Jan Zelezny of the undivided Czechoslovakia is considered the greatest javelin thrower of our times. Now 46 years old, the Czech great has to his credit three Olympic titles, as many world titles and nine world records in a career spanning two decades.
Zelezny surprisingly never won the European championship. That unique distinction of holding the Olympic, World and Euro titles simultaneously went to Norway’s Andreas Thorklidsen in Berlin in 2009 when he won his only world crown.
Thorkildsen will be gunning for a hat-trick of Olympic titles in London. Only Zelezny had achieved that previously among the javelin-throwers.
The 30-year-old Norwegian will run into Zelezny ’s protégé, Vitezslav Vesely, in London as he has been doing through the season, without success.
The 29-year-old Czech who took the European title in Helsinki last month and who was fourth at last year’s World championships is the hottest javelin thrower this season.
Vesely finished only 12th and last at the Beijing Olympics, with one legal throw of 76.76 after having reached a personal best 81.20 in the qualification round. In the Daegu Worlds, at 84.11, he missed a medal by just 19 centimetres.
The Czech tops the season lists, with his 88.11m for the Bislett title in Oslo on June 7.
He beat all the major Olympic contenders except world champion Matthias de Zordo, who was absent, in the Helsinki European championships with 83.72.
Thorkildsen (81.55), troubled by a quadriceps problem, withdrew in fourth place after three rounds. “I don’t think it will be a problem for the Olympics,” Thorkildsen was quoted as saying about his injury.
Vesely has beaten Thorkildsen on all four occasions they have met this season, though the Norwegian has an 11-5 career record against the Czech since 2008.
Only Thorkildsen (91.59 in 2006) among the current javelin throwers is in the 90-metre club, headed by Zelezny who has the top five all-time marks with the world record standing at 98.48m.
Before the javelin specifications were changed in 1986, Uwe Hohn of the GDR held the world record of 104.80m.
In nine meetings this year, Vesely has lost only twice, to Latvian Vadims Vasilevskis in the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, US, 84.65 to 83.78, and to Ukrainian Oleksandr Pyatnytsya at St. Denis, France, 85.67 to 83.93.
Thorkildsen who won the Beijing gold with a huge 90.57 throw will have his experience to bank on while Vesely will have his current form to provide the psychological edge.
The other medal contenders may include European silver medallist Valeriy Iordan of Russia, New Zealand’s Stuart Farquhar and Finns Antti Ruuskanen and Ari Mannio.