The Paavo Nurmi Games may form part of the IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge, but it was another throwing discipline that grabbed the attention of the 13,130-strong crowd in Turku on Wednesday (29).
With sunny skies and the thermometer reading 23C at the start of the evening, the conditions were ideal for top-level athletics – and for javelin throwing in particular.
But, unusually for this competition, it wasn’t a Finnish javelin thrower who came out on top. Germany’s Thomas Rohler, already the world leader with his 89.30m throw at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Oslo, came to Turku following a third-place finish in Kuortane with 86.30m four days ago.
The 24-year-old showed no signs of fatigue in Turku, sending his javelin out to 85.81m in the first round to take an early lead. He then produced a world-leading throw of 89.34m in round two, breaking his personal best and adding 25 centimetres to the stadium record set last year by Tero Pitkamaki.
Rohler was far from done, though. His third-round effort landed at 91.28m as he became the 15th member of the 90-metre club and moved to 11th on the world all-time list.
He continued his spectacular series with 86.26m in round four, and another huge throw of 91.04m in round five before finishing his competition with 86.56m as the knowledgeable crowd showedtheir appreciation with a standing ovation.
The only other man in history to produce two 91-metre throws within the same series is world record-holder Jan Zelezny, something which the legendary Czech thrower managed on eight occasions.
On a great night for German throwing, Rohler’s compatriot Julian Weber made a big breakthrough. The 21-year-old threw a personal best of 84.45m in round three before improving further in round five to 86.83m, adding three metres to his pre-competition PB.
European champion Antti Ruuskanen was third with 83.10m and Pitkamaki fourth with 83.03m. Another German, Andreas Hofmann, took fifth place with 82.67m, while Egypt’s world silver medallist Ihab Abdelrahman fouled all three of his throws.
With five of the top six finishers from last year’s IAAF World Championships were present, the men’s hammer was still one of the highlights of the meeting.
Two-time world champion Pawel Fajdek had narrowly missed out on the meeting record of 80.88m last year, winning with 80.71m. This time, though, he achieved his goal.
The 27-year-old opened with 77.87m and lost his lead momentarily to compatriot Wojciech Nowicki when the world bronze medallist threw 78.04m in round two.
Fajdek answered with a 78.75m in the same round, but was overtaken again in round four by world silver medallist Dilshod Nazarov, who hit a season’s best of 78.87m to move into first place.
Fajdek’s answer came swiftly and this time it was more than enough for the win. His fourth-round mark of 81.12m added 24 centimetres to the stadium record, which was set by Juha Tiainen in 1984, just weeks before he won the Olympic title in Los Angeles.
The Pole closed out his series with throws of 80.95m and 80.79m and will now head to Amsterdam in pursuit of his first European title.
Nazarov produced two more throws beyond 78 metres but remained in second place, just ahead of Nowicki.
In fourth place, Finland’s David Soderberg threw 77.60m, the second-best mark of his career behind his 78.83m PB from 13 years ago. Olympic champion Krisztian Pars finished down in ninth with 70.25m, his shortest throw since 2002.
There may not have been a Finnish win in the men’s throwing events, but the crowd was treated to a home victory in the women’s 100m hurdles.
Nooralotta Neziri, fresh from national records of 12.81 and 12.82 in recent weeks, came out on top again. She ran 12.87 in the heats before winning the final in 12.91.
In a tight men’s 400m hurdles race, just 0.16 separated the top four finishers as South Africa’s Le Roux Hamman held off Finland’s Oskari Moro, 49.44 to 49.50. Denmark’s Sara Slott Pedersen won the women’s event in 56.08, despite hitting a hurdle and nearly coming to a halt with 100 metres to go.
Australia’s Kathryn Mitchell continued her consistent 2016 campaign, winning the women’s javelin with 63.80m. China’s Li Lingwei produced a last-round throw of 61.79m to move into second, overtaking 2013 world champion Christina Obergfoll, who threw 61.38m.
Josephat Menjo just about managed to shake off the challenge from Australia’s Patrick Tiernan in the closing stages of the men’s 5000m. The Kenyan won in 13:20.51 with Tiernan clocking a PB of 13:20.88 for second place.
Hungary’s Balazs Baji was fastest in the men’s 110m hurdles in 13.43, after clocking a 13.41 season’s best in the heats.
Numerous personal bests were set in the women’s with Poland’s Danuta Urbanik winning from New Zealand’s Angie Petty, both setting PBs with respective times of 4:06.58 and 4:07.83. Similarly, there were several PBs in the women’s 3000m steeplechase, won by France’s Ophelie Claude-Boxberger in 9:34.96.
Elsewhere, Guyana’s Troy Doris won the men’s triple jump with a wind-assisted 17.06m. Michal Haratyk led a Polish 1-2 in the men’s shot put, winning with 20.25m to finish seven centimetres ahead of compatriot Mateusz Mikos.
Minna Nikkanen won the pole vault with a season’s best of 4.52m. Switzerland’s Nicole Buchler and Wilma Murto were tied for second place at 4.52m, an outdoor best for the latter. Buchler only made one attempt at 4.62m before retiring from the competition.
Mirko Jalava for the IAAF