Ethan Katzberg competes in hammer throwAP/Bernat Armangue
AP/Bernat Armangue

5 fun facts about world champion hammer thrower Ethan Katzberg

On Sunday, Ethan Katzberg of Nanaimo, B.C. shocked the track and field world with his gold medal performance in the men’s hammer throw at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary.

Following his incredible debut at the worlds, here are a few fun facts to help you get to know Canada’s newest athletics star a little bit better. 

1. Katzberg is coached by Olympic medallist Dylan Armstrong

Dylan Armstrong competed in shot put at the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympic Games. Initially, in Beijing, Armstrong missed the podium by one centimetre, finishing fourth. He was later upgraded to the bronze medal in 2013 after a competitor was banned for a doping violation. 

Armstrong’s bronze was Canada’s first Olympic medal in any throwing event in almost a century. Armstrong won medals at the 2011 and 2013 World Championships, which were Canada’s only throwing medals at the worlds until Camryn Rogers won women’s hammer throw silver last year. And now Armstrong’s own protegé has added to that count.

Katzberg moved from Nanaimo to Kamloops after high school to train under Armstrong as well as Dr. Anatoliy Bondarchuk, Armstrong’s coach from his Olympic years, who won two Olympic medals in the hammer throw at Munich 1972 (gold) and Montreal 1976 (bronze).

2. Katzberg is now the youngest ever men’s hammer throw world champion, youngest medallist in the history of the event, and the first Canadian man to reach the podium in the event at the world championships.

Katzberg is only 21 years old. He was the youngest of the 12 men in the hammer throw final by more than a year. He started throwing hammer seven years ago after watching his father coach his sister in the sport. 

Prior to this world championship gold, Katzberg won silver at last year’s Commonwealth Games after throwing 76.36m.

3. Prior to the World Championships, Katzberg had never thrown over 80m.

In Budapest, Katzberg threw 81.25m for the win. This bested the Canadian record he had set just the day before in qualification, during which he threw 81.18m.

After his win, Katzberg fielded a lot of “wait–who are you?” type questions from members of the international press. But Katzberg says that while his success might look like a massive jump in performance that came out of nowhere, he sees these throws as “a long time coming–it’s a very technical sport.”

His personal best heading into the 2023 season was his mark from the 2022 Commonwealth Games. He hit the 78-metre mark for the first time in May before throwing 78.73 metres to win the Canadian Championships in late July. Over the last two years, Katzberg improved his personal best by almost 12 metres!  

4. He beat out five-time world champion Paweł Fajdek, Tokyo 2020 gold medallist Wojciech Nowicki, and the hometown favourite, Hungarian Bence Halasz, for the title.

AP Photo/Matthias Schrader

It would be hard to imagine a more star-studded line-up to compete against at one’s first world championships. In fact, many of his competitors were throwers that Katzberg looks up to and has tried to emulate. 

Katzberg looked like anything but a rookie during this weekend’s competition, but the feeling of being the new kid on the block hasn’t entirely worn off.

“I definitely think that’s maybe fading off, but that’s something that will take quite some time,” 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.”

5. Katzberg gives the city of Kamloops a shoutout as part of his success.

Katzberg credits Armstrong, Bondarchuk, the Kamloops Track and Field Club, and the broader city of Kamloops for all playing a role in his win.

“Big thanks to the city of Kamloops for all they’ve given me and done for me,” Katzberg said. “It’s an unbelievable area. Big names come out of Kamloops.”