World Champs Men’s Discus — A New Giant

Kristjan Čeh has taken over as the world’s dominant discus thrower. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

DURING THE 5 YEARS following the Rio Olympics, Daniel Ståhl was The Man in the discus. A silver at London ’17 was followed by a gold at Doha ’19 and another gold at the Tokyo Olympics. Between ’13 & ’22, the powerful Swede was the only man to throw beyond 232-11 (71.00), a feat he achieved on 5 occasions.

However, in ’21 a serious challenger has emerged in the person of Slovenia’s Kristjan Čeh, a massive 6-foot-9 (2.06) 22-year-old who placed 5th at Tokyo and exceeded 220ft (67m) with remarkable consistency. Now with a 233-10 (71.27) best, he was 5–1 against Ståhl in ’22 prior to their Eugene meeting.

Meanwhile, other throwers were also enjoying great seasons. ’17 world champion Andrius Gudžius (Lithuania) has reached 227-8 (69.39) and his countryman Mykolas Alekna — the 19-year-old son of twice world and Olympic champion Virgilijus Alekna — has thrown 229-0 (69.81).

In the qualifying round, the bespectacled Čeh, clad in a standout lime-green kit, was one-and-done with an easy-appearing 223-10 (68.23). His whip-like arm release speed was reminiscent of a certain American woman discus champion.

Alekna led all qualifiers with the second-best throw of his career, 226-1 (68.91). Olympic medalist Simon Pettersson (Sweden) also exceeded 223-0. Ståhl settled for a 216-4 (65.95) mark.

The world’s best — there were no notable absences from the ’22 season — began the final on a hot evening with very little wind.

Ståhl was the early leader, with a 218-5 (66.59) opener, but was soon overtaken, first by Alekna with a 218-8 (66.64) throw, followed by Gudžius with 220-10 (67.31).

The favored Čeh, who had a near-sector foul on his first attempt, assumed the lead with a big 226-5 (69.02) in the second round. Alekna immediately responded with 222-8 (67.87), and Pettersson moved to 4th with his 219-10 (67.00), his only fair throw of the day.

In the third round Ståhl took over with a 226-11 (69.16)… briefly, because a film review later disallowed the mark, which would have sufficed for bronze. Regardless, Čeh settled matters with a massive 233-4 (71.13), the longest throw in Olympic or WC history. Usually poker-faced, this feat elicited an enthusiastic arms-pumping celebration.

The fourth round belonged to the Lithuanians. First Gudžius improved to 221-7 (67.55), then Alekna launched a 227-3 (69.27). The medals were decided. Ståhl could only manage a 220-2 (67.10), good for 4th. Čeh, still working, threw 226-2 (68.95), 231-4 (70.51) and 221-8 (67.57) before taking a brisk (for a man his size) victory half-lap.

“It was a fast ring here, but everyone has the same conditions, so you just need to trust yourself,” said the new champion. “I knew that I have the ability for the big throw. I did the best I could.”

Alekna, the NCAA runner-up for Cal, reflected, “It is hard for me to realize that I won silver. I just try to stay calm and not feel pressure, just to enjoy the competition.”

Added Gudžius, “This medal is amazing, after four difficult years, with injuries and COVID. Oh, I am very happy and I have no words to say, it is so emotional.”


MEN’S DISCUS RESULTS

FINAL (July 19)

(temperature 88–86F/31–30C; humidity 37–42%)

1. Kristjan Čeh (Slo) 233-4 (71.13)

(214-1, 226-5, 233-4, 226-2, 231-4, 221-8) (65.27, 69.02, 71.13, 68.95, 70.51, 67.57);

2. Mykolas Alekna (Lit) 227-3 (69.27)

(218-8, 222-8, 220-9, 227-3, f, f) (66.64, 67.87, 67.28, 69.27, f, f);

3. Andrius Gudžius (Lit) 221-7 (67.55)

(220-10, 216-9, f, 221-7, f, f) (67.31, 66.06, f, 67.55, f, f);

4. Daniel Ståhl (Swe) 220-2 (67.10)

(218-5, 216-6, f, 214-6, 220-2, 219-4) (66.59, 65.99, f, 65.39, 67.10, 66.86);

5. Simon Pettersson (Swe) 219-10 (67.00)

(f, 219-10, f, f, f, f) (f, 67.00, f, f, f, f);

6. Matt Denny (Aus) 218-1 (66.47)

(201-11, 214-11, 217-6, 215-1, 214-10, 218-1) (61.55, 65.50, 66.29, 65.56, 65.49, 66.47);

7. Alin Alexandru Firfirica (Rom) 215-1 (65.57)

(213-7, 209-4, 205-4, f, f, 215-1) (65.10, 63.80, 62.58, f, f, 65.57);

8. Alex Rose (AmS) 215-1 (65.57)

(215-1, 210-6, 208-0, 206-0, f, 200-8) (65.57, 64.17, 63.41, 62.78, f, 61.16);

9. Fedrick Dacres (Jam) 212-9 (64.85)

(212-9, 207-6, 212-6) (64.85, 63.25, 64.79);

10. Lukas Weißhaidinger (Aut) 209-11 (63.98)

(202-6, 209-11, 204-10) (61.72, 63.98, 62.45);

11. Sam Mattis (US) 207-3 (63.19)

(199-9, 207-3, 206-1) (60.89, 63.19, 62.82);

12. Traves Smikle (Jam) 204-2 (62.23)

(f, 204-2, f) (f, 62.23, f).

* = progression of the leading throw; ¶ = athlete’s best of the day
first 3 rounds
Ståhl 66.59* 65.99 f
Firfirica 65.10 63.80 62.58
Denny 61.55 65.50 66.29
Dacres 64.85¶ 63.25 64.79
Rose 65.57¶ 64.17 63.41
Weißhaidinger 61.72 63.98¶ 62.45
Smikle f 62.23¶ f
Čeh 65.27 69.02* 71.13*¶
Alekna 66.64* 67.87 67.28
Pettersson f 67.00¶ f
Gudžius 67.31* 66.06 f
Mattis 60.89 63.19¶ 62.82
rounds 4 & 5
Firfirica f f
Rose 62.78 f
Denny 65.56 65.49
Ståhl 65.39 67.10¶
Pettersson f f
Gudžius 67.55¶ f
Alekna 69.27¶ f
Čeh 68.95 70.51
last round
Firfirica 65.57¶
Rose 61.16
Denny 66.47¶
Pettersson f
Ståhl 66.86
Gudžius f
Alekna f
Čeh 67.57

QUALIFYING

(July 17; auto-qualifier 216-6/66.00)

Qualifiers: Alekna 226-1 (68.91), Čeh 223-10 (68.23), Pettersson 223-5 (68.11), Denny (Aus) 219-9 (66.98), Gudžius 218-6 (66.60), Weißhaidinger 218-2 (66.51), Ståhl 216-4 (65.95), Mattis, 215-2 (65.59), Firfirica 215-0 (65.54), Dacres 211-7 (64.49), Smikle 210-8 (64.21), Rose 210-5 (64.14);

Non-Qualifiers: Lawrence Okoye (GB) 208-6 (63.57), Nicholas Percy (GB) 207-4 (63.20), Marek Bárta (CzR) 206-4 (62.90), Apostolos Parellis (Cyp) 204-11 (62.46), Martin Wierig (Ger) 204-4 (62.28), Andrew Evans (US) 204-1 (62.20), Henrik Janssen (Ger) 202-11 (61.85), Claudio Romero (Chl) 202-4 (61.69), Philip Milanov (Bel) 201-8 (61.47), Mario A. Díaz (Cub) 199-7 (60.83), Martin Marković (Cro) 198-9 (60.59), Victor Hogan (SA) 198-6 (60.51), Chad Wright (Jam) 197-10 (60.31), Mauricio Ortega (Col) 196-6 (59.91), Werner Visser (SA) 191-9 (58.44), Brian Williams (US) 191-1 (58.25), Torben Brandt (Ger) 177-6 (54.11);… nm—Lucas Nervi (Chl).

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