Andreas Thorkildsen of Norway competes in the men's javelin final (Getty Images) © Copyright
However, the last two seasons have found the Norwegian short of his very best. Coming into Daegu World championships last summer he was the prodigious favourite to retain his title but he failed at the final hurdle, losing to Germany’s then 23-year-old Matthias de Zordo. With a persistent arm injury this year the current fitness condition of de Zordo is a question mark, and with a season’s best of only 81.62m his challenge for gold is suspect.
Thorkildsen for his part should never be underestimated and despite a season’s best of only 84.72m, which places him ninth on the 2012 lists, he says he is in good shape and that this season has just not yet clicked.
Finland’s 2007 World champion Tero Pitkämäki, who along with the Norwegian has been one of the main protagonists of this event since 2005, and was the bronze medallist in Beijing has lost form since his last major medal, the 2010 European bronze, and even his London selection was doubtful at one stage. Thanks to a season’s best of 84.90m in Kuortane on 22 July, in his last competition before London, he should not be discounted especially as he is now advised by Jan Zelezny. The Finnish trio in London is completed by Antti Ruuskanen (84.95m) who was 6th and 9th respectively in the last two World Championships, and by Ari Mannio (84.31m), the European bronze medallist this season.
Beijing silver medallist Ainars Kovals of Latvia is also off the pace this season (83.89m), while Cuban Guillermo Martínez the man who has sprung the surprises in the 2009 and 2011 World Championships, with silver and bronze medals respectively, is even further adrift with 82.72. Japan’s Yukifumi Murakami who was bronze medallist behind him in 2009, is by contrast in the best form of his life but his PB of 83.95m should not trouble the best men.
And the very best man of 2012 is 29-year-old Czech Vítezslav Veselý who is coached by Zelezny. He leads the season with an 88.11m heave which he produced on Thorkildsen’s home turf of Oslo’s Bislett stadium, with the champion third, and rubbed further salt into the double Olympic champion’s dignity by carrying off the European crown in Helsinki, a title which the Norwegian ace (4th) was defending for the second time. Veselý’s victory over Thorkildsen in the home of javelin throwing was his fourth consecutive defeat of the Olympic champion this season. Overall the head to head career records of the two men remain greatly in Thorkildsen’s favour 11 to 5.
Three other men have been beyond 86 metres this year. Latvian Vadims Vasilevskis (86.50m) is a member of the 90m club (90.73m PB, 2007) and the 2004 Olympic silver medallist but has generally failed to convert his prodigious talent into major championship silverware. Another to have found his form desert him at podium time is Stuart Farquhar of New Zealand but with a new PB of 86.31m this year perhaps 2012 will be the 30-year-old’s occasion. More likely to get on the podium though is Ukraine’s much improved Oleksandr Pyatnytsya. The 27-year-old now has a PB of 86.12m, and was the winner in Paris and Monaco.
Three others have long throws to their credit this year – Turkey’s Fatih Avan (85.60m), Ivan Zaytsev (85.03m), and Pawel Rakoczy (84.99)m, while Valeriy Iordan, Russia’s surprise European silver medallist (83.23m) also cannot be discounted.
Chris Turner for the IAAF
2004 Men's Long Jump