Krisztian Pars of Hungary reacts in the Men's Hammer Final (Getty Images) © Copyright
The 2004 Olympic gold medallist and reigning World champion Koji Murofushi of Japan has only competed once this season winning the national title in a lowly 72.85m. Much of the year he’s been in San Jose, California, where he has been preparing for his fourth Olympics, and now at 37 years of age with an Area record of 84.86m dating back to 2003 even his fans have to question whether Murofushi is in the shape to challenge.
The other question to ponder is the form of Ivan Tikhon (TSIKHAN) the three-time World champion (2003, 2005, 2007) and the bronze medallist in Beijing. The Belarusian turned 37 on 24 July and currently leads the world in 2012 with an 82.81m performance on home soil in Brest on 25 May but that is his only competition this year. The Belarusian’s national record is 86.73m back in 2005, which still stands as the second longest throw of all-time just one centimetre short of the ancient (1986) World record of Yuriy Sedykh.
Hungary’s Krisztián Pars, last year’s World championships silver medallist who took the European title in Helsinki in June, has in contrast to Murofushi and Tikhon had a prolific competition programme in 2012. The 30-year-old is the most consistent of the world’s elite and has a PB of 82.35m (2006) and a season’s best of 82.28m when winning the Hammer Throw Challenge competition in Ostrava in May.
Belarus has four men in this year’s world top-ten. Joining Tikhon in London will be Pavel Kryvitski (80.67m PB), who with 80.25m this year and a fifth place in Daegu 2011 is a firm medal hope. The third string who finished behind Tikhon in Brest is Valery Sviatokha (81.49m PB, 2006) who threw 78.44m on that occasion, his 2012 best. He was fourth in Helsinki. Belarus could have selected any of three other athletes who have each thrown further this season including Andrei Varantsou, who has been over 80m.
Another powerhouse of the event is Russia. There is one surprise in their line-up which is the omission of Sergej Litvinov Jr who has thrown 80.98m this year - currently making him the fourth best in the world - but was in poor form at the national championships. The selectors have instead gone for Kirill Ikonnikov (80.71m, fifth in the world), Aleksey Zagornyi (78.40m), and Igor Vinichenko (78.22m).
If the gold is going to go anywhere else, then Poland’s Pawel Fajdek will be the man. With a personal best of 81.39m this season and two other competitions beyond 80m, the youngster (23), in what is usually an older man’s event, is an athlete on the ascendency and is set to follow in the circle of Szymon Ziólkowski, the 2000 Olympic and 2001 World champion, who is also in the Polish team in London and took the European bronze in July in Helsinki.
With six other men from six different nations also over 79m this year the battle for honours is truly wide in London.
Finally spare a thought for reigning Olympic champion Primož Kozmus of Slovenia who will defend his title in London. The 32-year-old retired at the height of his powers shortly after taking the World title in 2009, but has returned to competition and is currently languishing with a season’s best of 77.35m.
Chris Turner for the IAAF