Chimko’s shot puts her ahead

Jim Schortemeyer

Athletes often talk about going back to basics to improve, and one Minnesota athlete has met with success doing just that.
Nicole Chimko, a thrower for Minnesota’s women’s track and field team, has seen a steady improvement in her results from last season. In fact, she’s already qualified in both the javelin and discus at June’s NCAA Championships.
Her results from last year impressed many track fans. She placed second in the javelin at the Big Ten Championships last season, and placed first or second in the javelin at six different meets — not too bad for a freshman.
This season, her numbers are even more impressive. Chimko’s early provisional qualification for the NCAA Championships, although certainly not unprecedented this early in the track season, is a tad unusual.
She attributes much of her success this year to the return to an old discipline. After a year off from the shot put, Chimko picked it up again over the winter. She says the experience over the winter helped teach her how to throw in competition.
“It’s carried over to discus and javelin. It helped me a lot,” Chimko said.
For someone who hadn’t put the shot in a while, there were no signs of rust on Chimko at this year’s Big Ten Indoor Championships. She placed sixth in the shot put, two spots behind teammate Aubrey Schmitt, and has been improving her results this spring at a rapid rate.
Mirroring Schmitt wouldn’t be a bad idea. After all, Schmitt ended up 11th in the nation in the shot put at this winter’s indoor meet. Still, don’t look for any bad competitive blood between the two.
“Everyone’s your competition, but at the same time it’s nice to have them there,” Chimko said.
Coaches are understandably pleased with the progress Chimko has been making. She’s already throwing eight feet farther than last year in the javelin and coaches are also happy with the psychological growth she’s shown.
“She can make adjustments now without me telling her,” throwing coach Lynne Anderson said.
Chimko attributes the growth that everyone has noticed to her experience at this year’s Big Ten Indoor Championships.
“Even though it was just the shot put, I gained a lot,” she said. “I really had to just go for it.”
Anderson also admitted that she has had to adjust to Chimko’s throwing style.
“She’s a Canadian athlete, and they have a different way of teaching,” Anderson said. “We’ve just enhanced that.”
Chimko, who went to school in Alberta, had a harder time finding a school than she has had finding success.
It breaks down like this: Chimko knows one of Iowa’s coaches, who turned her on to Marquette University. When it turned out Marquette was a little more expensive than she hoped, the Marquette coach referred her to the Gophers.
It turns out that Chimko’s financial misfortune has been Minnesota’s windfall — not that she regrets her decision. She counts the move to Minnesota as one of the best she’s ever made.
And her throwing career has a long way to go before she’s done. Chimko is working now on recuperating from a sprained ankle two weeks ago, but she expects to be more than ready for the Big Ten Championships.
Chimko will be competing in three events at the Big Ten Championships — discus, shot put and javelin — but she isn’t playing favorites.
“What’s weird is I’m actually looking forward to all three,” Chimko said.
What’s really weird is Chimko has a strong chance of finishing better than teammate Schmitt in the shot put at the NCAA and Big Ten Championships, if both make it that far. Her rapid improvement in the shot put, and her continued success in the javelin signal that Chimko has adjusted to college competition.
“Last spring she was throwing discus and javelin, and sometimes she got a little excited,” Anderson said. “This year when she gets in there, she’s learning to just stay calmer.”