Pawel Fajdek, the World champion, had only two legal efforts at the European Cup Winter Throwing in Leiria on Saturday – but one of those sent out a message that he is ready for business again in 2014.
Fajdek banked the first major outdoor field event title of this European Championship year with victory in Portugal over Hungarian Krisztian Pars, the defending champion and Olympic champion.
Pars, who won in Castellon 12 months ago, led from the first round with 75.73m as Fajdek had the first of his four fouls.
But then the Polish star composed himself in the ring and launched a superb 78.75m in round two that could not be beaten.
Pars tried – and came close too – with 77.96m in round three, 77.57m in round four, 77.80m in round five and 77.66m with his last throw – but Fajdek, whose only other throw was 74.64m in round four, had done enough.
The duel sets up the year superbly, with their biggest head-to-head to come at those European Athletics Championships in Zurich in August.
Russian Denis Lukyanov was third with 74.11m while World No1 Pavel Kryvitski, of Belarus, was fourth with 74.06m.
Slovenia’s Martina Ratej is top of the European Rankings in the javelin at this early part of the year with a throw of 62.70m from last month but it is Germany’s Linda Stahl who is the first ‘champion’ of 2014 after a fine win in Leiria.
Stahl has been accumulating a series of fine performances over the past two years, with bronze medal finishes at the Olympic Games in London, European Athletics Championships in Helsinki and then in this competition last year before she was fourth at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow.
Here in Portugal she won with a third round throw of 61.20m with her fellow German Katharina Molitor second behind her with 60.97m and Ratej in third with 59.57m, the latter two both achieving their furthest distances from their final round efforts.
Yevgeniya Kolodko is the Olympic silver medallist and she showed that sort of quality with a brilliant fifth round shot put to snatch victory.
A week after being fourth at the World Indoor Championships in Sopot, Kolodko was trailing in third behind Belarusian pair Alena Kopets, who was leading with 18.58m, and Yuliya Leantsiuk, in second with 18.55m.
Russian Kolodko had had a best of 18.46m before the fifth round changed everything when she reached 18.66m to retain the title and leave Kopets in second for the second successive year in this competition.
The opening event of the seniors competition was the men’s discus.
And gold went to Viktor Butenko, of Russia, in a superb competition which he won with a fifth-round throw of 64.38m, having slipped down the field after his opening 62.50m had put him in front.
Erik Cadee, of the Netherlands, had quickly moved ahead in the second round with 62.61m with Germany’s Christoph Harting throwing 62.56m in the same round, a distance which would bring him third place.
But after Butenko had moved back in front in that fifth round, he then had to watch as Cadee launched a superb final effort which landed at 63.56m for silver – 82 centimetres adrift of gold.
Under-23s: Bigot and Furtula are the champions again
Twelve months on from his victory in Castellon, France’s Quentin Bigot retained his hammer title with a throw of 74.42m.
A year ago he won with 71.79m and his winning effort came at the end of an excellent programme where he was never threatened.
Bigot, who was also third at the European Athletics Under-23 Championships in Tampere in July, began with 74.30m and added 73.53m, 72.18m, 73.82m and 73.44m before he saved his best to last as he beat Russia’s Yevgeniy Korotovskiy with 70.01m and Spain’s Pedro Jose Martin, who was third with 69.76m.
Bigot was not the only athlete keeping hold of their European Cup Winter Throwing title as Montenegro’s Danijel Furtula did just that in the discus - and gained a semblance of revenge on Sweden’s Daniel Stahl.
He had victory sealed from his fourth round effort of 60.28m, but rubberstamped his win with 62.19m in the last round to beat Stahl, who last year had beaten him as Furtula doubled up to also compete in the shot put.
Stahl was second here in the discus with 57.70m, with Russian Aleksandr Kirya third with 57.52m.
Estonia’s Liina Laasma recorded only two throws but her second round of 63.17m was enough to win the javelin.
It was by far the furthest of the day, with Croatia’s Sara Kolak in second with 57.79m and Prescilla Lecurieux, of France, in third with 56.91m.
The morning was very much about the under-23 athletes and in the women’s shot put, Turkey’s Emel Dereli did not have it all her own way after her first effort of 17.02m which took the lead.
The European Junior champion was facing the two women who finished behind her in Rieti last summer, Great Britain’s Sophie McKinna and Estonian Katlin Piirimae.
They did not make an impression but Germany’s Shanice Craft did as she took the lead in the second round with 17.16m.
But after Dereli suffered a foul in that round, she flexed her muscles with her third go of 17.33m which proved the winning distance.
Craft finished second with that 17.16m with Viktoriya Kolb, of Belarus, third with 16.81m. McKinna was back in fifth with 15.81m with Piirimae eighth with 15.76m.