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Men's discus throw final

Men’s discus throw final

In the men’s discus final, there was obvious relief on the face of world number one Lithuanian Virgilijus Alekna when his second attempt in the competition catapulted out to 67.54 metres, as his first effort had been a very poor 58.55 metres. The improved distance established Alekna in second place behind African record holder Frantz Kruger’s (RSA) 67.89 metres. This was just the base that the Lithuanian needed to mount his Olympic challenge and in the very next round he went out even further with a solid 68.50m for first place.

This third round also saw major improvements with Germany’s defending Olympic champion Lars Riedel moving up to second with 68.50m. Kruger improved in distance with a new African record of 68.19m but in turn dropped down a place to third. Vasily Kaptyukh of Belarus mounted his own challenge with a new personal best 67.59m for fourth.

Both Riedel and Kruger produced 68 metre throws in round four but did not improve their positions and Alekna could only manage 66.64 metres.

So the positions stood Alekna, Riedel, Kruger in that order and they were not to change, for largely unnoticed right in the middle of the celebrations surrounding Cathy Freeman’s 400m gold medal triumph, Alekna tightened the screw on this competition with a huge 69.30m release. Neither Riedel or Kruger could find any satisfactory answer to that mark in the sixth round and Alekna’s own last throw landed at 64.78 metres.

So Gold went to the Lithuanian, who besides the 1998 World Cup title has been unlucky at all his previous championships. With the exception of one defeat at the hands of Riedel in the last Golden League meet in Berlin, Alekna’s season had been unblemished. Yet it had been the manner of Alekna’s win at Kaunas in the Lithuanian championships which had spotlighted him as the firm favourite for Olympic gold. In those national championships he threw the second and third longest throws in the history of the event, 73.88m and 72.35m; only the 74.08 metre world record (1986) of Germany’s Jurgen Schult had ever gone further!

Alekna’s win was the second Olympic title for Lithuania at the men’s discus following on from Romas Ubartas first place in the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 and a huge improvement on Alekna’s own fifth place in Atlanta.