Mykolas Alekna Technical Analysis - Mo Sataaraby Mohamad Saatara
Myoklas Alekna had one of the greatest seasons ever for a collegiate athlete in the discus throw in 2022. The Lithuanian native and son of Virgilijus Alekna attended the University of California and in his freshman year was the winner of the European Athletics Men’s Rising Star Award and European Champion. He was the youngest-ever European discus champion at age 19. He broke the European Championship record with a throw of 69.78m (228-1). Myoklas won the World Championship silver medal becomings the youngest world discus medalist in history with a throw of 69.27m (227-3). In 2022 he threw the longest-ever discus mark by a teenager and fourth-best overall in the world at the BAUHAUS-galan Diamond League meet, taking second place at 69.81m (229-0). He was the Lithuanian Champion and posted a throw of 69.00m (226-3) at the Lithuanian Championships. The US Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) voted him West Region Men’s Field Athlete of the Year and First Team All-American. He was the Pac-12 Men’s Field Athlete and Freshman of the Year and Cal’s first-ever men’s semifinalist for The Bowerman. He finished his freshman season with 6 of the top 10 discus throws in NCAA history, including the all-time record.
Mohammad Saatara, his coach at the University of California, spends over and hour breaking down the discus throw technical features that help Myoklas achieve such a high level. Technical points and technical characteristics are covered prior to a detailed technical breakdown on video of Myoklas Alekna's throws.
Mohamad Saatara enters his ninth season with the California track & field team in 2021-22. He joined the team in August of 2013 as an assistant coach for throwing events.
Since Saatara joined the Bears, his student-athletes have notched 35 (17 men, 18 women) appearances on the school's all-time outdoor top-10 list and 23 (15 men, eight women) on the all-time indoor top-10 list. He has also coached 16 USTFCCCA All-American performances in his eight years with the Bears, as well as five Honorable Mention All-American performances. To date, Saatara’s throwers have reached five standing school records: Mykolas Alekna’s (2022, discus), McKay Johnson's (2020, indoor shot put), Chimoa Amaechi's (2014, weight throw), Chrissy Glasmann’s (2019, javelin) and Camryn Rogers’ (2021/22, hammer throw); he has also coached athletes to six separate Cal freshmen records. So far, Saatara’s athletes have produced 23 NCAA Championship-qualifying performances and two National Championships (Rogers, 2019 and 2021 hammer throw), as well as two all-time NCAA records (Rogers, 2021/22 hammer throw; Alekna, 2022 discus).
In Saatara’s latest season, Pac-12 champion Camryn Rogers stamped her mark in collegiate history by breaking the all-time hammer record and meet record – twice – at the NCAA Outdoor Championships to earn All-American status, capping off the year with a fifth-place finish at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, which was the highest-ever finish by a female Canadian hammer thrower; Saatara was subsequently recognized as an Olympic Coach and received an Olympic ring to acknowledge his presence and contribution. Rogers, Cal’s first track & field athlete to be named to The Bowerman Watch List, also qualified for the 2021 NCAA Indoor Championships in the weight throw and earned the first of her two All-American nods that year. On the men’s side, Iffy Joyner took third place in the discus throw at the Pac-12 Championships, eventually making his way to the NCAA Championships and winning himself an All-American spot.
Despite the lack of a 2020 outdoor season, Saatara’s student-athletes still found reason to celebrate. In his final year at Cal, McKay Johnson broke his own indoor shot put record, winning the MPSF Championship title and reaching his third straight All-American appearance. Teammate Josh Johnson finished right behind in the same event, taking second place as well as All-American honors of his own.
Saatara mentored Rogers on the way to her first National Championship (and All-American nod) as well as the usurpation of her own school record in the women's hammer throw in 2019, a year in which she also first set Canada’s U23 record and placed sixth at the Pan Am Games. Rogers also took first place in that year’s MPSF Championships (weight throw) and the Pac-12 Championships (hammer throw). Not to be outdone, teammate Chrissy Glassmann set a school record of her own in the javelin throw. Under Saatara’s coaching, freshman Iffy Joyner took home a silver medal in the men’s discus throw at that year’s NACAC U23 Championship and qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships in that same event, while fellow thrower McKay Johnson broke his own school record in the indoor shot put on his way to a national appearance of his own (as well as a second-place MPSF Championships finish) along with teammate Silviu Bocancea in the hammer throw. Once again, both Johnson and Bocancea notched All-American honors.
In 2018, Saatara coached Rogers to that year’s U-20 World Championship in Finland, where she took gold in the hammer throw. That win was the first world championship at any level for a Cal track & field athlete, as well as the first-ever throwing gold medal for Canada. As a freshman, Rogers broke the school record in the hammer throw and finished third at that year’s Pac-12 Championships, also taking third in the weight throw at the MPSF Championships. On the men’s side, McKay Johnson broke the school record for the indoor shot put under Saatara’s guidance, qualifying for both the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships (the latter for both shot put and discus throw after second-place conference finishes in each event), reaching All-American status in the former. Shot putter Peter Simon also qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships after placing third at the Pac-12 Championships, as did Bocancea in the hammer throw; both later reached All-American status. Two more discus throwers finished third for the Bears at the Pac-12 Championships – Malik McMorris for the men and Amarie Bremel for the women.
Saatara’s 2017 campaign featured a mix of both veteran and newcomer successes, topped by pupil McKay Johnson’s third-place finish in the shot put at the USATF Junior Championships. Simon also impressed once again, winning the Pac-12 men’s shot put title and earning All-American honors, while women Kendall Mader and Destiny Parker shined at the Pac-12 Championships (third in discus throw) and MPSF Championships (second in weight throw), respectively.
2016’s star thrower under Saatara’s tutelage was freshman Peter Simon, who qualified for both the Indoor and Outdoor NCAA Championships that year and earned All-American honors at the former. At the Pac-12 Championships, Simon placed third in the shot put; his teammate Isaac Dan also took home a trophy from that meet, finishing second in the hammer throw.
In 2015, Saatara helped another athlete – Ethan Cochran – qualify for the National Championships in the discus throw after Cochran placed second in the Pac-12 Championships. New addition Ilse Kaaja earned herself a spot on the podium in the Pac-12 women’s hammer throw, placing third at that meet, while the earlier MPSF Championships featured Amaechi’s second-place finish in the weight throw.
Saatara’s inaugural season with the Bears saw two National Championship qualifiers in Amaechi and Derek White. All-American Amaechi, who broke the school record in the weight throw earlier that year, placed first in the weight throw and third in the shot put at the MPSF Championships, while White took second place in the discus throw at that year’s Pac-12 Championships. Shelby Ashe, another thrower taught by Saatara, also reached the podium at the Pac-12 Championships, winning second in the hammer throw.
Saatara came to Berkeley after spending three seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Michigan, where he supervised all field events for the men’s team and specialized in the throws. Under his direction, the Michigan men set seven school records in the indoor and outdoor shot put, weight throw, hammer throw and the decathlon. In addition, they earned four All-Big Ten Honors in Indoor and Outdoor conference championships.
Prior to moving to Michigan, Saatara spent eight seasons at Northern Arizona University, helping the Lumberjacks to 12 Big Sky Conference men’s and women’s team championships. He has coached over 20 Big Sky individual champions, as well as multiple school record holders in the throws. During his career at NAU, he coached a multitude of student athletes who competed at the NCAA Regional and National Championships, including six NCAA All-Americans and two NCAA Academic All-American awardees.
Saatara has coached and consulted nine Olympians. He has also coached national- and international-level athletes who have set national and international records. Athletes under his care have competed in the Indoor and Outdoor World Championships, USATF National Championships and Olympic Trials, Asian Games and Championships, and CAC Games. He was also retained as a consultant for several national track & field federations and world and Olympic medalists. One of his premier athletes is Golden Bear shot putter Amin Nikfar, whom he has coached since 2006.
Saatara previous served as interim head coach at his alma mater, California State University Los Angeles. He is a former All-American at CSULA where he finished second in the hammer throw at the 1995 NCAA Division II Championships. Saatara holds several national and international coaching certifications and diplomas, including the IAAF/World Athletics Level V Coach (With Distinction), USA Track & Field Level II and III-Throws. He has been a clinician and presenter for the USTFCCCA and other national and international coaching organizations.