It has been a difficult few years for Andreas Thorkildsen and Tero Pitkamaki, but they are looking ahead to the 2013 season with renewed optimism. Both athletes have enjoyed a positive start to the summer and are now hoping for further improvement at the ExxonMobil Bislett Games tomorrow (13), the sixth leg of the IAAF Diamond League.
Pitkamaki, the 2007 World champion, struggled so much to find his best form in 2012 that he considered quitting at the end of last season. But he continued training and returned this year with an 87.60m throw, his best performance since 2009.
After a string of gold and silver medals at major championships between 2004 and 2011, Thorkildsen missed out on the podium last year at both the European Championships and the Olympic Games. His eight-year reign as Olympic champion was ended last year by Trinidad and Tobago’s Keshorn Walcott, who was just 19 years old at the time.
Tomorrow in the Norwegian capital Walcott will once again face Pitkamaki and Thorkildsen, only this time his older rivals are in a better state – both physically and mentally – than they were at last year’s Games.
“It feels really great to be back in shape,” said Pitkamaki. “Throughout the winter and my first couple of competitions, the whole year so far has been very good. I feel confident and healthy so it’s nice to be here.
“I haven't done as much training as before, and my shape is improving. Maybe I did too much training past couple of years. During that time my mental state wasn't good. I had a really tough season. For example I threw 73 metres here in Oslo last year and that wasn't easy for me. It's difficult throwing 77 metres; it doesn't feel right. It’s way more fun to throw 87 metres.
“I was very disappointed after the Olympics and I thought of quitting. Because it was an Olympic year, the disappointment was huge, bigger than any pressure I felt from outside.
“But this is a new season and I’ve had a good start. My main goal is the gold medal in Moscow; I'm really looking forward to competing there. I'd also like to throw 90 metres again this season. It's been six years since I last did it, and that's too long.”
Like Pitkamaki, Thorkildsen also knows what it’s like to deal with the disappointment of a dip in form. But last week in Floro he threw 84.64m, just 8cm shy of his best throw of the entire 2012 season.
The Norwegian record-holder is now also confident of throwing well at the Bislett Games and it looking forward to competing against his long-time rival again.
“I'm really excited that Tero is back throwing what he should be throwing,” he said. “I had a difficult year last year, although not quite as difficult as Tero’s, so 2013 is his comeback year and my comeback year.
“We both want to be throwing far consistently. Not 80 or 82 metres, but 85-plus. So it seems we’re both set to have a similar season.
“It's been inspiring to see Tero has come back in such great shape. I always believed he could. It's good to see, but I still want to beat him. It's more fun now because I want to beat him when he throws 87 metres and not when he’s throwing 72 metres.
“My shape feels really good. I had a good experience in Floro on Saturday, and things are slowly coming back. Hopefully now I can do even better tomorrow.
“My PB (91.59m), having thrown that at the Bislett Stadium is of course one of my greatest memories. It’s an incredible feeling do set a PB on home soil. Hopefully I can do it one more time.”
While Walcott’s star is still on the rise, he too is returning from a slight dip in form after recently picking up minor ankle and elbow injuries.
“Hopefully it’s nothing major,” said Walcott, ahead of his third Diamond League competition of the year. “I’m taking it step by step at the moment, and my main aim it to be healthy for the World Championships.
“It was a surprise to win in London. First of all the distance, because I wasn't expecting 84 metres to win. But I wasn't expecting to win it either. My main goal was to get experience and make the final. It felt great to win the Olympics at age 19 at my first Games.
“There's been a lot of attention drawn to me back home with the media and press. Things have gone better in terms of training and accessibility to facilities. They pay more attention to field events now, and that’s one of the best things that have happened since the Olympics.
“It's an honour to sit between these guys,” added Walcott, glancing at Pitkamaki and Thorkildsen. “They've been throwing extremely well for years and have gone over 90 metres. I guess I'm the baby here.”
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF