Britain’s top shot putter this year spoke to AW about his development, training and ambitions
Zane Duquemin started in athletics when he was aged nine. He says: “At the time I was involved in quite a few sports and was pretty quick. I started out as a sprinter, but luckily I was useful at all events – except for anything that involved running further than 200m!
“I injured my adductor when I was 11, which stopped me from running for a few months and so I tried the discus as my older sister was doing a bit of throwing. I took to it fairly quickly and realised then that throwing was for me.”
Coming from Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands, Duquemin adds: “We only had one or two competitions a year and so we had to travel over to England for all of my other events. My club, Jersey Spartan AC, helped fund some of the trips, but it was still very expensive and I’m very lucky my parents were able to pay for me to compete regularly on the mainland. To keep costs down we’d often fly out on the red eye on the day of the competition, which I used to hate as I’m not a morning person!”
Duquemin feels that his breakthrough competition was when winning a silver medal in the discus at his first English Schools championships as a second-year under-15. The No.1 ranked British shot putter in 2013 says: “I had never been to an event of that size before and, even though we were out in the back field, I loved the atmosphere and thus gained my first taste of the buzz that big competitions can give you.”
Although this was a breakthrough competition, Duquemin is keen to emphasise: “I would say that the most important competition for me was a year later and failing to qualify for the fnal at English Schools. This was a real eye opener for me in terms of realising that I could not continue to play rugby and throw at the level that I wanted to and so I made the decision to focus fully on throwing and I then went unbeaten the following year.”
The Shaftesbury Harrier, who is also the second-ranked British discus thrower this year, says that his training has evolved massively over the years and explains: “My London-based coach, John Hillier, drilled it into me from an early age that throwing technique was the most important factor to develop first. The volume of drills and throws was huge and I would head down to the track whenever I was free to throw a discus.”
He continues: “Gradually, the training became more structured and we started to include circuits with plyometrics and medicine ball work, but the emphasis was always on throwing. I was very weak when I was young and I absolutely hated the shot, but John encouraged me to start taking it seriously when I was 16 and that added a new element to my training as I then had two events to train for.”
Duquemin, who studied sports science at St Mary’s University, started lifting when he was 17 and the first year was more about learning technique and getting used to the higher volume of sessions. In recent years, his training has become much more precise and individualised in terms of planning to ensure he gets the most out of his sessions while coping with the extra stresses of university.
The 1.85m tall thrower adds: “I prefer training for discus, but I favour competing in the shot – simply because it suits me better as I’m extremely competitive and can get quite aggressive when I compete in anything. It’s quite difficult managing the two events as I rotate in both. The technical positions are similar, but the timing and feeling is completely different. It makes it very difficult to peak in both events at the same time and we’re still trying to find a way to do this effectively.”
As Hillier plays a pivotal role in Duquemin’s development, the athlete who threw for GB at this year’s European Team Championships in Gateshead is keen to emphasise: “I wouldn’t be throwing today if it wasn’t for John. I was fortunate enough to link up with him when I was 12 as he was coaching Lauren Therin at the time – a discus and javelin thrower from Jersey – and so we’ve been working together for around a decade now.
“His role has changed over the years as he encourages all his athletes to become students of their event and develop their own ideas. The relationship is different now – he acts more as a mentor to me as he has the years of experience that I don’t possess.”
Duquemin is hoping next year to send the shot out to 20m and the discus past the 65m mark. After throwing a PB in the shot at this year’s European Under-23 Championships in Tampere, where he finished fourth, he says: “I’ve proven that I can perform on the big stage and these distances should put me in contention for a top-five placing at next year’s Commonwealth Games and maybe even the podium.
“Long-term, I’m looking to be competitive at global championships. It may be the case that I need to specialise in one event to do this, but I’m convinced I can mix it with the best in the world.”
The multi-event thrower, who recently graduated from St Mary’s with a degree says: “Moving to London was a big move for me and even though it often took me over two hours to get to each session, it allowed me to train with a group of high-level throwers and also see my coach regularly.”
Now back in Jersey training full-time, Duquemin is fortunate that he has funding from British Athletics and his sponsors, The One Foundation, so that he can focus fully on training for the first time. His sponsors also run the Jersey High Performance Programme, which has taken huge steps forward over recent years and provides him with the facilities and support needed.
He says: “Without them I would have to work to fund my athletics, so I can’t thank them enough.”
The 122kg Channel Islander realises: “To get up with the best in the world, my general and specific strength levels need to improve. My technique is now fairly good and relatively stable, but I’m just not strong enough in comparison to the big boys. I’m naturally not very strong and it’s something I’ve had to work at very hard and it may take me a few more years yet to get my strength levels to where they need to be. However, I know I’ll get there and I’m excited to see what distances I can start to produce.”
When asked which performance had given him the most satisfaction thus far, Duquemin says: “I think my performances at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi have given me the most pleasure. I had a bad competition at the World Juniors earlier that year (ninth in discus qualifying), but I learnt from my mistakes and threw just short of my PB in both events and made both finals (12th shot, 10th discus) at just 19 years old.”
Next year he will be competing for Jersey at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow – one of the few occasions that he is able to represent the island. Concluding the interview, Duquemin adds: “Outside of athletics, I’m a very relaxed person and enjoy relaxing with friends and eating. I’m also involved in coaching strength and conditioning in the evenings and also coaching a few young throwers from Jersey.”
TYPICAL TRAINING WEEK (Hypertrophy cycle)
Each training cycle lasts four weeks. During strength and power phases the structure and exercises change slightly but stay fairly similar and the reps in the weight room come down.
Monday: (am) Rest. (pm) Lifting session 1.
Tuesday: (am) Shot session. (pm) Discus session and plyometric circuit.
Wednesday: (am) Rest. (pm) Lifting session 2.
Thursday: (am) Shot session. (pm) Discus session and plyometric circuit.
Friday: (am) Rest. (pm) Lifting session 3.
Saturday: (am) Rest. (pm) Rest.
Sunday: (am) Shot session. (pm) Discus session and plyometric circuit.
Lifting session 1: Clean grip high pulls 3×10; Back squat 3×10; Bench press 3×10; Inverted row 4x Max Rep; Weighted push-up 3×5; Roll-outs 3×10.
Lifting session 2: Snatch grip high pulls 3×10; Front squat 3×10; Push press 3×10; Pull-ups 4x Max Rep; Weighted dips 3×5; Roll-outs 3×10.
Lifting session 3: Deadlift 3×10; Step-ups 2×5 each leg; Incline bench 3×10; Inverted row 4x Max Rep; Weighted push-up 3×5; Roll-outs 3×10.
Shot session: 9.5kg stand throw x6; 7.26kg stand throw x10; 7.26kg full turn x10; 8kg med ball chest push throw 2×6; 6kg full turn x8.
Discus and plyo session: 2kg discus stand throws x10; 2kg full turns x20; 2.5kg *Denﬁ full turn x6; Underarm throw 8kg shot x5; Underarm throw 6kg shot x5; Loaded box jump 3×5; Single leg hops 3×5 each leg; 25kg Disc twists 3×20; Skipping 300 contacts.
*Denfi full turns are simply full turns but throwing a denfi tool rather than a discus – it’s basically a 2.5kg ball on a small chain with a hammer handle.
» The above sessions are specific to the individual athlete and may not be suitable for other athletes