The 2013-2016 IAAF Strategic Plan has six Core Values: universality, leadership, unity, excellence, integrity and solidarity, and a Vision Statement: “To lead, govern and develop the sport of athletics in all its forms worldwide, uniting the Athletics Family in a spirit of excellence, integrity and solidarity.”
Tonight’s qualification round, made up of two pools, had an automatic qualifying mark of 82 metres, with seven men making that grade.
At the top of the list Czech Vítezslav Veselý made it crystal clear at the age of 29 why he has emerged as the dominant force in the men’s Javelin Throw this season. The world leader coming into the Olympics, having set a personal best of 88.11 at the Samsung Diamond League meeting in Oslo in June, this evening improved to 88.34 to ensure a smooth route into Saturday evening’s final.
Veselý became European champion in June, following a very nervous qualification in which he rounded up 10th of the throwers making up the 12 man final. No nerves today and if that is anything to go by then the Czechs will be celebrating their fourth Olympic javelin gold medal in history. The three titles came of course from Jan Zelezny (CZE / TCH), who is Veselý’s coach.
Zelezny is the only man in history to have won three Olympic Javelin titles, and aiming to emulate him is the reigning double Olympic champion, Norway’s Andreas Thorkildsen. However the 30-year-old is currently having a low key season, the worst since he first emerged to prominence as the World Junior record holder in 2001 and become Olympic champion in Athens. Inconsistent is the best description of Thorkildsen’s 2012 but with his 84.47 in the second round, close to his season’s best (84.72), he is on the verge of matching Zelezny’s historic record.
Zelezny also has an influence on another of the finalists. 2007 World champion Tero Pitkämäki has been advised by the World record holder since his dismal non-qualification in the World Championships in Daegu last year. Today the Finn, the 2008 bronze medallist, struggled in his first two rounds before releasing a confidence boosting 83.01 with his last.
Not for the first time in history 'the javelin country’, which has won 7 Olympic Javelin golds will have three men in the final. European bronze medallist Ari Mannio threw one centimetre short of the automatic qualifying mark with his first, and Antti Ruuskanen, who was 6th and 9th respectively in the last two World Championships, scraped into the final in 11th with 81.74 from his second effort.
There is another Finnish coached thrower in the final, and tonight he was by far the happiest of the 12 finalists. Julius Yego set a national record of 81.81 to become the first Kenyan to ever qualify for a throwing final at any Olympic Games or World Championships. Trained in the IAAF Accredited Training Centre in Kuortane, Finland, which is run by 1988 Olympic Javelin champion Tapio Korjus, Yego improved his previous national record to 81.12 in his last competition before the Olympics.
Along with Yego, Mannio and Ruuskanen, the other non-automatic qualifiers were Trinidad’s World Junior champion Keshorn Walcott (81.75) - another country never before represented in a men's Olympic throwing final - and Germany’s Timo Haber (80.39).
Back at the top of the list there were another four automatic qualifiers. Ukraine’s much improved Oleksandr Pyatnytsya, the winner this season in Paris and Monaco, was the fourth best today with his second round 82.72. Stuart Farquhar of New Zealand, who set a PB earlier this year of 86.31, made his way confidently into the final with 82.32. This is an Olympic first for the 30-year-old, as he failed to make it into the finals in both 2004 and 2008.
The two big surprises of the day were Greek Spiridon Lebesis (82.40), who is coached by Adonios Papadimitriou who trained Kostas Gatsioudis to three World Championships medals, and Japan’s Genki Dean (82.07), who at 20-years-old is one of the most exciting prospects in the event and earlier this year improved his PB by over 5 metres to 84.28.
The casualties who didn’t make it through were heavy led by Germany’s World champion Matthias De Zordo, who has had an elbow injury this year, and Latvian World Junior record holder Sirmais Zigismunds, both of whom fouled and registered no marks.
Also missing out were Beijing silver medallist Ainars Kovals of Latvia (79.19), Cuban Guillermo Martínez (80.06), the 2009 and 2011 World Championships silver and bronze medallist, and Japan’s Yukifumi Murakami (77.80), the 2009 World bronze medallist. The performance of Latvian Vadims Vasilevskis (72.81), the 2004 Olympic silver medallist, was woeful.
"I'm very happy with the result and it's a kind of surprise since I had difficulties with the orientation in the stadium," said world leader Veselý. "Sometimes the qualification goes very well and the final bad. I hope it's not the case here. I'm confident, though, that I can repeat it, and I don't think it's just a lucky shot."