In what will no doubt be considered one of the biggest upsets of the 2013 IAAF World Championships, Polish hammer thrower Pawel Fajdek chose the right time to throw a personal best and deny Hungary’s Krisztian Pars the World title that he, and every other throwing aficionado, had been expecting.
Until tonight, the bespectacled 24-year-old from Zarow was best known for winning two World University games titles – he is a student at Warsaw’s Education of Sport institution – but, as Pars pointed out at the post-event press conference, he has only lost twice in 50 competitions, both times to the Pole.
“I am really, really, happy with this huge thing for me,” said Fajdek. “I am a little shocked because my first throw was awesome and a world-leading mark and now I am World champion. That was my dream after London and I thought only about Moscow every day when I wake up. Now I am the champion.”
After his massive personal best of 81.97m in the first round, which was to eventually end up getting him the gold medal, Fajdek had to endure five more nail-biting rounds as the Hungarian tried to summon an even greater effort.
Asked what was going through his head, Fajdek was brutally honest.
“I was thinking ‘it's impossible, he can’t do this’. After that throw I saw his face,” recalled Fajdek.
“He was shocked and then I was sure I was going to be champion. Then my next throw was also far, that was the second punch for him, and that was it.”
Fajdek was born in the tiny village of Swiebodzice, in the south western part of Poland, but the newly crowned World champion has become quite the world traveler.
Training camps in South Africa, Portugal and other countries are common so that he can stay focused on perfecting his hammer throwing technique. He remembers how it all started.
“After Szymon Ziolkwoski was Olympic champion and World champion (in 2000 and 2001) he came to my city to a meeting there,” explained Fajdek, referring to his 37-year-old compatriot who was also in the final.
“Then I started. My first coach started teaching me. After two years I started training for the Hammer and I stayed with it. My brother David is older. He is 26 years old now. A few years ago, he was throwing with me but he was turning on the other side and he didn’t like this because every competition they had to change the cage for him. It was not comfortable for him so he stopped. Now he has a good job.”
Although he turned his back on participating, David is nevertheless still supporting his little brother.
“Definitely he keeps his fingers crossed for me,” Fajdek, who became the youngest ever winner of the event at the World Championships. “Also the first time I threw over 80 metres he was there with me. Also my parents, my girlfriend and close friends.
“That was a huge competition for me. I threw twice over 80 metrees and Pars was better than me, and that was still before the London Olympics. I was really happy. After the competition I went back home with my brother. It was in the Czech Republic and they have good beer. So we bought some beer and celebrated with friends and cousins."
Sporting designer glasses, a baseball cap and two diamond studs in his left ear, Fajdek appears, outside the stadium, to be a normal 24-year-old student. He claims his life is very normal.
“I play basketball and meet my friends, have fun. A normal life like we all have. We stay at home and enjoy the silence.”
He laughs at that last statement. A celebration will be planned when he returns home next week. Yes, he has a very bright future but asked about attacking Yuriy Sedykh’s long standing World record of 86.74m, which dates from 1986 and is one of the oldest World records on the books, he advises caution.
“The World record is really huge and I never think about this,” he admitted. “I think maybe 83 or 84 metres, that would be better than the Polish national record. Today was my personal best and I certainly think I can throw 82 or 83 metres.”
At the age of 24, he might have another 10 years to attain these goals, which is plenty of time for a young man who is now the best hammer thrower in the world.
Paul Gains for the IAAF