Pawel Fajdek in action in the hammer (Getty Images) © Copyright
Report Rieti, Italy

Fajdek clinches IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge title in Rieti

Pawel Fajdek had his 11th competition this year beyond 80 metres, winning the final event of the 2015 IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge with a throw of 80.96m at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in the Italian town of Rieti on Saturday (12).

Competing for the first time since he won his second global gold medal in Beijing two weeks ago, the Pole was in fine form and won by almost six metres in wonderfully sunny late afternoon conditions with the temperatures still in the mid-20s from Tajikistan’s world silver medallist Dilshod Nazarov.

Fajdek opened with a foul but then effectively won the competition, since no other thrower has gone beyond 80 metres in the world this year, when he sent his second-round effort out to 80.49m.

Another foul in the third round was followed by his best effort of 80.96m before he rounded off his series with 78.46m and 79.66m.

Behind Fajdek, there was a close battle for second place with just four centimetres covering the next three places. Just as he had done in Beijing, Nazarov finished runner-up with a second-round throw of 75.98m, beating Slovakia's Marcel Lomnicki by two centimetres. Russia’s Sergej Litvinov had to settle for fourth with 75.94m.

All four of Fajdek's valid throws would have won in Rieti and the victory meant Fajdek regained the IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge title he had also won in 2013.

His points total of 248.01 – one metre equalling one point from the best three competitions – was the best in the six years of the challenge, which comes with a first prize of US $30,000.

He took this year’s challenge title by almost 12 metres from Nazarov, who had a three-meeting total of 236.20.

“I’m really happy with my 11th result of the year beyond 80 metres in my 18th competition of the season,” said Fajdek. “I enjoyed competing here in Rieti for the fifth time in my career, taking my second consecutive win.”

Since finishing second at the European Cup Winter Throwing, Fajdek has won 16 straight competitions this year. He produced a world-leading 83.93m in his final meeting before the World Championships in Beijing and then went on to win his second world title with 80.88m.

“I trained hard for the World Championships and I felt very confident,” he said. “What makes this medal even sweeter is that my team-mate Wojcech Nowicki got the bronze medal. But I can’t compare it to my gold from Moscow; every medal is different and each has its own value and its own story.

“I have enjoyed the best season of my career,” he added. “I did the best I could to defend my title. It was a hugely successful World Championships for Polish throwers. I think we have the best technique in the world and this explains our excellent results.”

Of the eight medals won in Beijing by Poland, five of them were from throwing events. Wojciech Nowicki took bronze in the hammer behind Fajdek, while Anita Wlodarczyk won her second world hammer title with 80.85m, coming close to her world record. There were two Polish medallists in the men’s discus too, Piotr Malachowski winning with 67.40m and Robert Urbanek taking bronze.

Fajdek and Wlodarczyk are following in the footsteps of Szymon Ziolkowski and the late Kamila Skolimowska, the 2000 Olympic champions. The two world champions will end their season at a special competition on Sunday in Warsaw dedicated to the memory of Skolimowska.

Fajdek took up the hammer at the age of 14 after Ziolkowski paid a visit to his village following his Olympic and world titles. After a solid junior career, he won his first major gold medals at the 2011 European Under-23 Championships and at the World University Games.

But after going into the 2012 Olympics as a medal hope, he failed to register a single valid attempt. That was his last major disappointment, because he went on to take gold at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow and silver at the 2014 European Championships with 82.04m, his best throw at a championships, despite competing with a back injury.

He then went on to break Ziolkowski’s national record with 83.48m, which he improved this year to 83.93m in Szczecin a couple of weeks before his second title in Beijing.

The main programme of the IAAF World Challenge meeting in the Stadio Raul Guidobaldi continues on Sunday.

Phil Minshull and Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF