As with the men’s shot put, the men’s discus competition in London will feature a giant dude who has spent the summer dropping bombs.
That would be the big Swede, Daniel Stahl, who has four competitions over 68 meters this season including a 71.29m blast on June 29th at the Folksam Grand Prix meeting.
In London, Stahl will seek to exorcise memories of an awful performance in Rio where a best effort of 62.26m did not get him to the final (this, after finishing fifth at the 2015 Worlds in Beijing with a toss of 64.26m).
Oddly, Stahl’s main competition in London will come from three other athletes whose experiences in Rio were also at least semi-disastrous.
Frederick Dacres produced a groan-inducing best of 50.69m in Rio, but has looked fast, powerful, and confident on the Diamond League circuit this summer, hitting 68.36m in Stockholm, 67.10m in Oslo, and 66.66m in London. Also, like Stahl, he performed well at the 2015 Worlds, finishing 7th with a toss of 64.22m and thus proving that he has the ability to make the final at a big meet in a big stadium.
Philip Milanov staked his claim as next great thrower on the horizon by taking silver at Beijing in 2015, then bit the weenie in Rio where he finished ninth. He has looked sharp this season with his best effort of 67.05m coming in Stockholm.
Robert Harting, arguably the best big meet thrower since Al Oerter, looked ready to pull off a major comeback in Rio after blowing out his knee in the fall of 2014 and missing the entire 2015 campaign. He won the German championships in 2016 with a 68-meter effort, but suffered a back spasm the night before the Rio prelims while bending over to turn out a light. His best mark this year is 66.30m, but if the young bucks tighten up a bit and those Rio memories start to nag, can he be counted out?
Three of the top four finishers in Rio will not be competing in London. Neither gold medalist Chris Harting, who suffered an early spring back injury that threw him completely out of kilter, nor bronze medalist Daniel Jasinski made the German squad. Fourth place finisher Martin Kupper managed a season’s best of 62.86m.
Last year’s silver medalist, however, will compete and in spite of a lackluster 2017 campaign must be considered a threat to make the podium.
That would be Beijing champion and perennial victim of various Hartings, Piotr Malachowski. His best of 65.90m puts him tenth on this season’s performance list, and for the first time in about a hundred years he did not win the Polish championships, but his experience and toughness make him a contender.
Speaking of contenders, there are twenty-two throwers who have gone beyond 65 meters this year, among them Gerd Kanter (65.87m) who even Malachowski probably refers to as “Gramps,” Robert Urbanek (66.73m) who defeated Malachowski at the Polish nationals, and the Lithuanian Andrius Gudzius (68.61m).
That said, let’s make some picks.
Reason: As Trofimuk humbly puts it, “He is the only sensible pick. His performance at Beijing gives him the edge over the guys throwing the best this season.”
Reason: “He always performs well at the World Championships.”
Reason: “He’s having a great year. He’s young and hungry for a medal at a major championship. Plus, he’s bigger than a refrigerator.”
Reason: When the young bucks Milanov, Stahl, and Dacres start warming up in London, everything had better go right for them or Rio-inspired self questioning might be tough to suppress. Those guys are only human, right? Harting might be too, but he’s that odd, Michael Jordan kind of human who performs best in situations where others would be mired in doubt. In 2009, Malachowski throws a national record 69.15m in round five at the Berlin World Championships putting Harting in the position of having to conjure up a PR in round six. We all remember how that turned out. At the London Olympics, he felt like crap. At the Moscow Worlds, he had a back injury. He still found a way to win. If nerves or what have you keep the best throwers in the 67-meter range next week, he’s my pick to squeeze out a winner.
Reason: Like Trofimuk, I respect a man who could punch out a dinosaur. Even if he has a kind-of-crappy day, he’s going 66 meters.
Reason: Sentiment. Watch this ESPN vid and tell me you won’t be rooting for him: