Matthias de Zordo of Germany celebrates during the men's javelin throw final (Getty Images) © Copyright
Feature Daegu, Korea

De Zordo as surprised as anyone with Javelin triumph

Matthias De Zordo eventually got a German flag to hoist in triumph, but he never got to set off on the traditional victory lap. While depriving him of one of the thrills of becoming a World champion in the men's Javelin Throw, it capped a night that was anything but usual.

De Zordo, one of the rare left-handers in the sport, uncorked a first attempt of 86.27m on Saturday night at the IAAF World Championships that somehow managed to stand up, as much to the surprise of himself and coach Boris Henry as anyone watching at Daegu Stadium.

"I didn't expect it," said Henry, a two-time World bronze medallist. "Because I saw other throwers out on the warmup area throwing really far and I was [just] hoping he could make a medal. But I thought the gold medal was reserved for Andreas Thorkildsen."

De Zordo was the beneficiary of a particularly off day by the defending champion Thorkildsen, whose best throw of 84.78m on his fourth attempt left him with the silver medal, reversing their finish at last year's European championships. Up to Saturday, the European silver was De Zordo's lone major medal.

De Zordo, who passed on his third and fourth attempts after tweaking an ankle on his second throw, waited patiently as the competition fizzled out over the final three rounds. In fact, Thorkildsen, who was eighth after three attempts, was the only thrower who improved his rank over the final three rounds, although he fell well short of his world-leading 90.61m set three weeks ago.

De Zordo said he was expecting someone to come up with a big throw at any minute.

"The other throwers are good throwers with bests of over 85 metres," he said. "I had a fear until the last throw. But I'm really happy to make it."

By winning a unified Germany's first gold medal in the event (Detlef Michel won for East Germany in Helsinki in 1983), De Zordo also added to the country's amazing haul of golds in the weight events in Daegu.  Robert Harting won the discus on Tuesday and David Storl followed suit three days later in the Shot Put.

"That was really good motivation for me," he said of Storl's equally surprising win. "Because he's young, he's talented. I knew I wanted to do the same as he did."

De Zordo has shown natural talent ever since he was introduced to the sport by an elementary school teacher when he was 11 - "I was always good at throwing balls and things" - in the southwest German village of Bad Kreuznach. His grandparents moved from Italy to Germany, which accounts for his unique name, which has no meaning in Italian.

The knock on him since developing into a world-class thrower has been a less-than-positive work ethic. Getting him to train hard is like trying to get Usain Bolt to slow down.

"Maybe lazy is not the right word," Henry replied when asked about it. "Different exercises he likes, other exercises he doesn't like. He's always trying to sneak around."

De Zordo particularly finds weight training distasteful.

"As soon as he feels some tension, he's like, 'Maybe I [will] hurt myself'," Henry said. "Maybe that's a good thing, maybe it's a bad thing. Right now I would say it's probably a good thing."

Henry said part of the credit for De Zordo's success was a one-week camp prior to the championships that the weight team held on the Korean resort island of Jeju, where "the food was excellent, sushi every day. Everything was high class."

A two-time German champion, De Zordo did not come into Daegu without credentials as a medal candidate. He won the Oslo Samsung Diamond League meet, which Thorkildsen missed, before placing third in Lausanne and second at Birmingham and Stockholm.

Asked at the medalists' press conference if he now considered himself the best thrower in the world, De Zordo replied: "No, not really." After prompting from Thorkildsen sitting beside him, he conceded, " Andreas threw this year over 90 metres, so he's the first one on the list. I had luck today that he was not in good form, not good shape."

While luck was with him in the competition, De Zordo was unfortunate in the timing of its conclusion. The start of the women's 4x400m Relay final made getting across the track all but impossible.

While De Zordo managed to slip across for a quick hug with Henry, he wasn't as fortunate going back to pick up a German flag from him. When he finally could grab it, he posed for a few photos, then was ushered down into the mixed zone before having a chance to make a round of the track.

"I think for World Championships, it is common [to take a lap]," De Zordo said. "I'm a little bit sad."

He'll just have to win again. Stranger things have happened.

Ken Marantz for the IAAF