Sultana Frizell’s Canadian record throw in March stands as the 11th best toss in the world this season. Photo: Klaus Andersen / Athletics Canada
By Dan Plouffe
Event: HAMMER THROW
Residence: KAMLOOPS. BC
Associations: OTTAWA LIONS
Previous Olympics: 2008
Personal best: 75.04 M
When Sultana Frizell missed out on qualifying for the 2011 IAAF world track-and-field championships, there was about a week where she was walking around “like somebody kicked my puppy.”
But that didn’t stop the Ottawa Lions hammer thrower from moving on and reaching the London 2012 Olympics. After all, she’d been through worse – like when she was 13 years old and wound up breaking her arm in multiple places at her grandmother’s farm.
“My grandma told me to stay out of the barn, so what did I do? I went into the barn, I fell down the hayloft and completely broke my ulna and radius,” Frizell recounts in her trademark unabashed style. “The chute that was normally closed had hay over it so it looked like it was closed.
“And you know what I fell on? A huge pile of sh--. The only thing that didn’t kill me is that my uncle did not remove the sh-- out of where the hayloft came down, so I didn’t hit cement – I hit poop.
“What broke my arm is that I hit the chute door on the way down. They ended up airlifting me to the Children’s Hospital.
“If someone told me not to do it, I was going to do it regardless, and I was going to do it in a big way. If I’m going to break a bone, I’m going to do it so badly that I need to be flown somewhere.
“It was pretty epic. It was pretty awesome.”
They breed ’em tough out in the Ottawa Valley.
Frizell grew up near Perth and had never seen hammer throw before she picked up the ball-and-chain herself at Perth and District Collegiate Institute. She says there’s no question who helped her most to reach the Olympics: “Mammabus.”
“Car rides, back and forth to Ottawa, I couldn’t have done it without that woman,” notes Frizell, whose outgoing, uncensored personality has deep roots in her family. “Grandma is 93 and still can kick my ass. She tells me what she thinks every time I see her.”
After making trips in to train with the Lions track-and-field club from Grade 10 until the end of high school, Frizell moved on to the University of Georgia and shot up the senior ranks.
In 2007, “the Sultana of swing” moved to the national team’s throws centre in Kamloops, B.C. and set four Canadian records the next season to earn a place at the 2008 Olympics. Frizell wasn’t pleased with her 33rd-place result, but did pick up some lessons from Beijing.
“Don’t let other people dictate your time and what works for you,” says the 27-year-old, noting logistics can be a major challenge at the Games. “It feels really great to be going for Round 2. This time will be a little bit better placing.”
Frizell continued to improve steadily – recording a top-10 finish at the 2009 world championships – until last season. It was a trying campaign where Frizell wasn’t throwing anywhere near her previous distances, and she wound up missing out on qualifying for the 2011 worlds – the biggest event in her sport prior to London 2012.
“I just knew I was going to have to fix some things technically and refocus and I knew I would make the Olympic team. There wasn’t really any question in my mind,” Frizell recalls. “I knew that I had way more in me, and for some reason, worlds was just not in my cards and I just had to let it be. That worlds year was just one of those blips in an athlete’s career that just go, ‘OK, how much do you want it?’”
Frizell has come back strong this year, establishing a new Canadian benchmark with a 75.04-metre throw in March and surpassing the Olympic qualifying standards on several other occasions.
“If I throw my best in London, I will definitely be in contention for the bronze medal,” states the 11th-ranked women’s hammer thrower on the planet. “I’m probably in my best shape of my career this year. I have all the faith in the world.”
Wed., Aug. 8 – Qualification, 10 a.m. ET
Fri., Aug. 10 – Final, 1:35 p.m. ET