The end of the year means its rankings time. Athletics Weekly released their rankings last week and Track and Field News will be doing so shortly. While I may not have a team of experts behind my rankings, I do have an insider’s view. We don’t have the Diamond League in our event, and even all of our Hammer Challenge meets are not created equal since a few good marks are more important than lots of wins. Separating the best from the rest is not always an easy task. Using subjective analysis of lots of numbers, here is the third edition of my annual men’s hammer throw rankings.
1. Krisztian Pars (HUN) – After an Olympic gold medal in 2012, it seemed like Pars might cruise through this year. But Pars quietly put together one of the best seasons of his life winning 15 of 16 finals, including 5 wins on the IAAF Hammer Challenge circuit. But that one loss was a big blemish on his résumé since it came at the biggest meet of the year: the World Championships in Moscow. Nevertheless he was strong enough throughout the season to retain his top ranking from last season. Two statistics stood out to me. First, he had nine meets over 80-meters. No other athlete had more than three competitions over 80-meters. And second, after losing in Moscow he came back and threw his best throw since 2006 to win at the Dubnica IAAF Hammer Challenge. This was his second best throw ever and only 5-centimeters off his personal best. It may not be as nice as gold, but it was still a nice little revenge for him.
2. Pawel Fajdek (POL) – Fajdek has claimed among the world’s elite over the past two years, but failed to show he could perform at the biggest champioships. This year he put together three solid wins: the European Team Championships, World University Games, and most importantly the World Championships. His win at the World Championships was the most impressive; not only were all his competitors there but he led from start to finish by nearly two meters. But he still lost nine competitions this year, including 4 of 5 competitions to Pars. Fajdek has yet to find the consistency of his Hungarian rival, but he has made himself a favorite for next summer’s European Championships.
3. Lukas Melich (CZE) – While veteran throwers have a strong force in the hammer, rarely does a medalist first emerge at that age. Ziolkowski, Vizzoni, and Murofushi were all finalists in Moscow, but had already won their first medals by their mid-20s. The 32-year old Melich is therefore an exception. His career has long had good results, but was plagued by inconsistence. He only made his first championship final last year, but continued to improve this year. He had the best four competitions of his career, including his first three 80-meter throws. He also placed no lower than fourth in 19 competitions against strong competition. The consistency made the difference for him this year and led to his biggest accomplishment: bronze at the World Championships.
4. Primoz Kozmus (SLO) – The 2008 Olympic Champion competing only seven times this year, but was quite consistent. He won at the Karlstad IAAF Hammer Challenge, had good runner-up finishes to Pars in Budapest and Velenje, and finished his season just 14-centimeters off of the podium in Moscow.
5. Dilshod Nazarov (TJK) – Nazarov placed fifth at the World Championships and that was his lowest finish of the year. That’s how strong his performances were this year. Among his other highlights were a new personal best of 80.71-meters and a win in Halle, fourth place in the overall IAAF Hammer Challenge, and a win at the Asian Championships. His season nearly earned him fourth place, but he lost twice in two meets in Kozmus.
6. Marcel Lomnicky (SVK) – The former NCAA Champion truly burst onto the international scene this year and showed how just a little improvement at the international level can mean so much. Lomnicky improved his personal best by just more than a meter this year, but more importantly he had nine of his ten best competitions all-time. This was enough to get him into the finals in Moscow, sixth place in the IAAF Hammer Challenge, and a podium finishes at the World University Games, the competitive Dubnica meeting, Karlstad Grand Prix, and in Ponce.
7. Szymon Ziolkowski (POL) – Twelve years after his first appearance at the World Championships, Ziolkowski placed ninth in Moscow. It may have been his lowest finish ever, but that is the mark of a great career. While his World Championships may have been disappointing, his overall season was very strong. Adding consistency to last season. With the exception of one competition, he was always in the top five and had several meets over 77 meters which earned him seventh place in the IAAF Hammer Challenge.
8. Koji Murofushi (JPN) – The aging Japanese champion placed sixth at the World Championships and it is hard to rank him any higher since there are no other performances to evaluate. He competed only one other time and had no other competitions against international throwers.
9. Sergey Litvinov (RUS) – Litvinov was returning from injury this year, but competed very well. The highlight was a bronze at the World University Games. However he hit his peak a little early and despite a good qualifying round placed just 11th at the World Championships.
10. Nicola Vizzoni (ITA) – The Tuscan might not be able to produce the huge throws of years past, but he still performs when it counts. A seventh place finish at the World Championships highlighted his season and pushed him into the top ten.