The women’s lineup I previewed on Monday looks much the same as it did two years ago and today’s qualification showed the same players will be fighting it out. The men’s competition, on the other hand, features a fresh crop of athletes mixed in with some old familiar veterans. Highlighting it all will be a matchup I listed as the number one reason to watch the hammer in 2014: Pars vs. Fajdek. The Olympic champion Krisztian Pars will be making his fourth European Championship start while young 25-year old World Champion Pawel Fajdek will be making his debut. What looked like a great rivalry at the start of the season has only gotten better throughout the year.
The track in Zurich has gained the nickname piste magique, the magic track, for no small reason. The annual Weltklasse Zurich meet is know as the best one-day meet in the world for its enthusiastic sell-out crowds and more than 20 world records set in the stadium. With a new fast ring and the same energetic atmostphere, it could be the perfect atmosphere for another world record. The top female hammer throwers have been flirting with the 80-meter barrier for a while. Both the world leader and world record holder will be battling not only for gold this week, but also to be the first to break the landmark barrier. In any event, it should be one of the most exciting competitions of the meet.
Before the Olympics I looked at what it would take to make the Olympic finals. In the end, despite an A standard of 78 meters, it took a throw of 74.69 meters to make the cut. That may seem low, but it was right in line with the historic level. With the European Championships taking place in less than a month, I thought I would work with British statistician Ian Tempest to look at what it will likely take to make the finals in Zurich.
With a little more than a day until the shot put action kicks off, I finally was able to put the finishing touches of my men’s throws guide for the 2014 USATF Championships. The women’s guide I posted last week was fairly easy to prepare as is a clear favorites in all four throwing events. Not a single men’s throwing event, on the other hand, has a clear frontrunner. Even making a short list of who could possibly win is impossible in each event. But I’ve tried to narrow it down for you all. The only thing guaranteed is that there will be a surprise this week and it will be entertaining even if the throwing events are being relegated to outside the stadium.
It’s less than a week until the US Championships begin in Sacramento. With no world championship to qualify for this year, some big names might be missing from other events. But for throwers it is business as usual. All of the top American throwers will be there. Even without a spot on Team USA up for grabs, they will be fighting for bragging rights, bonuses, and personal bests.
The month of May traditionally marks the start of the international season. The top North American throwers have already started to knock off the dust and the IAAF Hammer Challenge kicks off next weekend in Tokyo. Ready or not, the season is starting.
Some view this as a lost year as there is no World Championship or Olympics. For American athletes it could indeed be hard to find a challenge, but there is plenty to look forward to this year. As is my annual tradition now, here are ten of the things I am most looking forward to.
Track and field and bobsled have ties that go back a long ways. The bobsled requires a fast and explosive start, something that sprinters, throwers, jumpers, and hurdlers all possess. I highlighted some of the track stars entered in the men’s bobsled earlier in the week. And while the women’s bobsled is a relatively new sport added to the Olympics in only 2002, it has also quickly developed a connection to athletics. This year the US team has a very strong contingent of track athletes on the women’s bobsled team. Former summer Olympians Lolo Jones and Lauryn Williams have been making most of the headlines, but they are not alone. Five of the six women on the US team have track backgrounds. Brakemen Aja Evans was a shot putter and sprinter at the University of Illinois and competed for the US and won bronze at the North American, Central American and Caribbean (NACAC) Championships. USA 2 pilot Jamie Greubel competed in the heptathlon for Cornell and USA 3 pilot Jazmine Fenlator was a thrower at Rider University. Overall track and field is the most popular background for athletes, with over a third of competitors from all countries coming from the sport.
The Olympic spirit is once again in the air. Many track athletes often forget that the Olympics also take place when it is cold outside, but on Friday the 2014 Winter Olympics will officially kick off. Not all track athletes forget though, since some will actually be there compete.
John Candy’s character in the movie Cool Runnings was correct in his assessment that sprinters have natural talent for the bobsled. While the Jamacian team is ironically one of the few sleds qualified for the Olympics without a track and field athlete on board, nearly every other country features a sprinter, thrower, or decathlete. And with sixty sleds from 22 countries competing in two events, that means a lot of track and field athletes are in Sochi.
The one thing the men’s hammer throw final on Monday taught us was that anything can happen in the hammer throw. Krisztián Pars was the clear favorite and none of the leading athletics publications picked Pawel Fajdek to win a medal, let alone win gold. But the young Polish thrower lead the competition from start to finish and his dominance never looked in doubt. In hindsight, the result wasn’t a complete surprise. As I noted in my preview, the top ten throwers all had a season best within two meters of Pars which left him vulnerable.
With the men’s competition over, the women now take center stage and once again anything can happen. The women’s hammer throw is not as deep as the men, but the top five entrants are all within two meters of each other creating a similar situation to the men’s competition. Added to this is the unpredictability of the event. Tatyana Lysenko entered both the 2011 World Championships and 2012 Olympics having suffered significant losses at the hands of her rivals, but both times overcame the underdog role to win gold. Predicting this year’s winner is equally difficult. And, as is always the case when the top women come together, the world record will once again be under threat. When all these factors come together the women’s competition will likely be even more exciting than the thrilling men’s final.
As usual, the hammer throw will be starting off the action at this year’s world championships. The men’s qualifying round will take place on Saturday afternoon, where 29 athletes will battle to make it on to Monday’s 12 person final. Coming off of a dominant Olympic title, Krisztián Pars is the name to watch. On the one hand it might appear like he will have things easier this year since, as is expected after an Olympic year, the level of hammer throwing has receded slightly. This year saw just 11 throwers over 79 meters and 36 over 76 meters, compared with 16 and 47 throwers respectively in 2012. But on the other hand Pars is barely ahead of the competition. All of the top ten entrants have a season’s best within two meters of Pars. In other words, the competition should be close and the pressure will still be on Pars.