Sergey Makarov celebrates winning the javelin throw final (© Getty Images)
Sergey Makarov of Russia at the age of 30 years and 165 days at last turned base metal into gold after previously taking Sydney Olympic silver and 2002 European Championships bronze. With a 85.44 metres throw in round one the Russian convincingly won the men’s World Javelin title, and backed that up with a 85.31 release to cap his afternoon.
Considering Makarov’s age we can hardly talk about a changing of the generations in this event but significantly three-time World and Olympic champion Jan Zelezny (CZE) was back in fourth place with a lowly 84.09 metres, and four-time European champion Steve Backley (GBR) was even further adrift with 80.13m in ninth place, and didn't even make the cut for the final three throws.
The competition was fought at a very low level, with 85.44m the lowest winning mark since 1987, when the ‘new’ specification men’s spear was first introduced at the World championships.
A rich vein of silver has run in the Makarov family until this moment, as Makarov’s father Aleksandr had taken Olympic Javelin silver in the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. Quite a sporting family considering that Sergey’s wife Oksana was once Russian record holder, and finished in eighth place in the 1999 World Championships final.
“I have never had such a great feeling in all my life, this is a great victory,” said Makarov. “I cannot compare this sensation with anything else in my life. To win! It’s crazy what a difference there can be between silver and gold.”
“Of cause the distance of 85 metres is not that good but this year I was able to win many competitions with such a result, as the event has been at a low level.”
“I am sure I have the potential to throw much further again this summer but strangely everybody seemed to be very nervous out there. In fact we had all been feeling nervous about these championships for weeks before. It was very strange the atmosphere in the infield today.”
“There was everyone there today, every name, and it was impossible for me to choose who was going to be my greatest opponent.”
“Also I think everyone was affected by this strange nervousness, I cannot explain it. It was the same in the qualification round,” confirmed Makarov.
In what was a marvellous first round, the silver and bronze medals were ultimately also decided. Estonia’s surprising Andrus Värnik took the silver medal with 85.17m, and Germany’s Boris Henry, who at 29 years of age has had a similar series of minor podium places to Makarov - 1995 Worlds and 2002 Europeans, both bronze – fell into that third place category again today with 84.74 metres.
Henry also agreed with Makarov about the nervous feeling in the air out in the infield, so strange an atmosphere that “even Jan (Zelezny) and Steve (Backley) had terrible competitions,” said Henry. "I can’t explain such a low competition perhaps it was something to do with the javelins themselves because we were all feeling it, even in the qualifying round. I certainly felt I could throw long today and I am sure the others did as well," confirmed Henry.
Then came a difficult question to Henry. As someone who has been in a similar situation to Makarov, a minor podium medallist but with no titles, how would the Russian be feeling at this time?
“I don’t have to ask him. I know in my heart it means the world to him, the absolute world. How can anyone explain the feeling of winning and being the best?”
Makarov is going to have many happy moments trying to answer that question in the coming weeks.
No more a nearly man, Makarov now IS the man.