Another 2011 victory for ever-young Virgilijus Alekna, this time in London (Mark Shearman) © Copyright
Four years ago in the event preview for Beijing we wrote: "Alekna… will be especially keen to probably close out his career with a third Olympic triumph in Beijing". It is easy to forget that the throwing events traditionally have seen many athletes come to their prime in their early or even mid-30s. Yet at 40 years of age the two-time Olympic and World champion from Lithuania, who took the bronze in Beijing continues to buck even that fact, as standing as he does in second place on the world season’s list with 70.28m, the first time he’s gone past 70m since 2008, he is a good bet for a medal at least; dare we say again to close out his career?! In great pre-Games form, a 68.50m heave in Szczecin won him his last pre-London competition.
Despite the form of veteran Alekna the title is still most likely destined for double World champion Robert Harting (GER), who is the world season leader with 70.66m and 70.31m, both marks set in May. Harting, who was fourth in Beijing, has a career win loss record with Alekna which is 17 to 8 in the German’s favour, with his last loss to Alekna coming at the end of the 2009 season, in the subsequent 11 competitions Harting has triumphed. The German has one of the longest current win streaks in the sport of 28 competitions (finals only) which now dates back to 19 August 2010. A gilt edged certainty for the title?
If the gold is to go anywhere beyond these two men then it could spin in the direction of Pole Piotr Malachowski, the Olympic silver medallist in 2008 who took the same colour of medal in Berlin and followed that up with the continental title in 2010. However, he had a disappointing 2011 with a below par Worlds’ in Daegu at which he finished 9th. He has a season’s best of 68.94m which makes him the third best of the year so far. In his 2012 meetings with Alekna and Harting, he has a win record of 1 to 2 with the Lithuanian, and has suffered two straight defeats against the German.
Briton Lawrence Okoye (68.24m) and Iran’s Ehsan Hadadi (68.20m) are the others beyond 68m this year and each could threaten but mostly likely to produce when it matters most is Gerd Kanter, the defending Olympic champion from Estonia.
At 33 Kanter is a youngster compared to his Baltic cousin Alekna but has an impressive CV which closely rivals the Lithuanian. Kanter took the World title the year before the Olympic laurels, and with two World silvers (2005 and 2011) and a bronze in 2009, plus two European silver (2006 and 2012), they don’t get much more consistent at championship level than Kanter. Interestingly in 2012 Kanter has suffered two defeats by Harting, but he is level with Alekna 2 to 2 in their meetings, while against Malachowski, he has won 1 and lost 2 encounters.
The previously mentioned local Lawrence Okoye at 20 is the baby of the event age-wise but has learnt quickly and would set the stadium a buzz if he got to the final let alone medalled. Of the other 'youngsters’ possibly set to shine there is Australian Benn Harradine (67.53m) and Jamaica's Traves Smikle (67.12m). The latter, born in 1992, is the youngest of the world elite in this event.
Chris Turner for the IAAF