Kristjan Ceh in the discus at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 (© Getty Images)
What a difference a few years can make.
When Kristjan Ceh made his World Championships debut in Doha three years ago, he finished 31st of 32 competitors in qualifying, well short of making the final.
Fast forward to 2022 and the Slovenian giant won the world discus title with a championship record of 71.13m.
He started as the favourite, having won 13 of his 14 competitions this year, three of which were beyond 70 metres. But he was also up against one of the strongest ever fields in a World Championships discus final and was taking on Olympic champion Daniel Stahl, the one man who has beaten Ceh this year and who last month threw a world-leading 71.47m.
But it was another winner of a past global title, 2017 world champion Andrius Gudzius, who took an early lead in the final. The Lithuanian set out his stall with a 67.31m throw, overtaking the 66.64m set by his younger compatriot Mykolas Alekna. Stahl opened with 66.59m and Ceh landed his discus at 65.27m.
Ceh found better rhythm in round two, sending his implement out to 69.02m to take a comfortable lead. Alekna responded with 67.87m to move into second place ahead of Gudzius. Olympic silver medallist Simon Pettersson of Sweden also made an impression in round two, throwing 67.00m.
But it was in the third round where Ceh blew the competition apart, his discus landing way beyond the 70-metre line. Just moments later the distance was confirmed at 71.13m – an improvement of almost a metre on the championship record of 70.17m set by Virgilijus Alekna, father of Mykolas, back in 2005.
Earlier in the round, Stahl’s discus landed close to the 70-metre line and the distance flashed up as 69.16m, but it was soon ruled to be a foul throw.
The Lithuanian duo hit back in the next round, teenager Alekna throwing 69.27m and Gudzius managing 67.55m, but they continued to trail Ceh. Stahl, meanwhile, produced his best of the night in round five, throwing 67.10m, but it was 45 centimetres shy of a podium placing.
No one in the top five improved in the final round. Australia’s Matthew Denny and Romania’s Alin Firfirica saved their best til last, throwing 66.47m and 65.57m respectively for sixth and seventh place. Alex Rose was close behind, also with 65.57m, achieving Samoa’s first top-eight finish in any event at the World Championships.
For the first time ever in a World Championships final, five men threw 67 metres or farther. Best marks-for-place were set by the athletes in sixth (Denny, 66.47m), eighth (Rose, 65.57m), ninth (Fedrick Dacres, 64.85m) and 10th (Lukas Weisshaidinger, 63.98m).
“I knew I had the ability to produce a big throw, but this is a major championships,” said Ceh. “Of course the main goal was to secure the spot, but the best bit was the 71-metre throw. It was fast circle here but everybody has the same conditions and you just need to trust yourself. We have some time before the European Championships and I want to be the best there too.”
Jon Mulkeen for World Athletics
|MEN'S DISCUS MEDALLISTS|
|🥇||Kristjan Ceh 🇸🇮 SLO||71.13m CR|
|🥈||Mykolas Alekna 🇱🇹 LTU||69.27m|
|🥉||Andrius Gudzius 🇱🇹 LTU||67.55m|