Cable ready: US javelin standout making most of home setup
The renovated home of three-time Olympic javelin thrower Kara Winger now has all the training amenities she needs, including cable.
No premium channels available on this cable, though. It’s just a basic wire she and her husband installed in the backyard to help her work on her technique. She throws a metal pipe along the angled cable to simulate javelin tosses.
For Winger, there’s really no place like her Colorado Springs, Colorado, home when it comes to working on ways to stay sharp amid the coronavirus pandemic that’s pushed the Tokyo Games to 2021.
The 34-year-old invents drills that can be conducted on her deck and has a workout partner staying with her in national champion Ariana Ince. There's also Winger's yellow lab, Maddie, who always insists that training time double as toy-throwing time.
“I’m a homebody," Winger said in a phone interview. "So figuring out how to not commute and stay home to train has been fantastic.”
The American record-holder in the javelin takes advantage of the niceties of a home she and her husband, retired discus/shot put thrower Russ Winger, spent about a year and a half remodeling. A glimpse of her current training schedule:
— Mondays and Fridays, drills on her deck and throwing in a nearby park.
— Tuesdays and Thursdays, weight lifting on the deck (access through a basement walk-out door Russ Winger, now a craftsman/operator of Long Draw Woodworks /fly-fishing guide, installed).
— Wednesdays, ball throwing to Maddie (what day isn't?) and the cable program.
— Saturdays, interval training/gymnastics on the deck.
— Sundays, rest.
THE HOME SET-UP
The idea for a cable system dates to her days at Purdue University, where the weather necessitated indoor training and the need for such a device.
Enter her husband, who had their version operational in no time. The wire extends about nine meters (30 feet) from the second story of the house to a back fence post. The metal tube used for throwing is actually repurposed from a cupcake stand her husband built for their wedding. It's thicker than a javelin and slightly heavier.
She takes one step and lets it zip.
The system is at an angle that's shallower than she's used to and helps her build strength.
Another drill is one she describes as “throwing javelins on the moon.”
Envision this: Winger leaning off her patio while hanging on with her left hand to a harness. She tries to keep her left arm long with a three-pound weight in her right hand. It's an exercise designed to put the focus on her non-throwing arm and to drive the hips.
“That tiny moment of your throw can make all the difference in distance,” explained Winger, whose American record of 66.67 meters (218 feet, 8 inches) was set in 2010.
For actual javelin throwing, she heads to a park with plenty of space. It hasn’t been crowded, either, which is always good given the distance thrown and the pointed end of the javelin.
Sometimes, her javelin workouts do lead to conversations.
“There was a lady who was walking her dog one day and she said, ‘Be careful. Don’t hit any puppies,’” Winger recounted. “I was like, ‘I would never do that!’”
THE TRAINING PARTNER
Ince is one of Winger’s biggest rivals -- and closest friends.
They're routinely roommates on the road for big competitions, including in Doha, Qatar, for the world championships last fall and at the Pan American Games in August when they brought home gold (Winger) and bronze (Ince) from Lima, Peru.
When Ince’s access to training in Chula Vista, California, was shut down due to the outbreak, Winger extended an invitation to stay with her and her husband.
First, though, a quarantine. Ince isolated herself for 14 days in her studio apartment in Southern California, before embarking on a 16-hour, rarely stopping drive to Colorado Springs in her Toyota RAV4.
Now, they watch movies together ("Big Fish" the other night), cook together (pork-kimchi tacos for Cinco de Mayo) and above all train together.
“Our friendship is based on way more than javelin,” said Ince, who edged Winger for the title at the U.S. championships last summer. “But it’s really cool to have your really good friend do the same, weird event as you and understand what training is like."
Count Ince as a big fan of Winger's homemade facility.
“It has everything we need,” she said.
Including Maddie, the ball-catching dog.
MADDIE, THE BALL-CATCHING DOG
A familiar sight while they train is Maddie, a 5-year-old playful purebred who’s always bringing Winger and Ince one of her toys to be tossed.
“It’s even better with Ari here, because Maddie gets way more repetitions,” Winger laughed.
Ince estimates she throws about 30 times a week — 130 if tosses to Maddie are factored in.
Maddie was adopted by the Wingers four years ago. It was Maddie’s third home after being labeled as “stubborn” and “high energy."
Winger has another label for her: Perfect.
“To be gifted with this adorable animal who needed me as much as I needed her was so much more rewarding than I ever thought,” Winger said. “She’s just as valuable to my mental health right now as she was back then.”