The reigning World and Olympic champions made it through to the final in frightful weather conditions in this morning’s qualification round of the men’s Javelin Throw.
It rained so heavily that Group A which was originally meant to start at 9.10am, was officially delayed by one hour. Even when the 19-men did come out to compete, the rain was still persistent and despite sponging and wiping of the runway by officials, the approach looked more like an ice skating ring than it did an all weather surface.
Was qualification a lottery?
That a group which included the world season leader, a former World champion, the World bronze medallist, and a former World Junior champion couldn’t produce one automatic qualifier was certainly a below par result.
In total 12 men from this first pool had lifetime bests which far exceeded the 82.50 required to make the final by right but the best the three rounds of throwing could produce was Canada’s Scott Russell’s 80.42!
But in the end of the day, conditions balanced themselves out. The runway remained wet and slippery even for the second group when the rain was more like a mist and eventually stopped completely, and of the twelve who made Saturday’s run off for the medals, six came from both groups.
Three men went over 80m in the first grouping. Behind Russell came Latvia’s Ainars Kovals (80.15) and Uladzimir Kazlou of Belarus (80.06). Also making it from this group were Finn Teemu Wirkkala (79.79), Australia’s Area record holder and world season leader Jarrod Bannister (79.79 same distance), and Swede Magnus Arvidsson (79.70 – twelfth and last qualifier overall).
Those losing out were 2003 World champion Sergey Makarov of Russia. He was the Olympic bronze medallist in 2000 and 2004, and has thrown 86.88 this season in the process beating World champion Tero Pitkämäki.
The other notables to miss the cut were 2006 World Junior champion Robert Oosthuizen of South Africa, who has PB’ed this year with 86.80, and Latvia’s Erik Rags, 85.05 this season.
More understandable was the demise of World bronze medallist Breaux Greer of the USA. Making a comeback from a shoulder operation during the winter, he had the misfortune of trapping his throwing hand in a door a fortnight ago which broke his small finger. So he was throwing with only four fifths of the usual grip on the spear, and consequently 73.68 was his only result today.
Round one of Group B bought with it the first automatic qualification of the day, Olympic silver medallist Vadims Vasilevskis of Latvia throwing 83.51m.
Throwing seventh in Group B was Pitkämäki, and as he made his usual fast approach he slipped heavily just ahead of the line crashing onto his right thigh and seemingly twisting his left ankle. The World champion got up smiling and with his next attempt eased out an automatic qualification of 82.61 but as he left the infield he placed an ice pack on his thigh. In the Mixed Zone Pitkämäki confirmed his ankle was fine but his hip had taken quite a bash in the fall but he was confident it wouldn’t affect his throwing in the final.
Norway’s Olympic champion Andreas Thorkildsen produced 79.85m with his first attempt and while he didn’t progress with his second (he intentionally fouled it) and then passed his second, nothing can be read into this series as he clearly understood that his first release would be good enough to qualify in the awful weather conditions.
The third and final automatic qualifier came in round two when Russia’s Ilya Korotkov produced a surprise 83.33. He has a personal best of 84.04m from this year.
Coming perilously close to the automatic mark was Tero Järvenpää of Finland who also found his form after a first round 77.76, his second attempt being 82.34.
With Czech Vitezslav Vesely, who is coached by the great Jan Zelezny, making a PB on his final throw (81.20) that was the final line-up completed.
Russia’s Aleksandr Ivanov, who has been fifth at the last two World champs and the 2004 Olympic Games was the major name to the final from this group.
So three Finns and two Latvians will make up the biggest team contingents in the final on Saturday, with Norway’s defending champion the other big player.
Chris Turner for the IAAF