A big night for huge Polish throwers in Berlin

Michal Haratyk
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Michal Haratyk led a Polish one-two in the shot put at the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships

It was a big night for British sprinting – and an even bigger night for huge Polish throwers as they won two gold medals and two silver medals on the first full day of the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships.

The men’s hammer title went, as expected, to the Pole who leads this year’s European lists with 81.85m - Wojciech Nowicki - whose best of 80.12m on the night proved too much for compatriot Pawel Fajdek.

The 29-year-old three-time world champion and defending European champion had to settle for silver with a best of 78.69m.

And then, for all the massive efforts of home athlete David Storl to earn a fourth consecutive European title, they blitzed the men’s shot put as Michal Haratyk took gold with 21.72m and his training partner Konrad Bukowiecki showed his massive competitiveness as - despite suffering from a lingering finger injury and a twisted ankle - he produced an outdoor personal best of 21.66m to take silver.

Storl, who hardly needed to exhort the crowd in the vast Olympic Stadium to offer vocal support, produced Berlin’s first big, full-throated roar of the championships as his opening throw smashed into the turf at 21.41m, just short of the season’s best of 21.62m he set last month.

Up went the arms, the right fist pumped. It was an arresting effort from the 28-year-old policeman.

But the Poles responded immediately.

Haratyk, who led the 2018 European lists coming into the Championships with the national record of 22.08m he threw in June, produced a strangulated noise inside this arena as his second round effort registered the mark that would prove to be the winning one.

And then Bukowiecki, whom Haratyk had said after qualifying was the opponent he feared most in the final, stepped up to the mark to deliver his own hammer blow in the shot put.

So a nation with a proud tradition of throwing had its hopes trimmed and confined on the night. “That’s why we are the best,” Bukowiecki said. “We do everything to be a great throwing team, the greatest. Two golds and two silvers. That’s a good day for Polish throwers. But there are more medals to come from us, although sadly not in the discus.”

The last was a mention of the failure of Poland’s 2015 world champion Piotr Malachowski to register a scoring throw in discus qualifying today.

That said, the Poles are a fearsome force – as women’s world hammer champion Anita Wlodarczyk will no doubt seek to underline later this week.

Bukowiecki himself was competing here in less than 100 percent condition. He demonstrated part of the problem – the middle finger of his throwing hand, still mottled and bruised. “I crushed a bone at the base of the finger while throwing,” he said, adding with a broad grin: “And then my friend shut his car door on it.

“I also twisted my ankle four days before the competition.”

If ever a demonstration of the essential spirit of Polish throwing was needed, here it was. Haratyk said:  “Poland is always strong in the throws. We have a great tradition and I know I am a part of that.”

He added: “Today, it was a really good day for the Polish athletics. I am very glad for Konrad but until the sixth attempts, I felt in danger. I knew all these guys are very strong and are able to throw further. I was lucky this time. It was not easy but I am satisfied with my attempts and the distance.

“I think the level of the Polish athletics is very high and I hope we will top the medal table again. I will cheer for all my teammates now.”

Bukowiecki added: “It is not a shame to lose with this guy. Michal is very strong and I am glad we managed to top the podium together. For me, this result is great - it is my PB outdoors and my third best throw ever. The season is going well, I managed to throw over 21m already five times this year. So the consistency is good and I can focus for the next goal.

“Of course, the stadium was cheering mostly for David Storl but when we got to the circle, they also started to support us.  That was good. But Germany understands and appreciates the throws.”

Germany understood the Polish quality – but would still have loved to have seen a German win. This competition was on a very high level,” said Storl. “But I was missing the last bit of luck. The luck one need to slap one out. I am really looking forward to receive my medal tomorrow. Not everything came together totally today.

“After the World Championships in 2009, I knew what atmosphere and which great support to expect. I tried to animate the audience. I totally enjoyed everything. After my first attempt, I concentrated on my technique and tried to be faster. I am definitely happy with this medal, it is my fourth medal at the European Championships.”