Gotta Get Mad
Words by Sheridan Wilbur
Photography by Emily Maye
With her friendly air and relentlessly positive attitude, it can be hard to imagine the ferocity Olympic Discus thrower Rachel Dincoff unleashes when she steps into the ring. For all her warmth away from the track, it’s Dincoff’s intensity in the heat of competition that took her to Tokyo in 2021, and, she hopes, will one day make her an Olympic medalist. With the Olympics behind us, and the Oregon World Championships a long way off, December is a time to build: strength, speed, timing, technique. And above all: explosivity.
Newly relocated to the warm environment of Tallahassee, Florida, we asked Dincoff for her tips on leveling up – mentally and physically – during the off-season and what’s firing her up to return to the ring in the new year.
Be Strong, Be Speedy
When I got to eighth grade, I decided to do track and field and I actually sprinted. I was a 200m runner, but I also threw the shot put and discus. That was my first taste of throwing. I just kind of fell in love with it. I loved that whatever I put into the sport I could get back.
A lot of people think you just need to be strong but it requires a lot of coordination, a lot of technique, a lot of athleticism. General strength is important, but also speed. You want to be quick and strong within those movements. In the weight room, I'm doing a lot more power lifting and general strength, which will then kind of make its way into Olympic lifting. I want to be as quick as possible when I'm doing and taking these lifts. I want to shoot up through the ceiling. I also do a lot of sprints. A lot of jumps. Explosiveness is the best word for it. Being very explosive is a big part of throwing.
Train with Variety
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, I have weight training. Those can last an hour or two. I’ll also fit in some type of cardio or speed work. I throw four days a week. So I'll throw on top of that Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. Saturday I take off – I think it's very important to just have a break. I'm really big with health and nutrition. I'm making sure I'm replenishing my body, fueling my body all that I need. Especially when it's long days of training and a lot of heavy lifting and you need that fuel. I try to throw before I weight lift because you do want that quality technique. I don’t want to do a heavy leg day and do all these squats and then go and try to throw the discus, ‘cause I'm going to not be very good and probably not practice quality technique. I don't want to practice bad habits.
Struggle is the Way Through
It doesn't matter what level you’re at, everyone has bad days. I don't think I saw enough of that when I was on my journey. I'm sure a lot of athletes feel the same way too. I think it's important to show that I even struggled today in my workout and one of the athletes was like, “Wow, that was really interesting to see that you still struggle too.” And I'm like, “Oh yeah, I cry often.” It just takes time to learn. It takes time to understand that. People told me this, but it wasn't until I experienced it and learned it, through my own journey and my own self, I really started to understand what it takes to get to that elite level and how to practice at an elite level - where you can take a bad day and brush it off.
Do What Feels Good Before Competition
I usually lift the day before, but do a very quick workout. There are also throwers that will lift the day of competition and do something to kind of wake up their body. Just what feels good. Sometimes when I don't lift before, I'm almost too fresh to where it takes me out of my rhythm that I've established throughout the year.
Bring Heat Now, Chill with Competitors Later
When you walk into the ring, it's kind of a whole new persona and it’s a switch you flip on. The funny thing about throwers is we're all friendly with each other. And once the meet starts, it's just like, “I'm there to beat you,” but you go and grab pizza afterwards with everybody. I kind of love that. I do this more at practice right now since it's just fall training. We're all kind of relaxed and then you step up to the squat rack and you got X amount of weight on there, and you’re about to squat a house. You just gotta get angry! You gotta. You gotta believe in yourself. Like, “I’m about to do this!”
It's a weird flip, but you get that and then you just about pass out. And you laugh. Every day is a tally mark and those tally marks add up. But within those tally marks, there's gotta be an intent, a fierceness to it. One day doesn't determine the rest of them. That intensity just adds up and it’s good to practice because that's what I'm going to have to pull from when it comes to stressful moments. It's important for me to practice that mentality because I'll have to pull from it eventually.
I have the tendency to be too friendly when it comes to training. Something I’m working on this year because I talk to a lot of other elite athletes and that fierceness is something I want to bring more of. I can catch myself just trying to beat my own self, or forget that I'm competing against these girls. I need to beat these girls. They might be my friends, but I need to bring that anger, that fierceness, because placing matters. I want to do my best, but I need to make sure I beat these girls, because when it comes down to those big meets, when it comes down to making a team, people might not be throwing their best that day, but sometimes it doesn't matter. You got to just beat those girls and get the place to get the money, to get the spot on the team. I don't care if you're the best in the world. I don't care. If I have all these big dogs here, I'm here to win and bring that fire, you gotta bring some fire. That level of fierceness when you focus on beating your competitors can also bring out the best in you because it can channel something inside you that can potentially lead to a PR or a personal best. Using the competition vibes or the aggression that you're getting from competing against your competitors could bring out something amazing in your own self, because you don't get that at practice. It's good stuff. Yeah. I love it.
To Know Oneself Takes Time
It's all about timing. Even if your technique is extremely good and all the positions are good, if your timing is off, you can throw out the sector. It takes a lot of experience to figure out how you as an athlete will react. If I know my adrenaline is going to be high and I'm going to be rushing things, I need to make sure I'm trying to calm myself and just focus on what I can to slow down. It's honestly a lot of repetition, a lot of trusting and what I prepared for and knowledge of my own self as an athlete.
Aware of Where She is,
Where She Wants to Go
Throwing takes a lot of body awareness. You have to know where you are in the space within a second or two. It's fascinating how you can just feel in a very quick movement what can be on or off. You have to make a split decision on how to adjust to compensate for that. Throwers usually have really good body awareness. I've always been a good athlete. I don't know if people looked at me in college and said well,she's going to be an Olympian one day, but that's something I always knew for myself. I knew from eighth grade, when I first started, I wanted to be an Olympian. I always believed I could do it. The thing was, I just didn't know how long it was going to take. I had to take a lot of time to figure out what it took to get to that level. How do I throw like they throw? That it took a long time. Now I want to win a gold medal more than anything. I don't know how long it's going to take. I'm going to do everything I possibly can to make it a reality. I’m going to give it the patience it needs and the time it needs and the dedication that it needs. I’m going to go for it.