Olympian Harold ‘Hal’ Connolly, hammer legend, dies at age 79

Hal Connolly

George Mathews, our masters hammer friend, passes along very sad news: Four-time Olympian Hal Connolly, a track Hall of Famer, died tonight in Catonsville, Md. Effortlessthrow.org also reported the news. Alluding to Tom Gage, an earlier loss to the sport, George writes: “There seems to be a big hammer meet in heaven this summer. We have just lost the greatest American hammer thrower of all time. We need to honor Harold’s passion for youth hammer throwing by getting behind the USATF rule change at this December’s USATF annual meeting that would allow youth hammer throwing to start at age 13, so we may someday develop the world class hammer throwers that he exemplified. Harold told me this was the last time he would be able to fight for his cause. We need to continue this fight and make it happen in his honor.” Statman Bob Gourley, who first reported the news, wrote: “I have just received calls from Adam Connolly and Conor McCullough telling me that Harold Connolly passed away. I don’t have any details, but the hammer throw community has lost a great friend and mentor to so many.” Hal competed in the inaugural 1975 World Masters Track & Field Championships in Toronto, taking third in the hammer. His website promotes the event. He even chronicled its history.

Former world record holder Hal Connolly took third in the M40 hammer at the first masters worlds in Toronto, back in 1975.

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August 18, 2010

14 Responses

  1. Jerry Smartt - August 19, 2010

    Hal was a cool one. We travelled together on National teams in the 1950s and we hit the 1st World meet in Toronto. R.I.P. big guy. Smartty

  2. Cindy Lea Arbelbide - August 19, 2010

    Can you imagine attending a all-comers meet and finding an Olympic Gold Medalist working the pull-thru tape? That’s what we experienced at the Potomac Valley Track Club.

    Harold was incredibly generous with his knowledge and expertise. He was direct and could identify on an individual basis what you needed to do to be better.

    An avid supporter of the high school hammer championships at PVTC, it was especially touching watching him with his young athletes. Equally impressive was watching the adult athletes watch what those young people could do.

    This gentleman’s legacy will live through the athletes he befriended and assisted. Thoughts and prayers to his family.

  3. Ken Stone - August 19, 2010

    IAAF reports the news:

  4. Jeff Brown - August 19, 2010

    My thoughts and prayers are with all that are affected by Mr. Connolly’s passing. I was inspired by his ability to overcome adversity. He will be missed, remembered, and cherrished. Throw 1 deep in heaven Harold!!!

  5. Mickey Miller - August 19, 2010

    Hal rescued a young shot putter from choking to death at the l968 Olympic Trials when the kid tried to lift too much weight in a bench press, even after Hal warned him that he was attempting too much. In the process of lifting the weight off the kid, he injured his left arm, which was smaller than his right arm (which was due to a childhood illness). Even with the injury, Hal made the l968 team. He was “Mr. Hammer” in the United States for decades.
    Its a real loss for American Track & Field.
    My prayers go out to his family.

  6. Ken Stone - August 19, 2010

    NY Times obit is here:

    Includes cause of death:

    Connolly was at his gym doing his regular workout on an exercise bicycle when he passed out, said his second wife, the former Pat Daniels, a three-time American Olympic runner and pentathlete. He apparently hit his head on the concrete floor and died, she said.

  7. Ken Stone - August 19, 2010

    Tom Surber’s obituary for USATF:


  8. Cindy Lea Arbelbide - August 20, 2010

    Ken – The service for Harold is scheduled for Wednesday, August 25, 11 a.m. at:

    Saint John The Baptist Catholic Community Church
    12319 New Hampshire Avenue
    Silver Spring, MD 20904

    For information on the West Coast tribute in September stay in contact with hammerthrow.org.

  9. Ken Stone - August 20, 2010

    Another very good obit by L.A. Times:

  10. Anne Hubert - August 20, 2010

    If anyone knows where to send letters or gifts to his family, please do share it here. Many thanks.

  11. Jerry Bookin-Weiner - August 21, 2010

    Last night the following message was forwarded to a large group of hammer enthusiasts from Harold’s son Adam, himself an accomplished hammer thrower as a collegian at Stanford in the 90s:

    From: Adam Connolly
    To: Adam Connolly
    Sent: Fri, Aug 20, 2010 8:24 pm
    Subject: Harold Connolly Memorial

    Dear Friends of the USATF Youth Hammer Throw Fund:

    I am sad to report that my father, Harold Connolly, died this past Wednesday after losing consciousness and falling from a stationary bike during a workout at his gym. Details on his memorial service are below.

    As you know, Harold devoted the last 10 years of his life to the development of the hammer throw at the youth level. Creating opportunities for boys and girls to learn and thrive at the sport he loved was an all-consuming passion. He did this not only by raising money for the USATF Youth Hammer Throw Fund, but also by promoting the event on hammerthrow.com, personally coaching scores of youth athletes across the country, mentoring coaches, organizing and attending clinics, lobbying the governing bodies for expanded competitive opportunities, and occasionally steamrolling bureaucrats who got in the way.

    His goal was to put an American hammer thrower back on the Olympic medal stand by 2016. He did not live to see this. But with American throwers winning gold at the last 2 World Junior Championships, we have the momentum. In his blog post on Harold’s passing, Walter Henning, the 2008 World Junior Champion, gives a great summary of how Harold helped “boost American hammer throwing to the dominating force it is today.” http://walterhenning.blogspot.com/2010/08/worthy-reason-to-write-post.html

    My Dad’s obituaries will focus on his own athletic accomplishments, but I know he was most proud of the achievements of the youth athletes that he tutored over the past decade. And I know that he would be the first to say that none of it would have happened without you. On behalf of my Dad and the Connolly Family, please accept our heartfelt thanks for your friendship and support of the event that we love.

    Harold would also be the first to note that the work is not over. For now we mourn, but I look forward to working with you on the path forward in the near future.

    Very truly yours,
    Adam Connolly

    Harold Connolly Memorial Service
    Wednesday, August 25, 2010 at 11:00 a.m.
    St. John the Baptist
    12319 New Hampshire Avenue
    Silver Spring, MD 20904-2998

    Reception to follow at the home of Anna and Adam Connolly
    9215 Mintwood Street
    Silver Spring, MD 20901

    Memorial contributions may be made to USATF Youth Hammer Throw Fund and sent to the following address:

    USATF Youth Hammer Throw Fund
    c/o Robert Gourley
    3 Greenville Drive
    Barrington, RI 02806-1217

  12. Ken Stone - August 21, 2010

    Martin Bingisser, another Hal disciple and hammer thrower, posts this nice tribute:

  13. Ken Stone - August 21, 2010

    Washington Post obit focuses on Cold War love story:

  14. Ken Stone - August 21, 2010

    New York Times story says Hal admits being on drugs after 1960:

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