The javelin will be one of the marquee events of the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships, featuring as it does the three mighty home throwers who have dominated the event in the last couple of years: Olympic champion Thomas Rohler, world champion Johannes Vetter and German champion Andreas Hoffman, who joined his colleagues in 92 metres-plus territory in June with 92.06m.
After Rohler and Vetter, will it be Hoffman’s turn to win a major title, or will there be another turn of events that will see Magnus Kirt top the podium? This 28-year-old Estonian thrower has never won a medal in a major event before but he is in the form of his life, and could yet switch the lights out on what is shaping up to be a brilliant celebration party in Berlin.
Could Magnus Kirt upset the Germans in the javelin at the European Championships?
Ahead of Berlin, Kirt won the Estonian Championships in Tallinn with another long throw of 88.28m.#TheMoment pic.twitter.com/WSoKRYR7eE
— European Athletics (@EuroAthletics) July 29, 2018
Kirt came to prominence with a national record of 88.73m at the Paavo Nurmi Games in Turku when he beat the aforementioned German triumvirate before improving that mark to 89.75m on 13 July as he won the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rabat with his final round throw. Hoffman was second with 88.58m and Rohler fifth with 85.19m.
It was the latest in a sequence of consequential victories for Kirt over the Olympic champion. That said, Rohler is a big-time performer and he has won two of the three javelin events in this year’s IAAF Diamond League. In Doha, he threw a season’s best of 91.78m to beat Vetter and he won in Eugene with 89.88m.
Nine days after Rabat, Hofmann won the German title at Nurnberg with 89.55m. Rohler, who was lying in fourth after five rounds, improved to 88.09m with his sixth throw to finish second with Vetter third with 87.83m.
For Vetter, who supplanted Rohler’s 93.90m on the all-time lists last season with 94.44m, the national championships was his first competition since suffering a thigh injury in June. He started his season brilliantly, throwing 91.22m and 92.70m – topping the world lists at the European Throwing Cup in Leiria, Portugal - and then 91.56m in finishing second to Rohler in Doha but he has not gone beyond 90 metres since that throw in early May.
Also lurking dangerously is Jakub Vadlejch of the Czech Republic, world silver medallist last year with a personal best of 89.73m. Vadlejch is part of an excellent Czech trio alongside world bronze medallist Petr Frydrych and former world champion Viteslav Vesely.
In the discus, home thrower Robert Harting returns to the stadium where it all began for him with his world title win in 2009. The 33-year-old – who collected further world golds in 2011 and 2013, as well as European titles either side of his London 2012 Olympic win – has announced this will be his last major competition.
Harting only narrowly ensured his place on the team after finishing third in the national championships with 63.92m. “I deliberately arrived in half-form because I want to be in top shape at the European Championships,” said Harting, who will bow out in the same arena at the famous ISTAF meeting in September.
Meanwhile his younger brother Christoph, who succeeded him as Olympic champion in Rio de Janeiro, qualified with 66.98m for victory at the German Championships, just shy of his season’s best of 67.59m.
But the Hartings have serious competition in their backyard in the form of Sweden’s Daniel Stahl, who threw a season’s best of 69.11m on 25 July in Karlstad; Lithuania’s world champion Andrius Gudzius, who tops this year’s European lists with 69.59m; Austria’s Lukas Weisshaidinger, who threw a national record of 68.98m this season; and fellow German Daniel Jasinski, who has managed 66.59m this year.
Also in the field is the estimable Estonian Gerd Kanter, the 39-year-old 2008 Olympic champion who will also be retiring at the end of the season. And not to be written off is Poland’s two-time Olympic silver medallist and 2015 world champion Piotr Malachowski, who will be defending his title.
In the shot put, Germany’s David Storl will be seeking a fourth consecutive European title. The 28-year-old policeman, who won world titles either side of a silver at the Olympic Games in 2012, is a ferocious competitor.
But he will do well to arrest the progress of the 26-year-old Pole who has taken the European scene by storm this year. Michal Haratyk, who won silver behind Storl in Amsterdam two years ago, leads the continental lists with the national record of 22.08m he set in Ostrava on June 15.
Haratyk surpassed the legendary Tomasz Majewski’s national outdoor record with 21.97m in Eugene before breaking the outright national record with that European lead in Ostrava.
Storl, who is second on the list with 21.62m, will also be challenged by Authorised Neutral Athlete Aleksandr Lesnoy, who has reached 21.58m this season and by the Czech Republic’s Tomas Stanek, who has thrown 21.52m outdoors and 22.17m indoors in 2018.
The men’s hammer title is expected to remain in Polish hands although reigning champion Pawel Fajdek will face tough opposition from teammate Wojciech Nowicki who leads the world lists with 81.85m to Fajdek’s 81.14m.
Britain’s Nick Miller, whose national record of 80.26m in winning the Commonwealth title leaves him third on this year’s European lists, will also be keen to revisit the podium.