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.”
London, UKRobert Harting was Germany’s best gold medal bet and he delivered, ending a long wait for a German Olympic champion in athletics. It was already twelve years ago that this traditional athletics nation had last produced an Olympic champion: In Sydney 2000 Nils Schumann took the 800 metres and Heike Drechsler won the Long Jump. Neither in Athens nor in Beijing was there a German winner. A lot of pressure was on Harting and he struggled quite a bit in London. But in the end he snatched a narrow victory with a fifth round throw of 68.27m.
"I feel really freed from all the pressure now," said 27-year-old Harting, when asked about the fact that he was the big German athletics hope. "Of course I am used to some pressure all the time. But before London it was really very intense and that was something new for me. On the other hand I always knew that I can do it (winning) and that I have a good form", said Harting, who had produced his first 70m throws of his career earlier in the season (70.31 and 70.66 in May). "But something can always go wrong as we have seen today. I could have messed up today. And if Ehsan Hadadi would have had a big throw I would not have been able to react."
It was a difficult competition for Harting who did not find his rhythm. It all seemed to go wrong for him. "When I had my first throw it was shortly before the first start of the 800 metres semi final – so that was very distracting," said Harting. He complained but without success. "When I had my second throw it was the next 800 metre race. And this time there was British runner in it. I am used to some noise in the stadium. It was very loud in Berlin when I won the World Championships in 2009, but this was extraordinary. Of course this time they did not shout for me and that makes a difference."
After he had started his competition with 67.79m he produced a foul in round two. There was another problem when he entered the cage for his third throw. He had placed his towel next to the ring and the referee asked him to move it, because he needed to have a clear view. Harting was not happy with this and threw 67.27m, still chasing Ehsan Hadadi’s first round mark of 68.18m.
"It was somehow annoying because three rounds in an Olympic final were already over. Additionally my legs started feeling tired and I suffered from some pain in my knee again. It is the same problem I had a year ago and I even had surgery on this knee after last year’s season."
It was then the throw of Estonia’s Gerd Kanter in round five that relegated him into third place that brought a brief change for Robert Harting. It was like a wake-up call for the two-time World champion (Berlin 2009 and Daegu 2011). "I knew I had to do something now after he had thrown 68 metres." He did by bettering Hadadi’s mark by nine centimetres – it was the closest victory margin in Olympic Discus throwing since 1928. The Iranian seemed to have regained the lead instantly in round five, but the referee spotted that Hadadi had very slightly stepped on the ring. While he had been annoyed earlier, now Harting had a reason to be thankful for the meticulous refereeing. "Of course I am happy that he did see that, although I was not aware at the moment that the throw had been so good."
"My winning throw was more dynamic, but it was not that good technically as well. That is why it was going towards the left side of the sector. Usually I don’t throw well when the discus is going to this side. But today it was enough. It is a great moment. It was well worth fighting and coping in this final, which often does not lead to success in discus throwing," said Robert Harting, who became Germany’s fourth man to win the Olympic Discus competition. Rolf Danneberg (1984), Jürgen Schult (1988) and Lars Riedel (1996) are the other three.
Having won two World Championships and one Olympic gold he was asked about his future goals and if it could be an aim to try to follow in the footsteps of American Discus legend Al Oerter, who had taken four Olympic gold medals in a row. "I don’t think that a feat like this is still achievable in our times. You will not be able to keep such a high level for so many years," answered Harting.
"In the past few years I have experienced a lot of pain and injuries. These problems have changed my personality a bit," said Harting, who gives far fewer rough comments than he did some years ago.
In the German athletics magazine ,Leichtathletik’ Werner Goldmann, the coach of Harting, gave an interview recently. When asked how he copes with the personality of the thrower he answered: "Robert belongs to the difficult athletes to work with. But this is not bad, because those who are nice and easy to work with usually are not the ones who are successful. Robert is very ambitious and really cares a lot about himself and his form. It is not always easy, but so far it has always led to success."
Although he probably became a bit quieter Harting still knows how to celebrate a major victory: "Now I am looking forward to the next few hours!" As usual after a major victory he ripped his shirt in pieces before he started his lap of honour. "If I come out of the stadium without a shirt then it means that it was good for me," he said.
He then introduced a new form of celebration, much to the delight of the spectators and to the disbelief of the referees who tried to stop him. When he entered the home straight during his lap of honour he started jumping the hurdles that were put in place for the women’s 100m Hurdles final. He did not do too bad although it was only lane nine, leaving some space to the outer side. When he had started athletics at the age of 13 he did various events. "Even today we sometimes do some hurdling in training," Harting explained, joking: "Maybe Sally Pearson won because she copied something from my technique!"