Olli-Pekka Karjalainen (FIN) (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Karjalainen hammers home 83.30m in Lahti

LahtiFinlandFrank Fredericks said “goodbye”, Llewellyn Herbert took an easy Hurdles win but the star of the fourth meeting of the Finnish Federation’s six event annual Elite Games Series was Hammer thrower Olli-Pekka Karjalainen.

World's third longest thrower in 2004

Karjalainen, 24, the former World Junior champion set a massive Finnish Hammer record of 83.30m last night to propel himself into a serious Olympic medal contenter for this summer’s Games in Athens.

Only reigning World Champion Ivan Tikhon of Belarussia (83.97) and reigning European Champion Adrian Annus of Hungary (83.65) have so far thrown longer than Karjalainen in 2004.

This was Karjalainen’s second Finnish record of this season. His previous one of 82.15 was thrown on 12th June in Lapua. Also his second best throw in Lahti´s Stadium - where the Nordic Skiing World Championships have taken place five times - was also better than that previous record.

It was raining heavily for a couple of hours before the competition in Lahti and the ring was in excellent form in a half-cloudy, +16 - 17 degrees cool weather. Lahti stadium seems to be Karjalainen´s lucky arena, as that’s where he also set his first national record of 81.70 in 2002.

Last night Karjalainen started with 77.19 and fouled his next throw. Then he produced 83.30, 80.64, 82.55, and a no mark.

Krisztian Pars of Hungary was in a solid form in second: fouled, 77.90, 78.83, 79.06, again 79.06, and 79.58.

Karjalainen´s training partner David Söderberg placed third with his season best 75.56.

"It was very easy today,” said Karjalainen who for the first time in his career threw three times over 80 metres in the same competition. “I sent two over 80-metre once in Szombathley, Hungary in 2002, but I had never done that before in Finland.”

"Everything was so easy today, that I could almost have spinned the Hammer in the other direction and still it would have flown far away!" laughed Karjalainen.

Olympic hope

No doubting Karjalainen is now the strongest Finnish medal hope for the Athens Olympic Games but he refuses to take any pressure on himself despite his form.

“Some people claimed me as a medallist already before Sydney in 2000 after I had thrown 80 metres for the very first time. And what happened: I was 34th at the OG qualification competition!”

“Still I know that this time hoping for the success is much more realistic. You need to set these kind of results or else you can only have daydreams about the podium,” Karjalainen admitted.

Karjalainen won the IAAF World Junior Championship in 1998 and the European Junior Championship in 1999 and took the European Junior championships bronze in 1997.

At the European U23 Championships in 2001 he placed second behind France’s Nicolas Figere. Karjalainen´s best merit in the senior ranks is the 8th place at European championships in 2002 and a European Cup Super League victory in the same year.

Karjalainen is planning to compete 2 - 3 times more before Athens, but only in Finland.

Peter Bofta was not satisfied with his throws in Lahti: “Yes, Olli-Pekka was marvellous, but I should have thrown 80 metres. My technique was bad at the late part of the throw.”

Frank Fredericks´ victorious good-bye

Lahti in Southern Finland is a very special city for Frank Fredericks of Namibia, because his manager Jukka Härkönen lives there.

Fredericks, 36, competed in Lahti for the first time 14 years ago and said a tender good-bye to the Finns on Wednesday. His performance lasted 10.26 in 100 metres.

"I will always remember Lahti as my second home town. People have been very friendly to me here and I have had very good training session at this stadium", said Fredericks, the 1993 World 200m champion.

Herbert takes easy win

Llewellyn Herbert of South Africa stayed and trained some days with Fredericks in Lahti and won 400m Hurdles with in 49,18. Vladislav Shiryayev of Russia was next (49,99).

"Next the African Champs in the Congo and then 2 races before Athens,” confirmed Herbert.

Other International winners...

Other international winners were Hamed Al Bishi of Saudi Arabia 20.66 in men´s 200 metres, Britain’s Susan Scott (2.01,46) and Ricky Soos (1.48,81) in women’s and men’s 800m respectively, and Yevgenyi Plotnir of Russia in men’s Triple Jump (16,43).

25-year-old Hurdle Finnish Record broken

Karjalainen was not the only Finn to break a national record last night. Hanna Korell ran 13.13 in the women’s 100m Hurdles and improved by 0,11 second the previous Finnish record, set by Lena Spoof in August 1979 when winning the European Junior Championships gold in Bydgoszcz, Poland.

Korell was the European Junior bronze medallist in 1997, but has had serious leg injuries during the last 4 to 5 years.

Tiisanoja is defeated

Ville Tiisanoja in men’s Shot was defeated by a Finn for the first time this year - including the indoor season.

Tepa Reinikainen produced a series of 20.50 – 20.05 – 20.30 - fouled – 20.06 – 20.10 against Tiisanoja’s 20.07 – 20.08 – 20.08 – 20.19 – 20.26 - fouled.

Ingberg is back from injury

Mikaela Ingberg opened her season in women’s Javelin and threw her winning result 59.07 in the first round. Finnish Record (64.90 in 2003) holder Paula Huhtaniemi produced only 55,88.

Ingberg has suffered from an infection in her right shoulder and was simply relieved after the competition:

“No pain anywhere. I am very confident for the future,” smiled the 1995 World bronze medallist and 1998/2002 European bronze medallist.

The men’s Javelin was won by Ari Pakarinen, 5th at the World Championships in 1993, with his season’s best of 79.27.

Finally, Simon Sundsten won men’s Long Jump with his new personal best of 7.96 (wind +2.0 m/s).

Antti-Pekka Sonninen for the IAAF