Pawel Fajdek may be competing in the shadow of compatriot Wojciech Nowicki this season, but that doesn’t mean the four-time world champion is competing as a shadow of his former self.
Sitting just fifth on the world season’s list with a modest 78.61m, Fajdek will step into the throwing circle at tomorrow’s Skolimowska Memorial World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meeting, the biggest competition of his season, without an 80-metre throw on his season’s scorecard. That hasn’t happened since 2011. He’s hoping it won’t happen this season, but even if it does, it’s hardly a signal that the 31-year-old is losing the Midas touch that’s helped him secure the last four world titles. Like many athletes this year, he’s just gone light on training.
When it became clear in March that the Coronavirus pandemic would wipe out much of this year’s competitive calendar, Fajdek tookd it as a sign to scale back and give his body a break. Choosing to look ahead to 2021, he didn’t train for three months. With no elusive Olympic medal to chase this year, 2020 became a year for rest.
“I know my age and I know my goals and I know my body’s limits,” Fajdek said, speaking through an interpreter. “And I want to be ready for next year and the Olympics.”
An Olympic medal of any colour is the only item missing from Fajdek’s hefty trophy case, but he’s also looking to add others as well. “After next year I want to be ready for Oregon and a fifth world title, and then two years after that, maybe a sixth.”
His efforts to scale back notwithstanding, Fajdek said he is in shape to throw 80 metres tomorrow.
“That of course may not be enough for the victory,” he said, “with Wojciech Nowicki in the competition, who is in very strong form.”
Nowicki, the bronze medallist at the last three World Championships and at the 2016 Olympic Games, is undefeated in five competitions this season, and has thrown beyond 80 metres twice in the last 12 days, 80.09m and 80.28m, the second best throw in the world this season.
Will Kendricks’ momentum continue?
Meanwhile, two-time world champion Sam Kendrick and Piotr Lisek will resume their rivalry in the pole vault where Kendricks is looking forward to more high bars after his 6.02m clearance, the second highest of his career, in Lausanne on Wednesday.
“That 6.02m in Lausanne was a good competition,” Kendricks said. “We always get together and jump well so I hope he and I can do the same tomorrow.”
Indeed they do. Kendricks has beaten Lisek in their last four meetings but pushed his rival to back-to-back six-metre efforts last year in Lausanne and Monaco, where the Pole topped 6.01m and 6.02m.
“I’m trying to take a page out of Piotr’s book from 2019,” said Kendricks, who didn't jump higher than 5.82m in each of five outdoor appearances this season prior to Lausanne. “He didn’t start too well last year but then went on to jump 6.02m in Monaco. And that’s what I’m trying to do this year.”
For his part, Lisek ambitions aren’t quite as lofty. He just wants to make it to the runway.
Nursing a minor hamstring strain, Lisek has been sidelined from his last two competitions: last weekend’s national championships and Wednesday’s Diamond League event in Lausanne. But he desperately wants to compete.
“I really do want to compete and be ready to fight for the victory,” he said. “This is an important competition for us, for Polish athletes. So it’s important for me to compete here.”
Two-time world 200m champion Dafne Schippers also isn’t making any predictions. But competing for the just the third time this season and for the first time in the 100m, she’s eager to find out what she’s capable of.
“I like to compete in new places so I’m really looking forward to it,” she said. “I feel good.”
Not good enough though, to challenge the 11.01 meeting record set by Jamaican Carrie Russell in 2013.
“Maybe if we have a really good wind, and some really nice sunshine,” she joked, when asked by meeting director Marcin Rosengarten if a meeting record assault was in the works.
The overnight forecast calls for rains through the evening, at times heavy, but clearing my mid-morning. The afternoon is expected to be cloudy, but Schippers will be happy to know that some sun could peak through.
Bob Ramsak for World Athletics