He made it a last round cliffhanger but in the end the defending champion, Ivan Tsikhan (BLR) retained his title with a last-gasp 83.63m, a new world leading mark and his third World title in a row.
Silver went to Slovenia’s Primus Kozmus for their first ever World championship medal while Libor Charfreitag did likewise for Slovakia.
Despite the expectation in the crowd, the host country’s Koji Murofushi could manage no better than sixth, but with a season’s best of 80.46.
Belarus champion, Vadim Devyatovsky, opened the proceedings but it was Kozmus who gave the crowd the first 80m-throw when the hammer touched down at 80.68.
Right from the off, Tsikhan’s timing was out and as his first effort flew outside the sector he punched his hand in frustration.
The first round is an occasion for making your mark. Miloslav Konopka (SVK) succeeded but not in the way he would have wanted. Losing his balance on release, the hammer shot through the netting across the track and into the long jump pit on the back straight.
While officials carried out running repairs on the cage, the most unusual interlude ensued. In the land of karaoke, the organisers put on YMCA by the Village People and the stadium joined in. Field eventers are used to having their competitions interrupted, but this was unexpected. The throwers were studies in frustration, resignation or amusement.
As battle resumed Devyatovskiy made up for his initial faux pas by taking the lead with 80.95, but there was a whiff of failure in the air as Tsikhan repeated his first round mistake, the hammer landing outside the sector.
With only one throw remaining before the last four were ejected from the competition, he would have to gamble everything on his next and possibly last chance.
Charfreitag, leader of the qualification round, then set a new season’s best 80.93 to move into silver.
The third round saw evidence of the first quality throw as Kozmus winged the implement out to 82.12, but there was just as much excitement over what would happen next as Tsikhan got out of jail, sending the hammer straight down the middle this time for a safe 79.35. Now he could build.
To the delight of the crowd Murofushi went over 80m for the first time this season with yet another best for the year of 80.38 to improve to fourth.
Devyatovskiy then bettered his mark to 81.22 while an anxious looking Tsikhan edged out to 80.77, shunting aside Murofushi.
Charfeitag pulled out his bronze medal winning throw of 81.60 while Devyatovskiy improved to 81.57 which in the end was only good enough for fourth.
So the stage was set for the finale and Tsikhan performed his last gasp act to take the gold medal.
Osaka 2007 News Team/mb