Thomas Rohler, winner of the javelin in Turku (© Anssi Mäkinen)
For the second consecutive year, organisers of the Paavo Nurmi Games, an IAAF World Challenge meeting in Turku on 11 June, are offering one of the most unique incentives in the world of sport: break the Finnish all-comers records in the men’s discus or javelin throws, and you’ll be handed a deed to an island in the Turku Archipelago.
Mac Wilkins, the 1976 Olympic champion from the US, has held the record in the discus since 9 July 1980 when he threw 70.98m in Helsinki. Finn Aki Parviainen set the javelin mark with 93.09m in Kuortane on 26 June 1999, a national record that still stands. The bonus was offered for the first time last year, but only extended to participants in the javelin.
The meeting in the southwestern city of Turku has long been known for its high standard in the throwing events. Swede Daniel Ståhl, the current world leader at 70.56m, contacted organisers sharing his desire to compete, and throw far, in Turku. Given the family connection - Ståhl’s mother is from Turku and he has relatives, including his grandmother, who live there - it was an easy decision for meeting director Jari Salonen to add the men’s discus to the programme.
A top performance will needed for the bonus, but Ståhl’s effort in Doha last Friday increased the probability for an island’s change of ownership. Ståhl produced a tremendous series at the IAAF Diamond League opener, where even his shortest throw was measured at 69.50m, less than a metre-and-a-half from the target.
Ståhl, the silver medallist at the 2017 World Championships, will be joined by Jamaican Fedrick Dacres, last year’s Diamond League champion, 2016 Olympic champion Christoph Harting from Germany, 2015 world champion Piotr Małachowski from Poland and the silver medallist from that same World Championships in Beijing, his compatriot Robert Urbanek.
In the men’s javelin, the field consists of the now usual suspects, led by German throwers already very familiar with the Turku venue: Rio Olympic champion Thomas Röhler, who won at the 2016 and 2017 editions; 2017 world champion Johannes Vetter, who is still chasing his first victory in Turku; 2012 Olympic champion Keshorn Walcott of Trinidad and Tobago; 2012 Olympic silver medallist and 2014 European champion Antti Ruuskanen; and Oliver Helander, the best Finn in 2018 with a 88.02 personal best.
All of the leading contenders have already formulated plans for their island.
“I like to fish,” Ståhl said. “It would be fantastic to jump and to swim in the sea straight from the sauna. I have not experienced that in Finland yet. The cabin should be fit for winter and big enough to have friends and family to visit.”
“My summers will be full of javelin throw in the near future, but when I retire, I would like to spend my summers fishing and relaxing,” Röhler said. “The cabin should be made from wood and it should be functional. It should have a fireplace, small kitchen and a dock where one could sit and watch the evening sun with a girlfriend.”
Mirko Jalava (organisers) for the IAAF