The 2013-2016 IAAF Strategic Plan has six Core Values: universality, leadership, unity, excellence, integrity and solidarity, and a Vision Statement: “To lead, govern and develop the sport of athletics in all its forms worldwide, uniting the Athletics Family in a spirit of excellence, integrity and solidarity.”
You may not have imagined that Robert Harting who is 2.01m high and weighs 126kg could be as swift as Sally Pearson but when celebrating his Olympic victory after one of the most entertaining Discus Throw finals in decades, the 27-year-old German nimbly cleared a few flights of barriers in the home straight which had been set out in anticipation of the final of the women’s 100m Hurdles.
Tonight Harting won thanks to the consistency of long throwing which has now extended his winning streak to 29 victories (finals only) but while his victory came with a massive throw of 68.27 metres, this was not the unchallenged gold medal campaign that we had all assumed it would be.
With the exception of Alekna’s first Olympic title in Sydney, this was to be the greatest quality Discus Throw final in history, with three men over 68m, another two over 67m, and 8th place secured with 64.79.
To win tonight Harting had to defeat a field of opponents which were at the top of their game, and ultimately saw Ehsan Hadadi of Iran, the World Championships bronze medallist, take his country’s first ever Olympic athletics medal (silver; 68.18), and the reigning Olympic champion Gerd Kanter of Estonia, finish with bronze (68.03).
Spare a thought also for two-time World and Olympic gold medallist Virgilijus Alekna of Lithuania who finished fourth with 67.38, a performance which in all but two previous Olympics would have been good enough for a medal. Not bad for a 40-year-old!
Throwing in third it was Alekna which drew the first roar from the crowd when his implement hit the turf at 67.38 but four throwers later Hadadi awed the crowd further when, putting everything into his opening effort, he took the lead with 68.18. Harting’s response was impressive, 67.79, which squeezed him into second.
In comparison with the first round, the next two series of throws produced a relative anti-climax with neither of these three men improving, though the Iranian and German had long efforts in the second, 67.28 and 67.27 respectively; the Lithuanian had fouls.
Meanwhile the Olympic champion Kanter was pounding away a couple of metres below, with 65.07, 65.79 and then improved to 66.02. The only other man seriously in the hunt for honours was the Pole Piotr Malachowski, the Olympic silver medallist in 2008, who after a lowly opener (62.50), hung one out to 66.93 on his second attempt.
So at the half way stage the lead was as follows, Hadadi, Harting, Alekna, Malachowski and Kanter, with only just over two metres separating first from fifth.
The only improvement in the fifth round was Malachowski, who flew out to 67.19 but that was still short of Alekna’s bronze position by 19cm, and in the fifth round that gap to the podium grew dramatically as Kanter unleashed a 68.03 spinner which moved him up three places in the order to silver.
That piece of silver quickly tarnished as precisely two throws later, Harting, who was considering no other thought other than of gold, and rocketed his discus out to the 68.27m which would ultimately take the title, moving Hadadi to silver and Kanter to bronze.
Hadadi throwing last responded magnificently and as the discus landed it looked like the lead but as we began to applaud the red flag was raised for a foul.
After the Pole and the Lithuanian had fouled with their last efforts, Kanter then did his best to retain his title but could produce only 66.99. Harting then entered the ring for the last time but couldn’t extend his lead - throwing 67.08 - and so had to wait anxiously while Hadadi took the last throw of the final. But the Iranian’s effort was another foul and so the gold went to Germany, it was their country’s fourth Olympic Discus Throw title.
"The discus felt heavier by the end so I'm happy that it ended in my favour," said Harting. "It was like a chess game, very strategic and interesting. We were all very close to each other. I thought the last throw would be far more left than it was, but it ended up all right."
"Basically I was ready to break the Olympic record (69.89 metres)," said the silver medallist "but since the rain started I couldn't throw well."
"I felt I could do much more, but that's the thing with the Olympics, everybody could do much more," said the defend champion Kanter. "But, there's a lot of pressure on you, you're really trying hard."