Olympians Step Into Spotlight at Lannigan Field
May 10, 2013
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CHARLOTTESVILLE — Forgive Bryan Fetzer if he likes to brag about Martin Maric and Ehsan Haddadi, the coaches who work with the throwers on UVa’s track and field team. He knows that Maric and Haddadi are unlikely to bring up their athletic exploits without prompting.
“It’s neat to watch them,” said Fetzer, UVa’s director of track and field/cross country. “You’re talking about two very humble guys, and I think that’s probably one of their biggest positive attributes. They’re not going to brag about what they did. They just go about [their business].”
Maric, 29, is one of Virginia’s full-time assistants. He’s also a two-time Olympian in the discus for his native Croatia.
The 28-year-old Haddadi, who’s from Iran, is a volunteer assistant who joined the Cavaliers’ staff this year. He earned the silver medal in the discus at the 2012 Olympics in London — Iran’s first Olympic medal in track and field — and, like Maric, also competed in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
“He’s going to have a shot in the next year or so to break the world record,” Fetzer said.
Maric and Haddadi, not surprisingly, figure prominently in UVa’s recruiting pitch to throwers.
“Absolutely,” Fetzer said. “You can train with the Olympic silver medalist. You can train with a two-time Olympian. There’s no other program in the country that can say that, and to have that experience [is invaluable].”
Maric is in the twilight of his competitive career, but he’s not done yet. He and Haddadi are the among the marquee names entered in this weekend’s Virginia Challenge at Lannigan Field, a two-day meet featuring collegians and select professionals.
At 6 p.m. Friday, Maric and Haddadi will compete against athletes from Duke, Furman, Virginia State and Marietta College in the discus. Also entered is one of their pupils at UVa, senior Tom Marcucci.
“I’m not going to say no,” Marcucci said, smiling, when asked about the opportunity to throw against two Olympians.
“It’ll be interesting,” said Maric, who joined Fetzer’s staff in September 2012. “I’ve known Ehsan for a long time now. We competed together for the last five years, and we’re good friends. So it will definitely be a good thrill to throw with him again. Last time we competed together was at the Olympics [in London], so it will be a good experience again. It will be a good meet. We have a lot of good schools coming.”
Maric smiled. “I don’t know if I’m going to get a good placing. It’s going to be very competitive.”
Haddadi’s status as a volunteer assistant allows him to train with the Cavaliers. “Anytime you have somebody that’s that good, at that high caliber, training around, it kind of picks up the mood and atmosphere a little bit,” Fetzer said. “And he’ll be a lot more involved as we go on in the future, as he gets familiar with things. The plan is for him to be here for the next couple years.”
Having Haddadi on the staff has been great, Maric said. “He’s a very good guy, very knowledgeable, very experienced, and he’s helping out the team a lot. He’s very friendly. He always likes to talk about track, and obviously he’s very good at it. He’s been a big plus.”
Haddadi hopes to compete in the 2016 Olympics, Fetzer said. Maric, meanwhile, is “kind of on what I would call his victory lap,” Fetzer said. “He’s ready to transition into full-time coaching mode.
“Generally after your last Olympics, you do a victory lap, as they say. You go and throw in some meets because you’ve got this name, and you’ve built up a prestigious pedigree.”
Next weekend will find Maric in China, throwing in the prestigious Shanghai Diamond League meet, “which is fantastic for us for recruiting,” Fetzer said, “because not too many coaches in the country have that experience.”
Maric said he’s still “in OK shape. I can still compete in world championships, I still have the standard. So I’m [planning on] just going and enjoying these last couple meets, and then after that it’s going to be very, very difficult to be keeping up with the big guys.”
Full-time coaching limits his opportunities to train, Maric said, “so what physical strength I have is maintenance from last year. Next year it will be impossible [to throw at an elite level]. And I don’t miss it at all. I enjoy coaching.”
Maric coaches the discus, shot put and hammer throw at UVa. (Another assistant coach, Mario Wilson, works with the javelin throwers.)
For various reasons, Virginia’s roster is light on throwers, but Fetzer said that’s “a part of the program that we’re definitely going to build significantly. We’re going to build it the right way. We’re probably never going to have an enormous group, because in track and field you don’t need an enormous group of anything. But at the same time we want high quality and high caliber, and the folks that we’re recruiting now are the best kids in the country.”
The NCAA meet’s preliminary rounds begin May 23, and the Virginia Challenge is an opportunity for more Cavaliers to attain the marks needed to qualify.
“All our athletes are competing in it,” Fetzer said.
Admission is free for the meet, which begins Friday at 3 p.m. Among the other schools represented at Lannigan Field will be Duke, Georgetown, Virginia Union, Richmond, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Syracuse and William and Mary.