In a year of inconsistency in the men’s Javelin Throw, Andreas Thorkildsen not only retained his Olympic title but brought respectability to the event which has been without a 90m throw all season.
And what a spectacular way for the Norwegian to take his title with an Olympic record and world season lead of 90.57m in the fifth round.
Thorkildsen had hinted that he was in very good condition just prior to these Olympics with his 87.36m win in Stockholm at the end of July. When he qualified with what seemed a below par sub-80m throw (79.85) he reassured us that this was just playing safe on a wet runway on a morning (Thu 21) which saw frequent downpours of rain.
The mark of a great champion is the manner of his victory, and in Beijing there was only one man on the runway of the same ability. If the argument had been in Athens 2004 that at 86.50 his Thorkildsen’s Olympic title had been won cheap, then tonight Thorkildsen stamped quality on a generally below par night which without his series held little spark.
That Thorkildsen improved the Olympic record of 90.17 held by the Jan Zelezny, the three-time Olympic champion and reigning World record holder, helps to define the brilliance that was the Norwegian in Beijing.
The winning series was consistent in a year when no thrower has shown any sort of stability in their competitions – 84.72; 85.91; 87.93; 85.13; 90.57; pass.
Thorildsen took the lead with his first throw and was never headed, with the expected pursuit from the three Finns, World champion Tero Pitkämäki, Tero Järvenpää, and Teemu Wirkkala never seriously appearing.
In fact it was Wirkkala who surprised a little with his 83.46 in the third which gained the Finn a further three throws. So at the half way point, it was Norway 1st 87.93, Finland 2nd (Järvenpää, 83.95), 3rd (Pitkämäki, 83.75) and 4th (Wirkkala).
The fourth round brought some joy for the erratic World champion, Pitkämäki’s spear landing at 85.83 to move into silver. There was no other improvement that round.
Pitkämäki had threaten slightly, but Järvenpää who had been fouling with 75m to 82m efforts ever since his opener, produced a massive heave which sailed out further than Thorkildsen’s lead. Unfortunately for the Finn he couldn’t hold onto his footing and fouled again. He was distraught.
But in terms of the path of the gold medal it didn’t matter a jot, as with the very next throw of the competition Thorkildsen unleashed his Olympic record. Game over.
The pain came worse for Järvenpää when in the sixth round Latvian Ainars Kovals produced a surprise PB of 86.64 to move into silver position, jumping from the sixth place he had held at the start of the round (2nd round 82.63). So Pitkämäki was now in bronze and Järvenpää was out of the medals.
Pitkämäki found some form with his last, blasted out an improvement of 86.16, but even in this shape he was not in the same class as the winner.
Thorkildsen was premier league, the rest of the world, division one tonight.
Thorkildsen, as he was already in 2004, is the second Norwegian man to win the Olympic crown, Egil Danielsen in 1956 the first, and becomes the fourth man to retain a Javelin Throw title (Lemming SWE 1908/12; Myyrä FIN 1920/24; Zelzeny CZE 1992/06/2000).
"I set two goals for this year - one was to win a medal in Oslo, my hometown," said Thorkildsen. "The second was to win an Olympic gold medal. I've always said that as long as I can win in Oslo and at the Olympic Games, that's it for me. I knew I could reach it."
Chris Turner for the IAAF