BeijingA year ago Gerd Kanter produced a huge upset by taking the gold medal at the World Championships in Osaka, when Virgilijus Alekna (Lithuania) had been widely regarded as the big favourite. Now the Estonian won again on an even bigger stage: the 29 year-old took the Olympic gold in the Discus Throw on Tuesday night with 68.82m from Piotr Malachowski (Poland/67.82) and the defending champion Alekna (Lithuania/67.79).
So Kanter once again succeeded Alekna, who had won two Olympic golds in Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004. He did not manage a third and at the age of 36 it is extremely unlikely that there could be one in London 2012.
“It is true that I am not that young anymore. So I am not disappointed with the bronze medal and I am happy for Gerd Kanter to follow me as Olympic champion,” Alekna said.
Kanter beating Alekna was not as big a surprise in China as it had been in Japan a year ago, when the Estonian stated afterwards that in his eyes it is Alekna who is the best discus thrower of the world. That position has now been assumed by Kanter, who is also leading the world season’s list this year with a throw of 71.88m.
For a small country like Estonia, which became independent in 1991 and has a population of slightly more than 1.3 million, such a gold medal is a huge affair.
“This is a very big occasion for Estonia and all its people – especially since it is an Olympic title,” Kanter said. “A lot of people back home were watching this on TV hoping that I would win. It is really good to give those people some positive emotions. And of course it is a very big achievement for me, it is the climax of my career so far and a dream has come true.”
There had been one Olympic athletics champion so far from Estonia: It was Erki Nool, who took the Decathlon gold in Sydney 2000. So this is one is number two. And it is the fifth Olympic medal for the nation. But there might well be more medals to come from Kanter in the future. To mark the achievement Estonia’s President Toomas Hendrik Ilves gave Kanter a call immediately after the competition.
“The President expressed his happiness and that of the whole nation for my win,” Kanter said. “He said that the whole country will celebrate this great occasion.”
Though he won the gold he was not quite satisfied with his competition.
“The result is not as good as it should be. But we have seen in the past few days that especially throwers are underperforming here. I have been training pretty hard and my throws I did not really show what my potential is at present. I was just one metre ahead.”
“But the Discus Throw is also a very competitive event and there are a lot of young athletes coming up. So it will be really hard to defend this title in four years,” explained Kanter, who once started athletics as a junior competing in running and jumping events. “I did not do any Discus Throwing as a junior. Instead, for example I achieved a hand timed personal best of 11.0 seconds in the 100m.”
“For eight years now I am doing the Discus Throw as a professional sport. It was a long process to get to the top. I was improving every year and worked hard together with my coach and my team.”
“It was not easy at the beginning since I had to do various part time jobs to finance my studies,” said the Olympic Champion, who is a business management graduate.
“Now that I have got an Olympic gold the next step is breaking the World record. I have chased this for some time already, but I will more concentrate on this now.”
Kanter has a personal best of 73.38m from 2006. That puts him in third position in the all-time list behind Germany’s Jürgen Schult (74.08) and Alekna (73.88). “I try to keep my good form now, because on 8th September we will start a World record challenge. I hope that we will get good conditions.”
And then there is something else which has high priority to Gerd Kanter.
“I have a fiancee and we plan to marry soon. I think this Olympic success is also an inspiration to start having a family.”
Being Estonia’s second Olympic champion in history Kanter should be able to provide his future family a good living.
Jörg Wenig for the IAAF