Rohler’s precision under pressure lands him a second major javelin title

Thomas Rohler
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Thomas Rohler won Germany's second gold medal of the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships in the javelin

Amid the sturm und drang of a stadium packed with spectators eager to witness the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships’ marquee event - and the actual storm that made throwing fiendishly tricky - Thomas Rohler proved supreme. Again.

This season has been something of a Rohler-coaster for the Olympic champion in 2016, whose form has dipped a little since the 91.78m throw with which he won in the Doha Diamond League on 4 May.

But a best throw of 89.47m proved enough for him to claim a second major title against a field that included the two fellow Germans who currently sit above him in this season’s lists with 92 metre-plus throws – world champion Johannes Vetter and German champion Andreas Hofmann – as well as the Estonian who has beaten him several times this season, Magnus Kirt.

The key element to the latest success of this most thoughtful of athletes can be summarised in one word – his own, naturally – namely precision. “In javelin throw you need a lot of precision and this precision can disappear quickly,” he said. “Andreas Hofmann and me did everything that was possible today.

“This stadium is not actually a stadium where you can throw really far because the wind influence is affecting all the throwers. It was a windy day, and there was rain in the air. The wind gets gusty and blows around. So it was about throwing precise today.”

Rohler’s record on the night tells its own story of consistent excellence. After Kirt had taken a first round lead with the throw of 85.96m that would eventually earn him a bronze medal, the 26-year-old from Jena - the city in which Jan Zelezny set the still-standing world record in the mid-1990s - established a lead he would not lose with a second round throw of 88.02.

It was a crucial marker for him as he went on to throw his best effort in the next round - 89.47m - before adding to that with efforts of 87.58m and 87.90m. Of his four throws, three were better than his nearest competitor - and the fourth only two centimetres inferior to the 87.60m with which his friend Hofmann secured silver - the first major senior medal for an athlete who was crowned European U20 champion in 2009.

Speaking after last year’s European Athletics Team Championships in Lille Metropole where he finished third, Rohler admitted he had struggled in windy conditions which often caused him problems. That only added lustre to his achievement in the Olympic stadium last night.

“I know,” said. “I am just super happy. There was a lot of pressure on today, people were so excited to see the throwing and to be the one actually going out of here with the gold medal – I think there is nothing better. I will keep this medal really deep in my memory.”

Was he concerned that Kirt might spoil Germany’s, and in particular his own party?

“I was quite confident today,” he responded. “The first throw I did really showed the potential, and then I just kept going. I was adjusting the run-up a little bit over the competition. But I felt like, if you are not caring about the wind or the conditions today you will not really throw far.  There’s the guys throwing with more power, there’s the guys throwing more precise. And if you don’t change the system after three throws…

“If you are leading you can see what’s going on out there. Andreas definitely is a big competitor. I watched his last throw really, really closely. But yeah – we all did our best to throw far today.”

On the subject of Germany’s phenomenal success in the event at the moment, Rohler added: “We have so many strong throwers because all this has been built up, it is a long process to build a javelin team. We share knowledge, we put our heads together, the secret is not to have a secret.”

Hofmann, meanwhile, was in high spirits: “With some of my attempts tonight something in the air was wrong, the javelin went down too early. During the competition I was thinking ‘Throw further! Do your best! Beat the other guys! I want a medal!’

“Thomas and me, we are good friends outside the competition. He gives me very good advice because he is very knowledgeable in javelin technique.”