Tomasz Majewski of Poland celebrates victory in the Men's Shot Put Final on Day 7 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 3, 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
The 30-year-old did it in style with four of his puts better than his previous season’s best (21.60) with his longest effort of 21.89 coming in the final round, topping out a great series which included a 21.87 heave that had held the lead since the midway point.
The Pole’s victory consigned a superb performance by Germany’s World champion David Storl, who at 22 was the youngest of the 12 finalists, to the second rung of the podium by just 3 centimetres in what was a particularly enthralling first three rounds.
In bronze came USA’s Reese Hoffa (21.23), with another former World champion from the USA Christian Cantwell (21.19) next, making it four men over 21 metres, a slightly better quality final than in Beijing whose fourth place was taken in 21.04.
Canada’s Dylan Armstrong who produced that mark four years ago was not in the same form and finished fifth tonight (20.93), with Argentina’s German Lauro twice improving his national record with a best of 20.84 for an impressive sixth place.
Serbia’s Amir Kolasinac (20.71) and Belarus’ Pavel Lyzhyn (20.69) made up the top eight; again a slight improvement on Beijing whose eighth position was taken with a 20.42 mark.
This was an intriguing final which contained many interesting battles: a contest between an ever powerful USA team of three looking for their nation’s first Olympic Shot gold since 1996 who were up against the individual ambitions of the throwers of nine other nations; a head to head between the proponents of the rotational and glide techniques; and a generation game as the 22-year-old World outdoor champion took on a group of established 30-year-olds each either a former or a reigning global outdoor gold medallist.
When World record holder Randy Barnes won the 1996 Atlanta gold he took USA’s 17th Olympic title in the men’s Shot, and it seemed then that the rotational technique, of which he was a supreme exponent, was about to consign the slide and glide throwers to the technical dustbin of athletics history and continue the traditional American hegemony of this discipline. We were wrong on both counts.
In 2000 Finland’s Arsi Harju began a sequence of four European victories over the USA and, while he was a spinner, by the 2004 Games in Athens the gliders were back on top when Andrei Mikhnevich of Belarus took the laurels in Olympia. Now with Majewski’s titles in 2008 and today, backed up by the silver of fellow glider Storl, the spinners have suffered another serious reverse.
Reese, the 2007 World champion, and a formidable spinner, came into the Beijing Olympics as a favourite for gold having beaten Majewski in their last competition before the Games, in London’s Crystal Palace. 2012 saw a repeat scenario with the Pole also succumbing to the American when they last met before these Games, again in Crystal Palace.
Four years ago the Pole was an up and coming star who surprised the world with personal bests (PB), this time while he could not improve his PB (21.95; 2009) in London he was again at his best when it mattered, registering puts greater than his previous season’s best with all his valid efforts.
Storl can count himself unlucky that he came up against Majewski, as the German’s series of three marks – 21.84, 21.86 and 21.46 – followed by three fouls had held the lead until the end of the second round, and was itself superb. His second round heave was an outdoor career best only bettered by the 21.88 with which he secured the World Indoor silver this winter.
If anyone of the medallists can be disappointed it is Hoffa whose season’s best was the 22 metres which put him into the US team when winning the trials in Eugene on 24 June. His 21.23 best tonight did not do justice to the prodigious talent of the 34-year-old.
Hoffa though was far from down, as at 34 he relished the fact that he’s now an Olympic medallist - he was seventh in Beijing - "I cannot tell you how hard it was to finally get a medal. To get a medal in London is awesome. This might be my last Olympic Games."
Not surprisingly given that his margin of lead was only one centimetre coming into the last round, Majewski was never confident of the gold until the German’s last put had landed as a foul.
"I waited and waited. I only knew after the last throw from David of course… It was very close. It’s always hard when you have great guys like these," confirmed the double Olympic champion.
David Storl "is young, he is explosive and will always throw very far. The next Olympic Games will be his, but this one is mine," confirmed the Pole.
The German for his part "expected they (his opponents) would be good but I didn’t realise just how good."
So America’s wait for another Olympic gold continues but the USA can retain historical satisfaction from the fact that O’Brien and Ralph Rose (1904 and 1908) the other men to take two Olympic titles are both theirs. If you count the 1906 Intercalated Games in the statistics then O’Brien and Majewski are the only athletes to have retained their Olympic Shot titles in history.
Chris Turner for the IAAF