Robert Harting of Germany on his way to winning the gold medal in the men's Discus Throw in Berlin (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Harting spurred on by 70m and rival Małachowski

Robert Harting may have missed out on gold at the European Championships, but a late-season peak has given him the confidence to break the magical 70 metres barrier next year.

In Barcelona earlier this summer, Harting’s arch rival Piotr Malachowski of Poland came out on top and the German had to settle for silver. “The European Championships was disappointing for me,” says Harting. “Training had been going great and I was ready to throw big, but I think I was too relaxed. I didn’t have enough aggression in my throws, while Piotr threw great.”

Quick to brush off the defeat, Harting rebounded with a series of impressive wins, including the Samsung Diamond League meeting in Zürich and then in Berlin, followed by a PB of 69.69m in Neubrandenburg – the venue of Jürgen Schult’s 74.08m World record.

“It’s a shame that I couldn’t throw my PB at the Europeans, but as they say, you have to celebrate when there’s a party, so it was still a good feeling to throw 69.69m,” said Harting.” Piotr was at that competition too, so it was good to have a rematch.”

His 66.85m victory at the IAAF / VTB Bank Continental Cup, finishing ahead of the in-form Australian Benn Harradine (66.45m AR), was a great ending to an almost-perfect season.

“It was a tough competition today,” said the 25-year-old. “I wasn’t surprised by Benn’s throw. He has been training in Germany recently and I had heard that things were going well. It was almost as though I was competing against a German competitor!”

Throwing in the genes

Born to shot-putting parents Gerd and Bettina, Harting was always destined for athletics success. The throwing genes have continued down the family, as his 19-year-old brother Christoph broke 60m for the first time this year with a PB of 61.10m.

Since his breakthrough as a junior and his victory at the 2005 European Junior Championships, Harting – who is coached by Werner Goldmann – has steadily progressed to the top ranks of discus throwers, winning World silver in 2007, finishing fourth at the 2008 Olympics, and reigning victorious at the IAAF World Championships last year on home soil in Berlin.

Motivated by Malachowski

Harting’s rivalry with Malachowski dates back to 2005 when they were still juniors and has continued as they have both improved in the years since then. Harting holds the advantage at present, 20-15, but is not getting complacent.

“I can’t ease off in training because I want to beat him, and similarly I know that he won’t ease up in training because he wants to beat me,” said Harting. “I hope for both of us that our rivalry continues for many more years because it’s great to have that motivation.”

Eager to break 70 metres

For any world-class discus thrower, 70 metres is the benchmark for the true elite. While some athletes seek out windy venues for an extra bit of distance, Harting doesn’t plan to do the same.

“I know that Gerd (Kanter) likes to chase the wind to throw long distances, and he is still good enough to throw far in stadiums at championships too,” said Harting. “If the wind is there at a competition, then I’ll try to use it, but I don’t actively seek out good throwing conditions.

“I have to throw 70m next year,” he added. “A lot of people are now expecting me to do it, and I am closer than ever now. Everyone is rooting for me, so hopefully next year I will break 70 metres – not only for me, but for everyone who has been willing me to do it.”

Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF