News15 Aug 2008

A Polish ‘pirate’ steals Shot Put booty in Beijing


Tomasz Majewski unleashes a 21.51m winning throw (© Getty Images)

In Sydney 2000 a bearded, bandana wearing Finn, who bore a striking resemblance to an archetypal Hollywood film pirate, upstaged the American favourites with a PB show in qualification and then took gold in the final.

Today a similarly looking bearded, bandana wearing Pole followed a similar script this time with a PB in both qualification and final to hijack US hopes for gold as the stadium sound system appropriately played the theme from Pirates of the Caribbean to accompany his plunder of the Olympic title.

Tomasz Majewski who had come into these Olympics with a newly struck PB of 20.97m in London (25 July), had improved this morning in qualification to 21.04m.

The 26-year-old who had taken the World Indoor bronze this winter in Valencia, with a national record of 20.93, made his intentions very plain when his 20.80 opener this evening held top spot at the end of that first salvo.

He was to lose that position briefly in the next round, thanks to the 21m+ puts of Belarussia’s 2003 World champion Andrei Mikhnevich (21.05) and Dylan Armstrong, whose 21.04m, was a Canadian record. Also, going ahead of Majewski at that point was World Indoor champion Christian Cantwell (20.98).

The Pole, who was putting second last of the 12 man final, then unleashed a 21.21m PB third round broadside of such ferocity that the hopes of the three men flotillas of both the USA and Belarussia were ultimately sunk. Majewski compounded their misery with a 21.51m battering on his next attempt.

Notably, the third round saw the sad sight of 2005 World champion and two-time silver medallist Adam Nelson of the USA grounded by a third and final foul. Another of the USA favourites World champion Reese Hoffa didn’t do much better, an overall best in the competition of 20.58m secured only seventh place.

Though Russia’s Pavel Lyzhyn accomplished a PB of 20.98 in the third and repeated it in the fourth round none of those who qualified for their final three throws came close to offering any meaningful response to Majewski. Well, that was until Cantwell with in the last round hopped from fourth to silver with a 21.09 release.

Neither Mikhnevich nor Armstrong could respond well enough to the American with their last puts – 20.93 and a foul respectively – and so had to be satisfied with bronze and fourth places on the basis of their second round efforts.

Once Mikhnevich’s last shot landed in the sector, Majewski’s celebrations began, and he really didn’t have his heart in his and the competition’s last effort, but it still landed creditably at 20.44.

What a phenomenal day for Majewski. PBs in qualification and final, and a series about which he could only have dreamt about yesterday – 20.80; 20.47; 21.21; 21.51; x ; 20.44.

In 2004, he didn’t make it out of qualification (19.55), now he is Olympic champion and richly deserves the golden treasure he hauled in today.

The last and only Polish medal in Olympic Shot Put history had been taken in 1972 by Wladyslaw Komar who in a similar scenario to tonight’s expected USA vs Belarussia battle had surprised the more fancied USA and GDR squads to take gold in Munich’s Olympic stadium.

Appropriately given our theme, Komar later became an actor, starring in Roman Polanski's 1986 film ‘Pirates’. Komar died in a car crash in 1998.

Chris Turner for the IAAF

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