After he threw 10.82 in Canada last summer, Sam took a short break and then continued his training. For each competition Sam goes through a training cycle designed to get him to “peak” or throw his farthest at a particular point. He will rest, and then build up to an intense workout schedule about a week before a meet. He will then rest and try to get a massage immediately before a meet. From late August to November, he went through the paces of his cycle.
He began hitting the pool Tuesdays and Thursdays at Los Medanos College for fitness exercises and stretches. The water fitness class takes advantage of the unique properties of water that enable the heart to work more efficiently. There is “hydrostatic” pressure on the body surfaces that helps the heart circulate the blood by aiding the veins in returning the blood.
On Mondays and Wednesdays he got out on the field and threw, keeping his practices to exact replicas of the competition. He practiced telling his coaches how to set up his chair and then took exactly the same number of warm-ups and throws allowed in a meet.
Every other evening found him at the 24 Hour Fitness, a sponsor of the Paralympics, lifting weights and working on leg strength with brother, Brad as spotter. Every week he and Brad took one or two trips to the 24 Hour Fitness at the Sun Valley Mall for lap swimming and some time in the steam room. He kept a log, recording the weights (150 to 250 pounds), the practice throws (10.5 to 10.87)and the laps (6-10)
Sam made a conscious effort during this time to keep up his water intake, carrying two bottles of water in his backpack, (full in the morning and empty that afternoon). He decreased his candy intake and increased the protein and fiber in his diet. He continued to stretch and have regular massages to his shoulders and back. He also took every opportunity to get in some aerobic exercise by rolling home from BART up the hill. Hand cycling, as always, was also a valuable part of his routine. He and his brother, Brad and cousin, Ryan, completed the “Rev 25 miles” in October.
Later in October he flew to San Diego for Training Camp at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista. There he doubled his efforts with a throwing session and weight session every day. He increased the weights and number of repetitions. A former Olympian and Olympic coach, Bill Godina, gave him tips and a workout plan for the rest of the time before the games.
When he returned from Chula Vista, he lifted heavy weights and threw, (sometimes with a heavier shot) and then tapered off to 75% a week before he left for the games.
On Wednesday November 9 Sam left for Houston, Texas. In Houston, he met up with the team and received his Guadalajara, 2011 gear. He also received a flyer with explicit instructions on what clothing to wear at certain times. There was a new suitcase containing a backpack, shoes, khaki pants, a polo shirt, a hat and hooded warm-up jacket to wear on the plane, a warm-up suit for medal ceremonies and various additional shirts and shorts. There was even a pair of Oakley sunglasses and a pair of slip on Nike sandals for wearing around the pool. Everything is Nike, of course, including the suitcase, backpack and shoes as Nike is also a Paralympic sponsor.
In Houston, the team went through customs and processing. The next day they flew to Guadalajara, Mexico.
The Telmex Stadium, near the University of Guadalajara, was the site of the Pan American games a couple of weeks before the Paralympians arrived. As there was for the able bodied competition, there was a beautiful opening ceremony and plenty of security for the Para Pan American competition. Helicopters flew over the stadium and the military and police presence was heavy. The team stayed in “The Village” and travelled by bus to the “Revolucion Training Center” for workouts when they were not competing. That same bus took them to the “Auditorio Telmex” for their events. There were large crowds at the Telmex. They were larger than those for the World Games in New Zealand. Sam said the upper sections did the wave at one point. It was very exciting.
On November 16th 2011 Sam Craven threw the shot put 10.6 meters for a gold medal at the Parapan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. Two days later he won silver in the discus. The hard work paid off.
After a couple weeks rest Sam will begin a new training cycle with local coach, Jeff Polock. He will begin training for London!