28 AUG 2004 General News Athens, Greece

Just one centimetre shy

Osleidys Menendez of Cuba wins gold in the women's Javelin Throw (Getty Images)Osleidys Menendez of Cuba wins gold in the women's Javelin Throw (Getty Images) © Copyright

The women’s Javelin which first appeared on the Olympic programme in 1932 and so is one of the oldest continually contested women’s Olympic disciplines has been won on eleven previous occasions with an Olympic record.**

Last night brought up the round dozen as Osleidys Menendez blasted her spear to 71.53m, just one centimetre short of her World record, to destroy all hopes of a true competition for gold in the Olympic stadium.

The Cuban finished with the bronze four years ago, with tonight’s bronze medal finisher Greece’s World champion Mirela Manjani, and Norway’s Trine Hattestad ahead of her in Sydney, with the silver and gold medals respectively.

Sydney was the first Olympics in which the new specification Javelin was used, with the Norwegian setting the previous Games record at 68.91 with her first attempt, then the second longest throw of all-time.

Menendez’s Athens win mirrored the fundamentals of that Sydney script. A first round throw, the second furthest ever in history, was her gold medal formula too.

It was a remarkable turn-around for the 24 year-old who by her own illustrious standards had a below-par 2003 season with just a fifth place finish in the World championships, and a relatively lowly 63.96 season’s best to boast.

Menendez obviously likes competing in Greece. It was in Rethymno on 1 July 2001 that she became the first Cuban woman to set a World record in Athletics. Until yesterday her 71.54m record was the only 70m plus throw in the history of the new spear, and as such her winning 71.53 was that much more demoralizing for the opposition because it landed in a territory of which the rest of the throwers only dream.

“I have been waiting for this moment all my life,” confirmed Menendez. “I’ve been feeling very well, in fact I’ve been focusing so much on this final I couldn’t sleep during some of the days this past week.”

“My first throw was just great, it relaxed me a lot. I do not know what comes next, as I have already won everything there is.”

”After such a low 2003, I feel very good now being able to produce my best form when it really mattered. Just imagine how I must be feeling, coming into the Olympic Games and finding (nearly) the best form of my life.”

“Before today’s final I thought I could get over 70 metres. I took advantage of my first throw to see off the opposition and performed well as everyone here can see.”

That Menendez is now in a different league to the rest of the world’s elite is a vast understatement.

The Cuban has thrown eleven of the top-20 best competitions in history, and that statistic is even more impressive considering that seven of the other marks are owned by Hattestad, the 2000 Olympic champion who retired at the end of that season. Only Manjani of the world’s current throwers makes any impression on that top-20, having the remaining two marks on the all-time list to her credit.

With Menendez back in top form, the World record is living on borrowed time.

Click here for a full report of last night's final

Chris Turner for the IAAF


**NB. not counting the 2000 competition which was the inaugural event with the new spear.