Daegu, Korea - It was a bit of a gamble but it paid off in a perfect way for Robert Harting. Because of a niggling knee problem the defending Discus Throw champion decided to give it all at his first attempt.
Throwing a huge 68.48m he succeeded with these tactics and probably caused some shock among his closest rivals. Despite limping after some of his attempts he later managed to improve to 68.97m.
The 26-year-old, who had celebrated an emotional home win two years ago in Berlin, had done more than enough to defend his title and win his third medal at the World Championships. As a youngster Harting had already taken the silver medal in Osaka.
“The first throw was the decisive one. I did not expect though that I would be able to throw almost 69 metres today,” said Robert Harting. After his final attempt he kneed down to kiss the ring and then ripped his vest as he did when he won his other World Championships medals. “No,” he answered later one, when questioned if he would get trouble with the German federation’s sports sponsor.
Robert Harting is the third Discus Thrower in the history of the World Championships to defend his title. The last one who managed this was Virgilijus Alekna (Lithuania) in 2003 and 2005. Meanwhile Lars Riedel’s series remains unique. The German had taken four gold medals between 1991 and ’97 and then added a fifth in 2001.
But without doubt Robert Harting is in the footsteps of the greatest Discus Throwers of all time. Being just 26 years old and already that successful the athlete from Belrin has the potential to one day become a legend of his sport. After Daegu he will be the one beat at the London Olympic Games in a year’s time. Three years ago he had missed out on an Olympic medal, when he placed fourth in Beijing.
“Because of my recent knee problems it had been my aim to have a very good first attempt and try to impress the others. It was an advantage for me that I was the third thrower in the rounds – this was a great chance and I took it,” said Robert Harting.
“But I was very surprised that Piotr Malachowski was out after three rounds, because I had expected him to win a medal tonight. He had lost his rhythm, but I don’t know if there was another problem – probably there was, because he is very experienced and something like this would normally not happen to him. But it seems all of us had some sort of problems recently.”
Robert Harting developed problems at a tendon in his left knee around ten weeks ago. “This started after the Paris Diamond League Meeting.” In Daegu he had to get three pain killing injections before the qualification on Monday and then another three before the final on Tuesday.
“After Paris I thought may be I will not be able to defend my title in Daegu. But then I took some medicine – actually I took three times more than I should have done – and it got better,” explained Robert Harting, who limped to the victory ceremony and then on to the press conference.
“I will have to get a better scan of my knee when I am back in Berlin and then we can decide what has to be done,” said Robert Harting, who was raised in Cottbus very near to the border with Poland. “Somehow I have to do some training to get ready for the Diamond League Final. We will see how this goes.”
While Robert Harting is usually presenting himself as the rough guy he showed a different character when questioned by a small group of journalists after the official press conference.
He was sentimental when he spoke about his injury, the preparation for the Olympic Games in London and about a tragic experience: He explained that he dedicated his second World Championships’ win to a friend, who had died in combat in Afghanistan earlier this year.
As a number of German elite athletes Robert Harting belongs to a special sports section of the German army (Bundeswehr). The athletes have to go to the army for training from time to time and it was there that he had met the friend. “I have never been at a funeral – it was a tough experience,” said Robert Harting,
His 20 year-old brother Christoph is a Discus Thrower as well, who placed fifth at the German Championships. They share the same experienced coach, Werner Goldmann. So there could be two Hartings in one World Championship in the future.
Despite his injury problems Robert Harting, who had done multiple events first when he started with athletics at the age of 13, has always been very determined and kept being optimistic before competing in Daegu. This was revealed by German High Jumper Raul Spank, who shares the flat with Robert Harting in the athletes’ village.
“On the blackboard in our flat Robert had pinned up a note reading: ‘The others are here to loose!’” said Raul Spank and added: “Robert has got so much energy – it is really amazing and you somehow get infected by this.”
It remains to be seen what sort of an effect this may have on Raul Spank. The High Jump final will be on Thursday.
Jörg Wenig for the IAAF