Pawel Fajdek in the hammer at the London 2012 Olympic Games (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Preview: men's hammer – Rio 2016 Olympic Games

Pawel Fajdek starts this event as one of the biggest favourites for an athletics gold medal in Rio on the back of a 29-strong winning streak, the Pole having suffered his last loss in March last year.

Among those wins are victories at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 and the European Championships last month. While the rest of the world has struggled to get beyond 80 metres this year – with just one other thrower just edging over that mark – Fajdek has reached that distance and further in no fewer than 10 of his 12 competitions in 2016.

He leads the world with the 81.87m that he threw at his national championships in June and is almost two metres clear of the rest of the world.

The two-time world champion is also going to Rio determined to eradicate the memory of three fouls in the qualifying competition in London four years ago.

“Given the way things went in London, any medal will be a success,” joked Fajdek with the Polish media last week.

“I hope everyone remembers what happened four years ago and doesn’t assume that I’ll automatically get the gold medal. However, since then I’ve won two world titles and a European crown, so what happened certainly isn’t bothering me mentally.

“And somebody has to get the gold medal, so it might as well be me,” he added, with a smile.

The only other man to throw beyond 80 metres this year is two-time world champion Ivan Tikhon, a man who polarises opinion because of his controversial history and a previous doping ban. The 40-year-old Belarusian thrower recently took the European Championships silver medal behind Fajdek.

Nazarov could be his country's hero

Tajikistan’s three-time Asian Games champion Dilshod Nazarov, his country’s flag-bearer at the opening ceremony on Friday, took the silver medal behind Fajdek in Beijing last year. After finishing 11th and 10th at the past two Olympic Games, Nazarov will, at the very least, be looking to get much closer to the podium, if not on it.

Nazarov has been a model of consistency this season and thrown beyond 77 metres in each of his five competitions, culminating in a season’s best of 78.87m in his last outing in Finland just over a month ago.

Replicating this sort of form could see him become his country’s first Olympic medallist in athletics since the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Hosts Brazil, perhaps surprisingly in this event, also have a legitimate medal prospect in the shape of Wagner Domingos. This year, at the age of 33, he has improved by more than three metres, including throwing a South American record of 78.63m in June.

Counting against Domingos a little will be his lack of experience on the global stage, and the inevitable pressure of competing in front of a local audience, but he is a two-time IberoAmerican champion.

By contrast, one man quietly forging a reputation as a big-time competitor is Fajdek’s compatriot and regular training partner Wojciech Nowicki, who took bronze medals at the World Championships last year and then at the European Championships last month.

Curiously, frequently competing with Fajdek means that Nowicki, despite consistently throwing good distances, has only won one of his 11 competitions this season.

Other outide contenders for a medal include Moldova’s Serghei Marghiev, Belarusian Pavel Bareisha and Qatar’s two-time world U20 champion Ashraf Amgad Elseify, who have all thrown beyond 78 metres this year.

Defending Olympic champion Krisztian Pars from Hungary started the year well by winning his national winter title with 77.38m, but injury problems mean that he has been struggling to throw much beyond 70 metres in the past few months and he has to be considered a long shot for a medal.

Phil Minshull for the IAAF