Series30 Nov 2015

Personal bests – Joe Kovacs


Joe Kovacs in the shot put at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 (© Getty Images)

Joe Kovacs earned the biggest prize of his career when winning the world shot put title in Beijing earlier this year. We chat to the US thrower about some of the best and greatest things in his life.

My best achievement in athletics

It is definitely reaching this point in my career and becoming a world champion. To win the world title and compete at the IAAF World Championships was in many ways the fun part, while my greatest achievement was simply making the team. When I was in Beijing, I was relaxed and could simply get after it. The final in Beijing turned into a battle and I was ready for some big throws. I learned a lot from this experience, but it was also very satisfying to win this for my coach, Art Venegas.

My greatest rival

I have many rivals in the US with any number of us in any given year going for the same goal. I used to train with Ryan Whiting (two-time world indoor champion), who is one of the best shot putters in the world and one of my main rivals. We are both from Pennsylvania, we used to train together at Penn State and we used to share the same coach. He did not make the US team for the 2015 World Championship which is a loss, but the pair of us help motivate each other to throw further. 

The best piece of coaching advice

Since I started working with Art, I would say every piece of advice has been the best piece! Until working with him I’d never taken the next step. He has showed me that I can be the very best and he can articulate it in a bunch of different ways.

My best friend in athletics

I train at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista and I would say I am very friendly with the whole group of athletes there. We have such a good group, which totalled about 12 medallists at the US Champs and eight or nine of them who competed at the Beijing World Championships. It is great to be on the same US team as so many athletes I train with daily.

The best competition venue

I’m going to say the Bird’s Nest Stadium, where I won my World Championships gold medal. I’ve never been in a stadium with such amazing architecture or as many watching spectators – it was like nothing else I’ve ever competed in. It is a piece of art work, an Olympic Stadium and a national stadium – a place with energy. I remember watching the Olympics on TV in this same stadium seven years ago when the people competing there were my heroes. It was great to compete here in 2015 and look at all the images around the stadium of the many events that have taken part in the Bird’s Nest.

My greatest disappointment

They are part of the sport. Nothing stands out as a disappointment. I’m disappointed when I don’t execute how I wanted. I’m disappointed with some results, but I think every disappointment reveals a learning experience. During college I never knew how to take that next step up. Since graduating from college, I have found that ability.

My greatest regret

I don’t look back and have any regrets. I’ve always been a big planner and if you regret things too much it shows you didn’t perform when you were supposed to. 

My best ever throw

I hope to answer that soon! Not one throw stands out in my mind, but a whole number of throws I’ve taken, I believe, are stepping stones to a bigger one.

My greatest indulgence

I like to indulge in turning off my mind. That has really helped me perform at my best this season when I went in attack mode from the start. I unplug for a couple of weeks at the end of each season. That’s a big indulgence for me, especially going into a big year in 2016.

The best athlete I have ever seen

I’ll say Usain Bolt. He is among the greatest athletes in history who does not know when he is beaten. His victory to win gold over Justin Gatlin by one hundredth of a second in the 100m at the 2015 World Championships was impressive. He was vulnerable following a difficult season, but to still execute and hold his head high was amazing to see.

My best achievement away from athletics

I’m proud of my two degrees in energy economics and petroleum and natural gas engineering. I look forward to using them in the future.

The best pre-competition song

Sometimes I don’t listen to music, but if I do I normally like to listen to something newer. I used to like listening to the rock, but I found I would get so angry this caused me to become too tight and waste my energy.

Steve Landells for the IAAF