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Walcott set for strong title defence

Kwame Laurence :: Trinidad Express :: 20.08.2016

First at the 2012 London Olympics. First in the qualifying competition at Rio 2016. And now, first to throw in the men's javelin final, at the Joao Havelange Olympic Stadium here in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this evening.

A sign, perhaps, of a repeat triumph for defending champion Keshorn Walcott? We'll have to wait and see. What's certain is that the 23-year-old Trinidad and Tobago field athlete is well prepared to defend his title.

On Wednesday, Walcott threw down the gauntlet to his challengers, qualifying with his very first throw in Group B—a massive 88.68 metres effort. None of his 35 rivals could match the throw, handing Walcott a psychological boost ahead of the final.

The big throw was the second best of Walcott's career, bettered only by the 90.16m national record he established in Lausanne, Switzerland, last year.

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2012 Gold Medallist Keshorn Walcott qualifies for Saturday's Javelin final

More than four metres farther than his 84.58m golden hurl, as a 19-year-old Olympic debutant at London 2012, Wednesday's qualifying throw established Walcott as the early favourite for Rio 2016 gold.

Closest to Walcott in qualifying was German Johannes Vetter, whose 85.96m effort was a full 2.72 metres behind the Toco thrower. Another German, Julian Weber (84.46m) was third.

But today is another day, and all 12 finalists will start from scratch.

The third German in the field, Thomas Rohler was not at his best on Wednesday, throwing 83.01m to better the 83-flat automatic qualifying distance by just one centimetre. However, of the 11 men hoping to usurp Walcott's throne, Rohler is the one who looms as the biggest threat. The world-leader this year at 91.28m, Rohler is one of just three men in the final with membership in the 90-metre club, along with Kenyan Julius Yego and Walcott.

Yego jumped to third on the all-time world performance list with a 92.72m golden throw at the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing, China. While his best so far this year is just 84.68m, if Yego finds his rhythm at the Olympic Stadium tonight, the African record holder will surely be in contention for a podium finish.

In addition to the three 90-metre men, five finalists have thrown over 88 metres, setting the stage for a very interesting competition.

Four years after his shocking victory in London, Walcott is back on the Olympic stage in far different circumstances. He was a teenager back then, competing with no pressure. In the London preliminaries, Walcott did not reach the 82.00m automatic qualifying distance, but progressed to the 12-man final as the 10th-place finisher at 81.75m. He was recently upgraded to ninth following the doping disqualification of Ukraine's Oleksandr Pyatnytsya, who lost his silver medal.

The London 2012 fairytale final is well documented. Walcott wrote his name in the history books as T&T's second Olympic champion, only the second non-European to grab Olympic men's javelin gold, the youngest-ever Olympic javelin champion, the first person to win an individual Olympic title and a world junior title in the same year, and the first black male thrower to secure gold in the history of the Modern Olympics.

Now firmly established as one of the best throwers on the planet, Walcott's spear can no longer fly under the radar. But though the element of surprise is gone, the T&T hero goes into the 7.55 p.m. final with the benefit of four years' experience at the elite level and the confidence of qualifying first.

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GOLDEN SIGN - Walcott set for strong title defence
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BIG THROW: Trinidad and Tobago's Keshorn Walcott competes in the Men's Javelin qualifying round at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Wednesday. —Photo: AFP

Kwame Laurence Rio Olympics 2016

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