Vitezslav Vesely in the mens Javelin Throw Final at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Moscow 2013 (© Getty Images)
Top marks returned to the men’s Javelin as big throws were needed to win medals. And overlooking the fact that the winning mark was achieved in round one, the competition was also quite eventful and included some surprises along the way.
There were favourites at the top, an old name coming back to the medals and a new favourite keeping his cool and winning a medal, as well as a total shock from a surprising country to challenge for a place on the podium.
Before the start of the Javelin final, there were three clear favourites. Andreas Thorkildsen, despite the fact the Norwegian had won four straight medals at World Championships, was not among them as his performances this season have not been consistent enough. He did throw 83.05m for third place in the qualifying round here, but that came in the last round and showed that he has trouble finding the good throws. Besides, 83m proved too short to win a medal here anyway.
After the low-key results in London 2012, the only way was up. And the quality at the top did improve considerably from both the 2012 Olympics and the past two World Championships. Thorkildsen’s 89.59m winning mark from Berlin 2009 was higher than here, but on that occasion the silver and bronze medals were awarded to lower marks.
In the surprising Olympic final last summer, Trinidad & Tobago’s Keshorn Walcott emerged as the shock winner with 84.58m, but that would have been almost a metre off the fourth place in Moscow today. In many ways, the London results were flipped in Moscow, with those who did well in London dropping down today and vice versa.
Walcott did not even make the final in Moscow, while the London silver medallist, Oleksandr Pyatnytsya of Ukraine, is not even competing here and the bronze medallist, Finland’s Antti Ruuskanen, finished in sixth place today, but was a long way from the medals with 81.44m.
The competition started slowly for all others, but the two top favourites were in form during the first round. The first big throw came from the 2007 World champion Tero Pitkamaki, who despite being in the favourite position many times, had not won more medals in the other three World Championships he has competed in.
The Finn, coming off a stronger season than in recent years, despite a few late injury problems, seemed to be extremely calm and confident before the competition and that showed with the Javelin landing at 83.40m for an early lead.
That lead only lasted until Vitezslav Vesely opened his campaign with an excellent 87.17m throw. Others would get close during the competition, but quite surprisingly – especially looking at Pitkamaki’s much better series – they could not overtake him.
A fourth-round throw of 83.80m was the Czech’s second-best mark of the competition, and he passed his last throw, having already secured his first global title. It ended the long wait for the 30-year-old, who has been ready to challenge for the medals since 2010, when he broke 85 metres for the first time with 86.45m.
His first championships, the 2010 Europeans in Barcelona, ended with a ninth place with a lowly 77.83m result, but he progressed quickly to a much more complete athlete in Daegu the next year. Although the big throw didn’t come in 2011, he was already considered a contender and missed the medals just narrowly, throwing a season’s best of 84.11m for fourth place.
Last season changed everything as he went twice over 85 metres before unleashing an 88.11m world leader in Oslo and was instantly considered the top favourite to win both the European and Olympic titles. He did squeeze the win in Helsinki at the Europeans in a low-quality competition with 83.72m, but then in London he could not follow the 88.34m bomb from the qualification round, ending up again in the disappointing fourth place with 83.34m.
Vesely bounced back again this year, and not counting one competition in Birmingham where he could not beat 70m, his season has been well balanced and his win in Moscow was a deserved one (isn’t it always when you throw furthest).
Pitkamaki, though, did not go down without a fight. The 30-year-old had waited a long time to win another global medal, his last one being bronze at the 2008 Olympics. He started to approach his best form again late in 2012 after the Olympics, and the Finn opened his 2013 season with a huge series in South Africa in March, with all six throws landing between 82.40m and 86.40m.
An early 87.60m world leading win at the Shanghai IAAF Diamond League meet was a hint at what was to come, but then on the eve of the Paavo Nurmi Games in Turku in mid-June, he had to take a break from competition because of an injury. He returned to action in the last weekend of July to win his sixth national title with 85.70m before going to win with 86.13m in Kuortane two weeks before the Moscow final.
The competition came to life in round two with Pitkamaki showing what he was capable of with an 86.88m throw, taking him much closer to Vesely’s 87.17m leading mark. Others had not shown much with the world-leading athlete Dmitri Tarabin of Russia totally missing his first attempt. But the 22-year-old, competing in a World Championships final for the second time, gathered himself for the second throw, landing at 84.38m for the bronze medal position.
In round three Pitkamaki hit his best throw of the evening, landing just 10cm from the Czech’s leading mark, at 87.07m and agonisingly close to the lead. Ukrainian Roman Avramenko was in fourth place with 81.32m after three rounds with Kenyan Julius Yego, who also competed in the Olympic final, moving to fifth with 81.13m.
Pitkamaki continued pounding with good throws, but his 85.67m in round four and a last throw of 85.22m – for a total of four 85-metre throws in the competition, where three others had only one each – did not help him to improve on the silver medal position, but that was still a big leap up for the 2007 champion.
There was one more twist of drama in the competition and it came from a shocking source. 24-year-old Kenyan policeman Julius Yego, who has been training in Finland, sent his Javelin flying to 85.40m in round five, more than three metres beyond his previous national record of 82.09m from the Kenyan Trials in July.
Yego is the first Kenyan field event finalist in the history of the World Championships and his country’s first ever competitor in the Javelin. Kenya’s best placing in a field event before this was 15th in the Triple Jump qualification.
But in the end there was to be no medal for Kenya in this event as Tarabin passed him in the final round with 86.23m to snatch the bronze.
Avramenko was fifth with 82.05m and Ruuskanen threw 81.44m to match his previous best placing, sixth, from Berlin 2009. In seventh, Thorkildsen’s World Championships medal streak came to end at four. The 31-year-old passed his final throw, finishing the competition with a best of 81.06m from round five.
He has now competed in six successive World Championships between 2003 and 2013, placing in the top eight five times in a row and winning four straight medals between 2005 and 2011.
Mirko Jalava for the IAAF