Myhaylo Kokhan won the world U18 title in Nairobi last July by a whopping eight metres and while the Ukrainian doesn't have quite that ascendency over his rivals on the European U18 lists heading into the European Athletics U18 Championships in Gyor, Hungary which begin on Thursday, Kokhan will still be the athlete to beat in the hammer.
This could be a very lucrative month for Kokhan, who leads the world U18 lists with 86.78m with the 5kg implement. He will be competing at the World U20 Championships in Tampere the following week before jetting off to Buenos Aires for the Youth Olympic Games where he will be looking to end his U18 career in style.
When did you start athletics and how did you discover the hammer?
I started athletics in 2012. It was in the javelin throw. I quickly realised that it’s not for me. My father was a hammer thrower and he offered me to try hammer but that was not until 2013. Since that time, I cannot imagine my life without hammer throw.
You once said the World U18 Championships in Cali motivated you to improve your results and to be the championships?
It’s true. I watched the live stream from Cali. It was so interesting and cool. I saw Hlib Piskunov and Mykhaylo Havrylyuk in a competition in Ukraine. They won gold and silver medals in Cali. I found that ‘my’ World U18 Championships will be in 2017 and I decided to try to compete there. And thank God I did it.
If you weren’t a hammer thrower, which event would you compete in and why?
I...I have to think about it. I couldn’t be a runner. Perhaps I would be a shot putter? I also like discus throw but it’s very difficult kind of athletics. To be honest I’ve never thought about it. I’m fully in love with hammer throw and I cannot even imagine anything else.
What is your favourite thing about the hammer?
If we are talking about movement, it’s the end. When I throw it after the fourth turn, when I make every effort, I feel something special. Every day you work on each movement, the position of the feet, the turns and on technique. And then, when you are in the circle and your hammer is flying, it’s bliss.
What is your strongest attribute as an athlete?
When you throw the 5kg hammer, it mostly depends on speed. Speed and technique should be in the first place. Power is not so important yet. Perhaps speed is my primary ally.
What are your favourite and least favourite training sessions and why?
Most of all I love to throw the 5kg and 6 kg hammers. But I don’t like different exercises on one leg. Sit-ups on one leg, for example. I hate it. Over time I’m used to some exercises I didn’t like earlier. I realised that each of them can benefit me.
Does your coach explain you why you should do this or that exercise?
One of my coaches is my father. We discuss at home which exercises to do and for what purpose. There is no surprise for me at the training. My father always explains me everything. Now I’m beginning to understand it all myself. But to be honest when I was a child I didn’t understand many things.
Who is your sporting hero and why?
Bence Halasz from Hungary.
The only athlete who has a better result under 18 than you.
Exactly, he threw 40 centimetres further. I look up to him. Today he competes very successfully with senior athletes as well.
Who has been the biggest influence in your career so far?
I cannot single out one person in particular. Together – my parents, coaches and myself – we achieved everything. Actually, I’ve not achieved anything yet - I’ve only just told you about my achievements in my age category.
What is your proudest sporting achievements so far?
Of course, it’s my victory at World U18 Championships in Nairobi.
Could you tell us about your experience of competing at the World U18 Championships in Nairobi last year?
I came to Nairobi as the world leader. I just needed to repeat the same things that we did in training and to show my result. It was raining really hard during the qualification. We waited an-hour-and-a-half. But after all, qualification was cancelled.
In the final on my first attempt I was guaranteed a place in the top eight. I saw my teammates in the stands and it gave me more energy. I wanted to thank them for their support and in the second attempt I threw 82.31m. The atmosphere at the stadium was amazing. It was the biggest World U18 Championships in the history. Circa 60,000 fans supported us. It was pleasant, but not very easy to compete. It was taking a while to adjust. I was overcome with emotion and under psychological pressure. I made some old mistakes.
I didn’t improve my result that evening. But no matter what, it was enough to win by an eight metre margin. Today I have more competition experience. And I think something like that will not cause any problems in the future.
What are your expectations at the European Athletics U18 Championships in Gyor?
They must be the best of course: I think about winning. But we’ll see what happens in Gyor.
I won European Youth Olympics Festival in Gyor last year. So, I know this town and stadium. Gyor is a lovely, quiet and cozy town. I liked stadium and hammer circle. There are no big stands there, but it’s OK. The circle is standard.
You will also compete at IAAF World U20 Championships. You know your competitors in Gyor. But what about Tampere? What are your expectations there?
I know many of the athletes but I didn’t see many of them in real life. This year I competed at some one-day international competitions and some of them also were there. I'm determined to be optimistic, to show no mercy to anyone and to tear everybody apart.
Is it difficult to compete in two ages categories?
There is no difficulty. I throw all these hammers at trainings. We even throw the 16kg weight.
But it’s a risk of injury for 16-17 years old boy to throw 16kg weight and even 7 kg hammer, isn't it?
Not for us. We are doing everything step by step. We are preparing to it, we are strengthening muscles and ligaments. Without this preparation it’s really dangerous and athletes can be injured.
I heard that you like to study English. Away from athletics, what else do you like to do?
Earlier I did a running cross-stitch.
Yes! I did it when I was in the third and fourth grades. But then I started doing sports and I have other things on my mind. What else do I like to do? I like to see something in the Instagram feed in my spare time. And I get to read the books sometimes.
What do you like to read?
Detective fiction. Especially James Hadley Chase novels. They are interesting and with lots of plot twists. This is a lot to think about.
Did you usually manage to guess the right killer?
It depends on the novel. Sometimes everything is very confusing.
What was the last film you watched?
I didn’t have enough time for visiting cinema, but I like to watch something at home. The last film I watched was “Legend” by Brian Helgeland. It’s a story about Kray twins, which were gangsters. It’s set in London in the 1960s. It’s an interesting film full of tension.
What music are you listening to at the moment?
Modern music and hip-hop.
What is your favourite app?
Instagram and other social media.
How can fans follow you on social media?
On Instagram @misha_kohan_
Many thanks to Olha Nikolaienko at the Ukrainian Athletic Federation for conducting and transcribing this interview on behalf of European Athletics