The cream rose to the top in the men’s Hammer Throw qualifying, with the four men to have thrown farther than 80 metres in 2013 and the next two closest all sealing places in Monday night’s final.
Hungary’s Olympic champion Krisztian Pars, Russia’s Sergey Litvinov, Tajikistan’s Dilshod Nazarov and Lukas Melich of the Czech Republic are the only 80-metre throwers of the year and, with the exception of sentimental favourite Litvinov, all came through comfortably.
With the automatic qualifying distance set at 77m, Pars and Melich topped the first pool. Melich was the first man to be able to put his feet up after producing a 78.52m with his first throw.
Pars’ 75.21m first effort would have been sufficient to see him through as well, but he put the matter beyond doubt with a 79.06m second effort which remained the best of the competition.
Slovenia’s 2008 Olympic champion Primoz Kozmus, Nazarov and Litvinov were the three from the second pool who bettered the automatic qualifier, though it took Litvinov all three of his allowed attempts.
It was hard to tell who was the more nervous as Litvinov set off proceedings in the second pool. His 75.08m looked a tentative effort and when he did not improve on that in the second round he was in a tenuous position. As the big screen showed the reaction of his father, former World and Olympic champion Sergey snr, it was clear he was feeling the strain as well.
In the end, Litvinov the younger dispelled all doubts with a 77.41m final effort. Father and son were clearly pleased with that, though there may have been a strong tinge of relief as well. As it turned out, he would have made the final in last spot with his earlier throw, but he avoided a nervous wait.
Litvinov junior now has the chance to win a global gold medal in the Luzhniki stadium, an achievement which eluded his father when he finished second to Yuriy Sedykh in the Moscow 1980 Olympic final. Mind you, father Sergey took two World Championship gold medals and the Seoul 1988 Olympic gold medal by way of compensation.
Pars, however, remains the one to beat. He has been one of the most consistent hammer throwers in the past decade and leads the world this year with 81.02m.
The Athens and Sydney Olympic champions also qualified for the final. Koji Murofushi finished fourth in the first qualifying pool, though it was an up-and-down competition for the Japanese veteran. He threw 74.10m followed by a foul narrowly outside the left-hand sector line which looked beyond the 77m automatic qualifying. He then produced a conservative 76.27m on his final attempt.
Not so lucky was Qatar’s Mohamed Ashraf Amjad Al-Seifi. The holder of both the World youth and World junior records with lighter implements, and possessor of a 76.37m best with the senior implement this year, he could do no better than 69.70m for 13th place. So he bowed out, but at 18 years old the big-stage experience cannot have done him any harm.
Poland’s Szymon Kiolkowski, the Sydney 2000 winner, threw 76.85m to finish fourth in the second pool.
In the end, the 12th and last place in the final was taken by Yury Shayunou of Belarus with a modest 75.18m. Among those to miss out were two throwers in the 2013 top 10 – Pavel Kryvitski of Belarus and Aleksey Zagornyi of Russia.
Len Johnson for the IAAF