World Athletics is deeply saddened to hear that Estonia’s Juri Tamm, a double Olympic bronze medallist and former world record-holder in the hammer, died on Wednesday (22) at the age of 64.
Tamm was one of the world’s best hammer throwers of the 1980s. Along with his two Olympic bronze medals, he also earned world silver in 1987, briefly held the world record in 1980, and racked up 118 throws beyond 80 metres, spread across 45 competitions in a 12-year span.
Born in Parnu in 1957, back when Estonia formed part of the Soviet Union, Tamm took up athletics in 1972 and soon naturally gravitated towards hammer throwing. Within a few years he had progressed to become one of the country’s top U20 athletes in the discipline, and by the late 1970s he was already among the top 20 in the world.
Tamm’s first big breakthrough came in 1980 at the National Spring Games in Leselidse, where he went up against the likes of Olympic champion Yuriy Sedykh, former world record-holder Boris Zaichuk and Sergey Litvinov.
Sedykh took an early lead with 78.30m, but Tamm bettered it later on in the first round with 78.82m. Sedykh then went out to 79.60m with his second throw, but Tamm once again responded with a superior 79.70m.
This continued into the third round with Sedykh throwing a world record of 80.38m. Not to be outdone, Tamm hit back with 80.46m, another world record distance. That remained the best mark of the day until round five when Sedykh threw 80.64m, a distance which eventually proved sufficient to win. The world record had been broken three times in one competition with Sedykh and Tamm producing two of the shortest-lived world records in athletics history.
Later that year, Tamm claimed Olympic bronze behind Soviet teammates Sedykh and Litvinov.
A few years later, Tamm earned his first major international title, winning gold at the 1983 World University Games in Edmonton.
Tamm produced his lifetime best of 84.40m in 1984 and would have been one of the medal favourites at the Los Angeles Olympics had it not been for the Soviet boycott.
The 1985 season was one of the best of Tamm’s career. He won all but one of his competitions, threw beyond 80 metres in 12 of his 13 outings, posted a world-leading mark of 84.08m, and notched up victories at the World Cup in Canberra and the European Cup in Moscow.
Tamm earned world silver in 1987 and a second Olympic bronze in 1988. By the time of the 1992 Olympics, Tamm represented the restored independent Estonia. Aged 35 at the time, and having set a season’s best of 81.86m earlier in the year, Tamm finished fifth with 77.52m.
He went on to compete at the 1994 European Championships, 1995 World Championships and 1996 Olympics, in what was his fourth Games.
Following his retirement in 1996, Tamm moved into politics. He was a Member of Parliament for the Social Democratic Party in Estonia between 1999 and 2010 and served as Vice President of the Estonian Olympic Committee between 2001 and 2008.
Sedykh, Tamm’s long-time teammate and rival, died earlier this month.