What do Pawel Fajdek and Paula Radcliffe have in common?
Obviously, the fact that when you look at their athletics CVs and get to the Olympic bit, you find that neither of these towering performers has even a bronze.
Britain’s retired marathon runner earned numerous world titles on the roads, track and cross country, and is still world record holder. At the age of 30, Poland’s Fajdek will be in Doha seeking a fourth consecutive world hammer title.
The first came in Moscow six years ago, as he beat 2012 Olympic champion Krisztian Pars of Hungary to gold with an effort of 81.97m. Fajdek, calamitously, had failed to record a mark in the Olympic final in London one year prior.
Two years later in Beijing he retained his title with an effort of 80.88m, two metres clear of his nearest rival.
Cut to the following year’s Olympic Games, where the good news was that he recorded a mark in Olympic competition but the bad news was that it wasn’t sufficient to get him into the final.
And skip to London in 2017, where he retained his world title with an effort of 79.81m ahead of Valeriy Pronkin, who recorded 78.16m, and his fellow Pole Wojciech Nowicki, who took bronze with 78.03m.
History may be on Fajdek’s side as he prepares to compete in Doha, but the field is formidable.
While Pronkin isn’t competing, two other authorised neutral athletes will be present, notably Denis Lukyanov, who is fourth on this season’s world list with 78.97m.
Bence Halász maintained Hungary’s proud tradition in this event by taking bronze at last year’s European Championships in Berlin and stands one place below Lukyanov on the 2019 world list with 78.54m.
Spain’s Javier Cienfuegos, only 28 but a veteran of the 2009 World Championships and European U20 bronze medallist in that same year, has inserted himself into the mix in extravagant fashion with his effort of 79.38m in Andújar on September 6.
But Fajdek’s toughest competition looks likely to come from his Polish team-mate – and fellow 30-year-old – Nowicki.
The latter, who – whisper it – earned Olympic bronze in Rio, followed up last year by winning the European title in Berlin with 80.12m, beating Fajdek, the defending champion, into second place with a best of 78.69m.
Nowicki leads this year’s world list with the effort of 81.74m he produced in Poznan on 2 July, but that was his last throw beyond 80 metres. Fajdek, meanwhile, has thrown beyond 80 metres on three occasions since then, topped by a season’s best of 80.88m in Cetniewo on 3 August.
Nowicki, however, won at the European Team Championships in his native Bydgoszcz and beat Fajdek in their last pre-Doha outing, 79.55m to 79.33m. He will be keen to add a world medal of a different colour to the bronze versions he collected in 2015 and 2017.
All in all it looks like being a fascinating struggle. Will hammer’s World Championship history man manage to do the trick again? Don’t bet against it…
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF