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.
Krisztian Pars (HUN)
Season Best/Personal Best: 82.49m (1st), Last EC/Best Finish: 1st
Pawel Fajdek (POL)
Season Best/Personal Best: 82.37m (2nd), Last EC/Best Finish: First Appearance
As said above, Pars might have the slight advantage when looking at the season so far, but Fajdek showed last year that this does not mean much. Heading into the World Championships Pars was the clear number one. But Fajdek unleashed a personal best to win convincingly. He’ll be looking find that type of peak again for another major title.
Marcel Lomnicky (SVK)
Season Best/Personal Best: 79.16m (3rd), Last EC/Best Finish: 11th
Libor Charfreitag, the champion from four years ago, will not be starting at this year’s edition. However Slovakia has another shot at a medal with young Marcel Lomnicky. Lomnicky has consistently improved since graduating from Virginia Tech and now finds himself in good position for his first international medal. Compared to his competitors his advantage is that he has thrown 77 to 79 meters at nearly every meet this year and finished on the podium at several IAAF Hammer Challenge events. Only once in eleven competitions has he been beaten by more than two Europeans this year.
Primoz Kozmus (SLO)
Season Best/Personal Best: 77.44m (8th), Last EC: Did not compete, Best Finish: 6th (2006)
As former World and Olympic champion, it surprising that Kozmus has never placed higher than sixth at the European Championship. But it has actually been eight years since he last competed. Kozmus has a very slow start to the season and competed sparingly, but is slowly finding form and threw 77.44 meters late in July. With his competitive experience and history of peaking at the right time, he is the biggest threat to Lomnicky’s medal chances.
Pavel Kryvitski (BLR)
Season Best: 79.21m (3rd), Personal Best: 80.67m, Last EC/Best Finish: 9th
Kryvitski is the top ranked Belorussian this year, but has faced trouble in qualification rounds at past major championships. But his last few international meets this year have produced 75 to 77 meter results, which would put him in a good position if replicated in Zurich.
Sergey Litvinov Jr. (RUS)
Season Best/Personal Best: 78.77m (5th), Last EC/Best Finish: First Appearance
Always a threat, Litvinov seemed to be on the right path with some great spring marks and superb wins at Fränkisch-Crumbach and the European Team Championships in June. But since that he has been a few meters down, and could be be a few meters less than required for a medal.
Serghei Marghiev (MDA)
Season Best/Personal Best: 78.27m (6th), Last EC/Best Finish: First Appearance
The youngest thrower in the field is also one of the biggest wildcards. Having just turned 22 this summer, Marghiev seems to have reached a new level. When he threw a personal best of 78 meters in Chi?in?u this spring, I didn’t think much of it. His top six marks all came from the Moldovan capital and his best mark outside the country was five meters less. But back to back wins over 76 meters at the European Team Championships lower division and Balkan Championships show he is now an international threat too.
Others to WatchThe rest of the field is quite bunched together and should be packed around 72 to 75 meters in qualifying, which is right around where the historic cut off to make finals is. This should make for an exciting qualification Thursday morning.
While many of the throwers I mentioned above have little European Championships experience, the opposite is the case for 41 year old Nicola Vizzoni of Italy and 38 year old Szymon Ziolkowski of Poland. Both will be competing at their sixth championship and both bring experience: Vizzoni won silver in 2010 and Ziolkowski bronze in 2012. While they may no longer be battling for the podium, their consistency and experience should earn them another spot in the finals.
Another name to look for further down the results is mine, Martin Bingisser. In case you haven’t been following this site, I will be making my major championships debut. Finals will require a whole new level, but a personal best and top 20 finish is a definite possibility.