Keshorn Walcott in the javelin at the London 2012 Olympic Games (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Preview: men's javelin – Rio 2016 Olympic Games

Recent global championships have thrown up some big upsets in this event.

Who would have bet on Keshorn Walcott winning at the London 2012 Olympic Games four years ago, adding that gold medal to the one he had won at the World U20 Championships barely a month before?

Just under 12 months ago, Julius Yego sent his implement out to an African record of 92.72m to give lie to the notion that Kenya is a nation solely of distance runners.

Both men can be considered medal contenders again in Rio, and have shown decent form at IAAF Diamond League meetings without actually winning one, but there is the prevailing feeling that this will be a wide open contest.

The most impressive performances in the early part of the season belong to Thomas Rohler, when he notched up four wins in five starts at high-quality international meetings, including victories at the Shanghai and Oslo IAAF Diamond League meetings.

He then went on to send his javelin out to a personal best and world-leading mark of 91.28m in Finland five weeks ago but then suffered a back strain at the European Championships in early July, finishing down in fifth place and has not competed since while trying to regain full fitness.

Roher will be accompanied by his compatriot Johannes Vetter, who currently lies second on the 2016 world list with the 88.23m he threw in June.

Still only 23, Vetter has little big championship experience and struggled at the European Championships. He could not throw beyond 80 metres in qualifying and failed to make the final. He is clearly a talent but these Olympics may have come too soon in his career for him to make an impact.

Finland's golden opportunity

The man who produced the biggest throw in Amsterdam, albeit benefitting from helpful conditions in qualifying, was Finland’s 2014 European champion Antti Ruuskanen, who hurled his javelin to 88.23m.

He is a man who generally seems to do well on the big occasion and, in addition to his continental crown, he has bronze medals from London four years ago and this year’s European Championships in his collection.

However, as the leading representative of a nation that is almost obsessive about javelin throwing but which has not won an Olympic men’s gold since Tapio Korjus in 1988, it’s fair to say there is some pressure on him; unlike four years ago when he was able to hide in the shadows slightly behind his famous compatriot and 2007 world champion Tero Pitkamaki.

This time the roles are reversed and Pitkamaki is the one from whom less is expected.

Now 33, and after an illustrious career that includes two other World Championships medals in addition to his 2007 win and a 2008 Olympic Games bronze medal as well as making the final in 2004 and 2012, he may not now be among the favourites for a gold medal this time. But he has thrown beyond 85 metres this year and knows what is required to succeed on the highest stage.

Another country with a great javelin throwing tradition, although much of their success dates from the Soviet era, is Latvia and a new hero emerged at the European Championships in the shape of the former world U20 record-holder Zigismunds Sirmais, who produced a personal best of 86.66m to take the gold medal.

No Latvian athlete has ever won an Olympic gold medal competing in his or her own colours so Sirmais has a good opportunity to negate that statistic.

In what could be a fascinating final, it would also be unwise to discount the chances of Czech Republic’s 2013 world champion Vitezslav Vesely or his in-form compatriot Jakub Vadlejch, who threw a personal best of 87.20m last week.

Phil Minshull for the IAAF