A star-studded men’s javelin competition, pitting the reigning world and Olympic champions against the man who has taken command of the event this year, will take centre stage at the BAUHAUS-galan meeting in Stockholm on Thursday (16), the eighth stop of this year’s IAAF Diamond League.
London 2012 Olympic Games champion Keshorn Walcott, of Trinidad and Tobago, and Kenya’s 2015 world champion Julius Yego may have been overshadowed this season by Germany’s Thomas Rohler, the Diamond Race leader, but Stockholm will offer them the perfect platform to make a statement of intent with less than two months until the Olympic Games.
“My third best throw ever was last week in Oslo so I feel I am coming into form,” said Walcott, speaking at the pre-meet press conference in the historic 1912 Olympic Stadium, which stages Sweden’s biggest annual athletics meeting. “I hope to do even better in the next few weeks.”
At the age of 19, and even though he had won the world junior title a few weeks before, Walcott surprised everyone at the 2012 Olympics, unleashing a national record of 84.58m to take gold and upset the established order in the men’s javelin, an event traditionally dominated by European athletes.
However, Thursday evening’s field features nine athletes from eight countries and four continents to offer proof of just how diverse the event has become in a very short space of time.
“It’s good to see a lot of competitors from outside Europe coming through, especially from the Caribbean, Kenya and the (United) States,” said Walcott.
“There is a lot of talent in the field events in the Caribbean but much more attention on the track so I hope my success will encourage more people to take on the field events.”
Another who shook up the world in recent years has been Yego, who threw an African record of 92.72m ay the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 last August, to take the world title and also move up to third on the world all-time list.
The 27-year-old has been somewhat off his peak this season, with a best throw so far of 84.68m in Eugene last month, but there will be no better place to re-affirm his intent than in Stockholm.
Although he grew up some 7000 kilometres away, Yego didn’t have far to travel to compete in the Swedish capital as he splits his time between his native Kenya and Finland, where he trains under the orders of coach Petteri Piironen.
“It’s a good place for training, and I have a very nice coach,” he said. “It always feels good to be in Finland. It’s where my technique and everything to do with javelin improved.”
Before looking forward to Thursday’s competition, Yego cast his mind back to last summer and his memorable world title, the first by a Kenyan in a field event in contrast to their plethora of titles in the middle and long distance.
“Winning in Beijing was great as I made history,” he said. “There was a great reception for us back home after, because we helped Kenya lead the world for the first time in history.”
Rohler the target
Despite Yego’s accolades, he will not start favourite; that mantle is carried by Germany’s Thomas Rohler, who has been victorious in four out of his five competitions this year and the 2014 Diamond Racew winner tops the world rankings with his 89.30m throw in Oslo, which was also a personal best.
Rohler holds a comfortable lead in this this year’s Diamond Race with 24 points, with Egypt’s 2015 world championships silver medallist Ihab Abdelrahman, who will also be in action in Stockholm, currently second with 15 points.
As well as the all-star international cast, there will be considerable local interest in this discipline thanks to Sweden’s Kim Amb, a two-time world championships finalist who has a best of 82.67m this year.
“I had a great winter training and I am very excited for 2016, especially after being injured in 2014 and 2015,” he said. “Tomorrow (Thursday) I need to do a good, solid throw. I am excited to be here and with a great crowd and good weather.”
Along with his Rio Olympic ambitions, Amb is keen to make a good start to his IAAF Diamond League campaign in order to set himself up for the European Championships in Amsterdam next month.
“It is a big year with two championships for me, the Europeans and the Olympics, and tomorrow I hope I can also qualify for the Olympics, but it is ridiculous how far people are already throwing this year,” he added, suggesting that the deep field in the javelin could make this event one of the highlights of this year’s IAAF Diamond League meeting in Stockholm.
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF