If discus thrower Daniel Stahl doesn’t not get a medal in the discus it will not be through lack of support.
“I’ll have 25 people here watching me. Friends, weightlifters, Vikings! I think you’ll notice them,” he joked at a press conference on the eve of the IAAF World Championships London 2017.
It will be a sizeable presence as well – most likely decked out in the familiar Swedish colours of yellow and blue – not just numerically but physically, reflecting the more-than-significant stature of Stahl himself who stands exactly two metres tall in his size 16 shoes, which is a massive 50.5 in European terms. (“I can’t buy any shoes in my size in the shops in Stockholm. Fortunately, for sport, my kit sponsor helps me out!”)
Stahl, who only turns 25 at the end of the month and is very much part of an emerging generation of top discus throwers in the first half of their 20s, stands on top of the world rankings by more than a metre after his huge throw of 71.29m on home soil in Sollentuna on 29 June, breaking a national record which had stood since 1984.
It was a throw that sent reverberations around the world of discus throwing who eagerly pored over the online videos of the European Athletics Outdoor Classic Meeting.
“The technique was really only 75 per cent good. There was a lot of power when I was in the ring I had good speed on the release and it was a great throw but when I look at it technically I know I can work on many more things,” he reflected.
“I’m still young and I’d like to throw for another 15 more years so I’ve got plenty of time to put the work on it.
“The nice thing [about throwing] in Sollentuna, it was close to home. It was awesome, It was a great day, great atmosphere and great weather, 23 degrees. I had my family and friends there, there was a lot of weightlifters from a club in Stockholm.
However, what has made him the favourite in London is not just one big throw but his high-level consistency in recent months.
Since winning at the European Athletics Team Championships First League in neighbouring Finland the weekend before his world-leading mark, he has since gone undefeated in his last six competitions – including at the IAAF Diamond League in London last month in the same stadium that will host the championships – and his regular performances beyond 67 metres this summer has meant he has arrived back in the British capital as the favourite for his specialist event.
“It [his shape] is much better than last year. I feel more confident, I’ve been working hard on developing my technique, I feel strong now,” he reflected, noting that he was looking to make up for the disappointment of not making the final at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games after finishing a solid fifth at the European Athletics Championships a few weeks earlier.
“I don’t feel any pressure, no nothing. In fact, I feel the opposite, I feel great that the Swedish people, indeed many Europeans, are supporting me. But I can’t deny, I’ve been throwing well in all the meets and I feel good.”
The whole of last fall and winter I was working on technique, consistency with my technique, I’ve become much stronger in the weight room.
“I’m looking forward to it [the world championships], it’ll be a full, packed, stadium, loads of screaming Britons. I love it.”
The whole situation is in sharp contrast to the situation two years ago when he went to his first world championships, the 2015 edition in Beijing.
“I went there without any expectations, ranked in the 30s I think. It was rock´n´roll, I had some fun and then threw a season’s best.”
A season’s best in Saturday evening’s final would almost certainly mean Sweden’s first men’s world championships gold medal for 14 years.