Christina Obergfoll in the womens Javelin Throw Final at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Moscow 2013 (© Getty Images)
Statisticians A Lennart Julin and Mirko Jalava look back on the best throws performances of the year with Julin covering the men’s events and Jalava the women’s.
Men’s shot put
Glide vs rotation – Europe vs USA. The shot put world has for some years now been technically and geographically divided into two evenly balanced sides.
Statistically speaking, the US spinners have had a slight upper hand, but for major outdoor titles the balance has tipped in favour of the European gliders.
North American spinners Christian Cantwell, Dylan Armstrong, Reese Hoffa and Ryan Whiting have won all four (2010-2013) IAAF Diamond League series while four of the five latest global titles have gone to European gliders with Tomasz Majewski and David Storl winning two each.
This year Whiting was undisputedly the best as 10 of his 11 competitions were between 21.27m and 22.28m while world champion Storl had just one beyond 21.19m. But that meeting, of course, was the most important of all, the IAAF World Championships, where he threw 21.73m to Whiting’s 21.57m.
The rising star of the year was Czech Ladislav Prasil who started the year with a best of 20.14m but during the season he averaged 20.78m across his 18 competitions. He finished fifth in Moscow and was consistently in the top four in his six Diamond League appearances. At 23 years old, Prasil will be a strong asset for the European gliders in years to come.
In his last year as a junior, New Zealand teen prodigy Jacko Gill concentrated on the 6kg implement and succeeded in his ambition to break Storl’s world junior record.
When Robert Harting’s 34-month winning streak came to an end in Hengelo on 8 June, it certainly couldn’t be called a failure as the German produced his third-best ever throw that day with 69.91m. But he had to succumb to the seventh-longest throw in history – and the longest ever in an international meet – as Poland’s Piotr Malachowski threw 71.84m.
But at the IAAF World Championships in August, Harting once again came out on top, throwing 69.11m to Malachoskiw’s 68.36m. Winning his fourth successive global title, 28-year-old Harting has thrown between 68.27m and 69.43m at all six major championships since 2009.
Experience has always counted in the discus – typically the average age of the top 20 on the 2013 world list was 29 – and former world and Olympic champion Gerd Kanter at age 34 finished third in Moscow before winning the Diamond Race over Harting and Malachowski.
But there is also a new generation, even if Briton Lawrence Okoye unexpectedly at age 22 left to pursue a career in American football. In Moscow both 20-year-old Viktor Butenko of Russia and 22-year-old Julian Wruck of Australia reached the final. The latter had even looked like a medal contender during the early part of the season, but he wasn’t able to maintain that form into August.
This has traditionally has been an event where you ‘grow into success’, one example being Hungary’s Krisztian Pars who last year at the age of 30 finally reached the top of the podium, eight years after his first 80-metre throw and after eight top-seven championship finishes.
Pars was dominant in 2013, compiling nine 80-metre competitions, two more than all the other throwers combined. Pars also won all but one of his competitions. Unfortunately for him, that one loss just so happened to be at the IAAF World Championships where Poland’s Pawel Fajdek rose to the occasion and improved his PB to 81.97m to win by one-and-a-half metres.
Fajdek this year had lost his four earlier encounters with Pars and finished just third at his national championships.
The Moscow bronze also went to Czech Lukasz Melich who at age 32 got his first ever international medal. His first five championship starts all ended in the qualification round but at the 2012 Olympics he reached the final and finished sixth. He built on that in 2013, heading into Moscow with six meets between 79-80m, qualifying for the final with his first attempt and then securing the bronze with 79.36m.
Super veteran Koji Murofushi nowadays competes almost only at major championships, having competed at just four other meetings over the past three years. But that didn’t stop him from winning in Daegu 2011 and taking bronze in London 2012. This year, however, he had to be content with sixth place.
For several years this event was very much a Nordic two-man show run by Andreas Thorkildsen and Tero Pitkamaki. Between 2004 and 2011 they accumulated no less than 12 of the 24 Olympic, World and European medals available – and they were even more dominant on the circuit.
But in recent years both have had injury problems and throws in the 90-metre region have become scarce, as no one else has stepped up to fill the void.
While Thorkildsen and Pitkamaki reached the elite level early, Czech Republic’s Vitezslav Vesely was a slow starter, not surpassing 80m until age 25 and not becoming a real factor internationally until age 28.
However, in the past two years he has been the most prolific at 85m-plus and after fourth-place finishes in 2011 and 2012, he got his well-deserved global gold in Moscow.
Vesely’s toughest opponent at the World Championships was a rejuvenated Pitkamaki who had his best year since 2007. He topped the world List with 89.03m, had 10 competitions at 85m-plus and his three losses were all to Vesely.
Throwers to watch next year include Moscow bronze medallist Dmitriy Tarabin and Kenya’s Julius Yego, who finished fourth in Moscow with a PB of 85.40m. Teenage sensation Keshorn Walcott, the Olympic champion, was unable to match his 2012 form due to injury.
Women’s shot put
These days, what happens in the women’s shot put simply revolves around what Valerie Adams does. The 29-year-old from New Zealand is unbeaten in 42 competitions since August 2010 and has won the past three world titles and the past two Olympic gold medals.
This year marked her third consecutive season with no defeats, but it wasn’t all easy. On one occasion at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene in June, she only edged past China’s Gong Lijiao in round five to win with 20.15m against Gong’s 20.12m. After that, Adams found better form and her win at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow was never in doubt.
Adams’ 2013 season included 12 finals with marks over 20 metres, taking her career total of 20-metre throws to 72. Her best result came at the Zurich Hauptbahnhof, where she set an Oceanian indoor record of 20.98m.
Germany’s 27-year-old Christina Schwanitz grabbed her first major medal with a huge last throw in Moscow. She broke the 20-metre line for the first time in May in Shanghai, but was in fifth place with 19.74m at the World Championships until a final-round PB of 20.41m gave her the silver medal with Gong winning her second World Championships bronze medal with 19.95m.
Sandra Perkovic enjoyed a season in the discus almost comparable with Adams in the shot. The 23-year-old Olympic and European champion from Croatia was unbeaten in 2013 prior to Moscow. Her form was excellent with four competitions with marks over 68 metres, a distance no-one else could beat this year.
With Li Yanfeng, the reigning world champion, out with a back injury, Perkovic secured her first world title with her opening throw of 67.52m. She then bettered that with 67.99m in round two and had a 67.80m throw in round four, much farther than the surprise silver medallist Melina Robert-Michon.
The 34-year-old Frenchwoman was already in second place before her last throw of 66.28m, a national record which surpassed her own 65.78m mark achieved more than 11 years ago.
Perkovic won 11 of her 12 competitions during the season, the only loss coming shockingly on home soil. USA’s 34-year-old Gia Lewis-Smallwood hit a personal best of 66.29m to win in Zagreb in September against the Croatian’s 65.63m.
Li returned to competition in September with a 63.41m throw at the National Games.
For the women’s hammer throw, the 2013 season was a high standard one. Poland’s 28-year-old former world record-holder and 2009 world champion Anita Wlodarczyk was back to her best form with Germany’s world record-holder Betty Heidler and Russia’s Olympic champion Tatyana Lysenko also in the picture.
Lysenko, 30, was easily the favourite going into Moscow, having thrown a world-leading 78.15m at the Russian Championships held at the Luzhniki stadium. Wlodarczyk also had a promising 76.93m at her National Championships, but the first drama in Moscow was in the qualification.
Heidler, also 30, had won all of her nine competitions before the World Championships, with a 76.48m season’s best in June and her lowest result being 73.93m at the National Championships in June. On this evidence it seemed impossible, but the German went out in the qualification in Moscow, only reaching 68.83m for 18th place.
It meant the final was a duel between Lysenko and Wlodarczyk with the Russian entering the competition as the reigning champion from Daegu 2011 and started the competition with a strong 77.58m effort.
Wlodarczyk briefly took the lead in the middle of the competition and threw national record of 78.46m in round four, but Lysenko had set a national record of her own as the previous thrower in the same round. Her 78.80m was enough to secure the second straight title for Lysenko with Wlodarczyk taking the silver.
There was a surprising Chinese duel for the bronze. Zhang Wenxiu had previously already won two world bronze medals in 2007 and 2011, while countrywoman Wang Zheng went to Moscow with a 72.78m PB, set when winning the Asian Championships in July. A PB of 73.17m in the qualification and a massive 74.90m second-round effort were enough for a shock fourth place finish with Zhang winning her third World Championships bronze with 75.58m season’s best.
In the javelin it seemed clear that 2011 world champion Mariya Abakumova would have no trouble in retaining the title in front of her home crowd in Moscow. In the absence of world record-holder Barbora Spotakova due to pregnancy, the 27-year-old Russian started her season with a big 69.34m throw at the European Cup Winter Throws in March.
She was not very consistent during the season, but a 69.09m first-round effort in qualification in Moscow made her an overwhelming favourite for the final.
But this time it didn’t work out for Abakumova, who finished with a bronze medal and a disappointing 65.09m in the final. Instead the competition marked the end of a long wait for 32-year-old Christina Obergfoll, who had previously won two world and European silvers, an Olympic silver and a bronze.
The German only lost once before Moscow in her eight starts and reached a season’s best of 69.05m in round two, finally winning the big title in Moscow. Abakumova brushed aside her problems and set a world-leading 70.53m in Berlin in September for her third career 70m competition.
Australia’s Kim Mickle was the surprise name on the Moscow podium. The 28-year-old qualified confidently with a 65.73m personal best, her first 65m throw, in the qualification and then went over 66m in the final twice with her best mark of 66.60m coming in round six for the silver.
A Lennart Julin and Mirko Jalava for the IAAF