23 JUN 2014 Preview Turku, Finland

A treat for Turku as Pars looks to remain perfect – IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge

Krisztian Pars on his way to victory in the hammer (Giancarlo Colombo)Krisztian Pars on his way to victory in the hammer (Giancarlo Colombo) © Copyright

The 2014 IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge moves on to the Finnish city of Turku, where the 52nd Paavo Nurmi Games will play host to a high standard men’s competition on Wednesday (25).

There hasn’t been an 80-metre throw in this stadium for a long while, but Juha Tiainen’s stadium record could finally be moved to history in this competition.

Finland’s 1984 Olympic champion won the 28th edition of the Games 30 years ago, just a couple of months before winning his gold medal in Los Angeles, with an outstanding 80.88m throw and his compatriot Harri Huhtala was second with a 78.74m personal best.

However, a total of seven athletes entered in this year’s competition have thrown farther than 80 metres during their careers and three have done so this season.

Krisztian Pars, the London 2012 Olympic Games champion and current IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge leader, is competing in Turku for the first time but he won the previous meeting in this summer’s series with a world-leading 81.57m in Ostrava a week ago, and the Hungarian has thrown beyond the 80-metre line several times at other venues in Finland so is certainly familiar with the country and its culture.

Pars has also won eight of his nine official competitions so far this year.

The previous world leader, Egypt’s Mostafa Hicham Al-Gamel, was only seventh in Ostrava with a relatively modest 75.66m and well below his 81.29m African record from March so has to raise his level in order to challenge for a podium place.

Tadjikistan’s 32-year-old Dilshod Nazarov was the closest rival to Pars in Ostrava, reaching 80.62m for a season’s best and only nine centimetres from his 2013 personal best.

Others may find it hard to compete with these two top names but one who might is Russia’s Sergey Litvinov, fresh from a win at the European Team Championships in Brunswick, Germany, having thrown a 78.77m season’s best.

In other events, the biggest attention grabber is, not surprisingly, the men’s javelin.

The world leader and African record-holder Ihab Abdelrahman El Sayed, of Egypt, is trying to get back on course after two less promising competitions.

His huge 89.21m season opener in Shanghai and the 86.01m throw coming after that haven’t been nearly matched in his next two meetings, where an injury apparently slowed him down.

Local hero Tero Pitkämäki will naturally be the favourite for the win instead; he has been improving steadily since losing to El Sayed by almost eight metres in Shanghai. The 31-year-old reached 85.48m in his last competition in Lahti and will be joined by Antti Ruuskanen, the 2012 Olympic Games bronze medallist, who has a season’s best of 83.41m.

It would not be a total surprise either if Latvia’s Zigismunds Sirmais, the world junior record-holder with 84.69m from 2011, would have another big throw after his 86.61m personal best in Ostrava.

There are several world-class athletes in other events.

Poland’s 2011 world pole vault champion Pawel Wojciechowski and the Cuban silver medallist from the same competition, Lazaro Borges, contest their specialist event.

South Africa’s Godfrey Mokoena, who has won several medals at major championships in the long jump, and world indoor pole vault champion Yarisley Silva will also be in action.

In the women’s discus, there is a Cuban duel between Yaimi Pérez, a 66.03m performer this season, and Denia Caballero. Both women competed in the Moscow 2013 final last summer.

Mirko Jalava for the IAAF