Tomasz Majewski at the Polish championships (Marek Biczyk) © Copyright

Men's Shot Put - PREVIEW

Before Beijing the prediction was that USA would take gold. At the time 2005 World champion Adam Nelson, 2007 World titleholder Reese Hoffa, and 2008 World Indoor champion Christian Cantwell were the most consistent putters in the world. Yet as so often happens at major championships the form guide failed to live up to a surprise package that was delivered in that instance by Poland’s Tomasz Majewski, who spoiled the American party with a 21.51m personal best for gold. Cantwell was the best of the USA in silver with Hoffa back in seventh and Nelson not registering a mark.

Hoffa and Cantwell return to the Olympics this summer as does Majewski but Nelson missed out at the US Trials, with Ryan Whiting, the World Indoor champion, completing the ever powerful American trio who’ll try and wrest the title from the Pole in London. The same as before Beijing, the American squad also top the 2012 world lists – Cantwell 22.31m, Hoffa 22.00m, Whiting 21.66m.

Emphasising USA’s strength, five of the top shot putters in the world this year are American, and between them Cantwell (2) and Hoffa (3) have the top-5 performances of the summer so far. Notably Hoffa this season has a 6 to 1 win record in his head-to-head stats with Cantwell, while in competitions against Majewski it’s much tighter with Hoffa having three victories to the Pole’s two in their battles together.

Majewski with 21.60m is in good form this year, not far off his current personal best (21.95m). Interestingly just ahead of the Beijing Games the Pole harried the Americans at the London Grand Prix meeting, with Hoffa the victor with 21.13m and Majewski in third with a then PB of 20.97m. This year too, the men met for a similar dress rehearsal at the British capital’s leg of the Samsung Diamond League meeting with the American again edging a win 21.34m to 21.28m. Is Majewski priming his guns again for a second Olympic title?

Germany’s surprise World champion from last summer David Storl who has so far thrown 21.58m in 2012 is just as likely to upset American ambitions. The 21-year-old has sent shock waves through the event with his dramatic and seamless transition from World Youth (2007) to Junior (2008) to senior champion. He has since taken the World Indoor silver and the continental outdoor title (29 June, Helsinki) where put his 21.58m (his last event before London) but has suffered defeats in his last three meetings with Majewski, though his record in 2012 against the top Americans is more even.

Twice over 21m this season and winning the Russian championships in a personal best of 21.51m is Maksim Sidorov and he could cause an upset but a more likely bet to medal and with very realistic title hopes is Canada’s Dylan Armstrong the World silver medallist, who has a best this year of 21.50m. Now 31 years old, the Canadian was in awesome form in 2011 with a personal best of 22.21m, only to be upstaged by the prodigiously talented Storl. Though currently not in quite the same shape at 2011, in his two meetings with Storl this summer he has beaten the German.

Canada’s Justin Rodhe (21.11m) and Portugal’s Marco Fortes (21.02m), and the veteran Andrei Mikhnevich (20.90m) of Belarus, the former World champion and reigning World and Olympic bronze medallist, are serious threats.

Chris Turner for the IAAF