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Is Viteslav Vesely the coming man in the Javelin this Olympic year – albeit at the age of 29? Certainly the way this Czech athlete has started the season gives every indication that he could be.
On the eve of Thursday’s Samsung Diamond League meeting in Oslo no less an authority than Norway’s Olympic champion Andreas Thorkildsen suggested that the competition could indicate what might happen in the event this year – which leaves Vesely, who won with a massive personal best of 88m.11, looking in good shape.
"Vesely has been looking good, really consistent," Thorkildsen had said. "But it kind of works like nobody has shown their cards yet. So I think this competition will be an important one to watch."
Strong early season
Now the cards have been well and truly shown by the man who is coached by his illustrious Czech compatriot, the three-times Olympic champion Jan Zelezny.
Before a spear had been thrown in anger in the Bislett Stadium, Vesely had established himself as the most consistent thrower of the early season with a victory in Shanghai Diamond League and second place in Eugene behind Latvia’s Vadims Vasilevskis, as well as a victory over Thorkildsen in Ostrava.
After taking a first round lead with 83.07m, his effort two rounds later easily surpassed the personal best of 86.4m he set in Olomuoc two years ago and also eclipsed the early world leading distance of 86.31m set in April by Stuart Farquhar of New Zealand.
"After a long travel from Eugene I was not expecting such a big personal best," Vesely said. "The throw was good but I was thinking maybe in the region of 85-86. But finally I got the lifetime best. It is clear I can throw more.
"I passed the last two throws, but I was paying attention and I think I would be able to add something if necessary. My coach Jan Zelezny won here at Bislett also, so now I did the same. It is a great feeling."
Eugene to Oslo - Jetlag not an issue
Vesely had speculated the night before his competition on the effect his journey from Eugene might have upon his performance. "I thought before I got to Oslo that it would have been better if I had not competed at the Eugene Diamond League, because it has meant so much travelling," he said. "I wondered whether it would have an effect on my legs."
By the following morning, however, he was feeling a little more optimistic thanks to that most beneficial of training aids – "a good sleep." But it is in the nature of this technical event that the flight of a thrower’s career can easily divert off course.
"The javelin is a very special discipline with its own challenges," Vesely said. "Because there are so many small things which have a big effect on the result."
That is something Thorkildsen knows only too well. He endured what ended up as a nightmarish season last year, losing his World title and then, in the last Diamond League in Brussels, his Diamond Race – both to Germany’s genial 24-year-old Matthias De Zordo. "The margin for error is so small," says the Norwegian. "If something isn’t right it will affect your results."
Second place behind Vesely in Ostrava last month, with an effort of 84.72m, was encouraging for the Olympic champion, but he was left looking disconsolate in the stadium where he set his personal best of 91.59m in 2006.
The women’s 100m Hurdles final was put on hold while the MC enjoined the ExxonMobil Bislett Games spectators to make some noise for the local hero’s final throw. But Thorkildsen’s effort landed only a little over the 80-metre line and he had to settle for third place thanks to a second round throw of 82.20m – a far cry from his glory throw of six years earlier.
Thorkildsen had said before the competition that he had taken some time to try and "fix" the technical problems which had undermined the second half of 2011 for him, but added that it was not unusual for him to make a slow start to the season.
"Like most other seasons I’ve had, I need a couple of meets to get warmed up. Usually it’s a step-by-step process."
Meanwhile De Zordo, described by his interviewer at the pre-event press conference as "the coming man" has had his 2012 arrival delayed at least by the back injury which he felt after competing in Shanghai which required a fortnight’s break from competition and which also persuaded him to give Eugene a miss as a precaution.
He had confessed before the meeting that he was still suffering "a little bit of pain", and his performance in finishing fifth in 81.44m offered evidence that he was some way below his competitive best.
Vesely, meanwhile, who had to give up throwing for almost three years in his early twenties because of an elbow problem, is now enjoying his competitive life as never before, and charting a course that leads via the European Championships in Helsinki to the Olympic stadium in London.
Having finished ninth at the 2010 Europeans, and fourth in last year’s IAAF World Championships, he is edging closer to the podium in a big competition. "If I can stay fit and healthy I hope to do better than ever this year," he said.