Tomasz Majewski of Poland competes in the Men's Shot Put Final on Day 7 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 3, 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News London, UK

'Restless' Majewski makes history in London

Tomasz Majewski is restlesswhich means 6ft 8in and 21 stone of restlessness. An hour after becoming the first man to win back-to-back Olympic Shot Put titles since Parry O’Brien, who won the 1952 and 1956 titles for the United States, the bearded and bandana’d Pole is finding life very irksome as he sits in the official post-event media conference, flanked by the two men who will stand either side of him in Saturday’s medal ceremony – Germany’s 22-year-old World champion David Storl, and former World champion Reese Hoffa of the United States.

It may be because many of the questions seem to be going either side of him, although it is clear from the friendly and respectful way in which he behaves with his fellow athletes that Majewski is a friendly and generous character.

Friendly and generous to his friends, doubtless. Less generous with the press, especially when they ask what he clearly regards as dumb questions.

Question number one comes from your correspondent – given the way Storl seized gold from Dylan Armstrong’s grasp in Daegu last summer with his sixth and final throw, did the 2012 Olympic champion fear a similar final flourish from the young man who had thrown down the challenge to him and the rest of the field with first and second round efforts of 21.84 and 21.86, successive personal bests?

"It’s normal," replies Majewski. "There were a lot of great competitors out there, and in Shot Put you can never be sure to win. You must wait until the last throw. Then you can be sure."

Another decent question comes in, and gets a decent response. Will he be going on to defend his title for a second time at the 2016 Rio Games?

The initial reaction is a snort of laughter. "I will be 35 in Rio," he says, before re-considering. "But Reese is 35…"

Hoffa, the 2007 World champion who has the second further 2012 throw to his credit, 22.00m, confirms he will turn 35 in October.

"If I am in the same very good shape like Reese, we will see."

Hoffa is then coaxed into telling the very affecting story of his childhood adoption and subsequent reuniting with his birth mother. It is an affecting story, but it is becoming rather a long story, and Majewski is restlessly ripping open a cereal bar and eating part of it before offering some to Storl – who turns it down with a smile – and then to the interview moderator, who also demurs.

Now Storl is being asked about another touching matter, the recent death of his grandmother, to whom he had hoped to dedicate a gold medal. Majewski seems to be wondering what kind of press conference this is turning out to be. "Are there any other questions," he asks, looking as if he might be about to break the table in front of him apart and stride from the room, scattering journalists to either side of him.

And now he is being asked another question – but it is on the subject of his touchiness with the press. Will he, the questioner wonders, be able to deal with all the public and media interest back home in Poland for another four years, because – and here you slightly questioned the questioner’s wisdom – he seems "so short tempered" with the public.

"Four years," says Majewski, lugubriously. "Another four years…it’s nothing hard. You prepare for that. So you can do it."

It seems fair to say that Majewski’s publicity agent will be earning every zloty in future weeks and months.

It’s time to ask another question. "Tomasz, you have been called the Silent Giant. Is that true, or is it a load of rubbish?"

The giant Pole seems suddenly very tired. It has after all been a long hard day. "I don’t know…" he ventures.

"Do you consider yourself to be a silent person?"

"Me? Silent?" He explodes into incredulous mirth before once more resembling a man struggling desperately to free himself from an unbearable situation. "Oh God, we are tired…."

As Hoffa fields another question about whether he would or would not soon be competing in Dakar (Answer – he honestly doesn’t know), Majewski chats and laughs with Storl.

But now the German is being asked a question about whether there was a bet between him and his girlfriend over who would get a medal. There is the sound that you get when you release the steam on a pressure cooker. The steam is coming from Tomasz Majewski.

"Where you get this question?" he asks, incredulous. "Please guys…"

Smiling, shaking his head, the man mountain finally takes his leave, although his exit is momentarily delayed by three Polish journalists with whom he speaks briefly.

He tells them that he knew he had won the competition after the fifth round. He also says how he is happy to have stemmed some of the growing criticism back home by getting the Polish medals stacking up after the earlier weightlifting gold and rowing bronze.

And so departs the successful defending champion, an athlete with the special gift of peaking at the right time. After winning World silver in 2009, he could do no better than ninth in last year’s World Championships. But a bronze at this year’s World Indoor Championships indicated he was heading back in the right direction ahead of London.

"I feel great," he had said in his initial comment to the press conference. "It very hard to defend an Olympic title. There were lots of great athletes in the field, and so I am very happy. It’s a great story."

Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF