri-City athletes, who competed against each other at the high school level and at the Canada Summer Games in 2017, didn’t cross paths last season, they still keep in touch, following one another’s progress on social media.

Botsis said in the close-knit community of hammer throwers, it’s fun to have a friendly rivalry.

“It’s comforting and nice to see other Canadian athletes succeed,” she said.

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