Adam Keenan was a little skeptical the first time he met the man who would become his coach.
Incredible, considering how far Keenan has come in a little more than eight months of training under Dr. Anatoliy Bondarchuk.
Keenan, an 18-year-old hammer thrower, moved to Kamloops in late August to train at the National Throws Centre. The NTC, which features athletes from around North America, is under the guidance of Bondarchuk, who is considered the top throws coach in the world.
But based on the first time they met, back in 2008, Keenan wasn’t so sure about the man affectionately known as Dr. B, who hails from Ukraine and still has a thick accent.
“I was 15 and I couldn’t understand a word he said,” says Keenan, who graduated from Victoria’s Lambrick Park Secondary a year ago. “I was thinking, ‘Man, there’s no way I’m coming here. This guy is terrifying.’ ”
As time passed and the two worked together more often, Keenan figured out what Bondarchuk was saying, and figured out that it was darn good advice.
In Keenan’s first competition after a few months of training under Bondarchuk, he threw a personal best — by a mile.
“My first competition was in (Arizona) in March, and I opened with a three-metre personal best,” Keenan says. “It’s working. I made the right choice.”
As well as things have been going for Keenan, it might be difficult to top last season.
In 2011, Keenan won gold in the hammer throw, discus and shot put events at the B.C. high school championship, and followed up with a first-place finish in hammer at junior nationals. He also won a bronze in hammer at the Pan American junior Games before being named Sport B.C.’s male high school athlete of the year.
Keenan has two main goals this season — to break Jim Steacy’s Canadian junior record with a six-kilogram hammer (74.09 metres), and also do well at the world junior championships, which are scheduled for July 10-15 in Barcelona, Spain.
His great start should help — not a lot of people catch on to Bondarchuk’s methods so quickly.
“Some other guys here said it took a year for them to adapt to his programs,” Keenan says. “My previous coach (Sheldon Gmitroski) used a lot of Dr. B’s methods, so I’ve been exposed to this right from the start.
“It took me a month, a month and a half and I broke right in.”
A lot of what Keenan has accomplished in track and field, he owes to Gmitroski.
Keenan started as a youngster in sprints and high jump, then went to javelin. Javelin led to discus, which led to hammer and shot put.
Keenan said he was “terrible” when he started in hammer, but kept working and, obviously, became quite adept at it. He was considering a few offers from U.S. schools, but couldn’t turn down Bondarchuk’s offer.
“I feel really lucky to work with Dr. B at this age,” Keenan says. “I have all my goals set out and right from my first season, I knew that this is what I wanted to do.
“There’s not a lot of attention in it, but I love it. It’s my passion . . . I’ve played a lot of sports, but this one just took me.”