This is Elliott Denman’s third column. The 89 year old is writing remotely, and this is the first time he has missed a World Champs since 1983!
The Pride of Kamloops
BY ELLIOTT DENMAN
The Fraser Canyon Gold Rush began in Canada’s southeast British Columbia in 1858 and raged on and on for decades.
Don’t you remember?
All this was very big news “back in the day,” as they say.
Nearby all that, BC’s Kamloops was incorporated in 1893 and became the HQ city for all those seeking instant riches.
Well, here it is, 130 years have flown, and Kamloops is again generating golden global headlines.
Credit a 21-year-old resident named Ethan Katzberg for putting his adopted hometown back up there in the bright lights.
He’s a very big guy – maybe even still growing – of 6-feet-6 and
240 pounds – who has been one of the biggest – maybe even “THE
BIGGEST” – upset winners thus far at the 19th World Championships of Track and Field now raging in Budapest.
With his monster 81.25/ 266-7 hammer throw in the fifth round of the event in Hungary, the long-haired, mustachioed Katzberg turned all those pre-Worlds form charts into hearty heapings of goulash. All at once, he set an all-time Canadian record and a World 21-and-under record and was the youngest-ever hammer medalist at Worlds while showing the youthful potential to eventually challenge the “ancient” world record of 86.74/284-7 set by the Soviet Union’s Yuriy Sedykh all the way back in 1986
A mere 2.38 meters separated him from the World meet record of 83.63 set by Belarus’s Ivan Tikhon at Osaka in 2007.
Needless to say, not very long after that monster toss plopped into the National Athletics Center Stadium turf, and a few minutes more until the sixth and final round was in the books, there was major “Khaos in Kamloops.”
Pardon that misspelling, but, it seems, they have been playing around with linguistics in that part of Canada for quite some time,
With the name of the town itself, for instance.
Katzberg’s now-home haunts were once indigenous Native Canadian territory.
Pre-eminent (as Wikipedia tells us) was the Shuswap Tribe, and their language was termed Tk’amlups. From Tk’amlups came Kamloops, and from Kamloops to Badapest, half a world away, came Ethan Katzberg.
His 81.25 winner surely stunned the global elite, who never really reckoned him to be a leading world candidate.
Hungary, of course, has had a distinguished history in the ball-on-a-wire event, giving the world such greats as Imre Nmeth, Jozsef Csermak, Gyuka Zsivotsky Balasz Kiss, and Krisztian Pars, all Olympic champions. And then more.
So these Hungarian Worlds turned into Bence Halasz’s golden opportunity to restore the Magyar hammer dynasty, and his opening round 80.82 took the lead and looked extremely promising.
In fact, it held up as Number One and the lead until Poland’s redoubtable Wojciech Nowicki – 2021 Olympic champion – whirled and unloaded an 80.83 in round 4 to edge in front by a single centimeter.
The real excitement was just ahead – but it wasn’t what Hungarian fans expected. Or Poland’s expected. Or about any but Katzberg’s nearest and dearest expected.
To his top rivals, Katzberg’s fifth-round 81.25 was a bolt from the blue. And his sixth-round 81.11 was simply icing on the cake, the cherry on top of the hot fudge Sundae.
Nowicki’s fifth-round 81.02 was his best of the day and held up for the silver. Halasz never bettered his opening 80.82 and claimed the bronze.
Poland’s Pawel Fajdek, the winner at the last five Worlds, had rare
problems staying in the ring and fouled three of his six. He wound up fourth with his exact 80-meter opener.
Two Americans made the final 8 cut, and surprisingly, it was Daniel Haugh (sixth at 78.64), two spots ahead of National champion Rudy Winkler (76.04.)
Unlike so many other Canadian greats who made their marks on the world stage after honing their skills at colleges south of the border
– beginning with such lustrous Maple Leafers as Earl Thomson
(Olympic high hurdles king via Dartmouth) and Dr. Phil Edwards (five-time Olympic bronze medalist out of NYU) – Katzberg is home-coached.
Based at Kamloops’s Thompson Rivers University, he’s trained under the expert guidance of Dylan Armstrong (the 2008 Olympic shot put bronze medalist for Canada), and backed up – at the Kamloops Track and Field Club – by Dr. Anatoliy Bondarchuk (who’d been Armstrong’s coach after taking the 1972 Olympic hammer gold at Munich for the Soviet Union.)
With some 115,000 citizens, Kamloops ranks as Canada’s 36th-largest municipality.
Originally from Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island, Katzberg became a Kamloopser two years ago, primarily to build on the promise he’d shown in his teens.
Not long after they hung the gold medal around his neck and draped it with the Canadian flag, Katzberg said “It hasn’t quite set in yet that I’m the World champion.
“You might have to ask me again in about a month or two.”
And then a shout-out for his hometown.
“Big thanks to the city of Kamloops for all they’ve given me and done for me. It’s an unbelievable area. Big names come out of Kamloops.”
At the moment, none bigger than Ethan Katzberg.