Not many people will immediately know the significance of this Saturday unless they are flicking through the history books of track and field.
But at around 3pm, it will mark the 17th anniversary of one of the longest-standing world records. The German city of Jena was the venue back on 25th May 1996 for Jan Zelezny to launch the greatest javelin throw the sport has seen. As the spear left his right hand, the small crowd did not pay too much notice before realising within an instant how special a moment it was. The Czech athlete had thrown 98,48m (323′ 1″) and to this day that mark has never been touched.
Variations in the make of javelin have changed but even the 90m barrier now remains tough for the world’s best. It was not passed in 2012 and only Andreas Thorkildsen did it once in 2011 (with 90,61m (297′ 3″)) and once in 2010 (with 90,37m (296′ 5″)).
But another man could now be ready to turn back the clock having produced his best performance since 2009 to win the event at the IAAF Diamond League in Shanghai on Saturday evening. Not since his 87,79m (288′) in Lapinlahti in 2009 has Finland’s Tero Pitkamaki thrown as well as he did in China when he reached 87,60m (287′ 4″).
He is 30, but is the man who won silver at the European Athletics Championships in Gothenburg in 2006 and bronze in Barcelona in 2010 now ready to make it to the top of the podium? It could prove to be the best year of his life as he heads towards the World Championships in Moscow as the early favourite.
One of the great attributes of Zelezny was that he could always pull out the great throws when it mattered. Just ask Britain’s Steve Backley, who broke the Olympic record in Sydney with his second round effort of 89,95m (295′ 1″) before Zelezny responded in the next round with the 90,17m (295′ 10″) that took him to gold.
Now 30, Pitkamaki, who won Olympic bronze in Beijing, has overcome a few injury problems in a matter of time to show how good his season could become. He had started his Diamond League campaign by finishing second with 82.18m as Vesely Vitezslav, of the Czech Republic, won with 85.09m (279′ 2″).
But on his website – teropitkamaki.com – it was explained what happened next. He returned home with a little rib injury but he made a quick recovery to travel to Shanghai. He was happy with how he felt and his tactics and he will now compete again in Dessau, Germany, on Friday week. He is likely to be joined by some of his leading rivals in that event and who knows what will happen next?
Let us not forget that Germany was the venue where history was made back in 1996.
Source: European Athletics