Looking Back at 2016: Men’s Hammer Rankings
As has been the case the last several years, the men’s hammer throw this year featured a densely packed field of throwers trading spots on the circuit. But unlike last year, where Pawel Fajdek ran the table, even the top position was not entirely clear as he stumbled on the biggest stage this year. Other perrenial favorites, like Krisztian Pars, hit troubles due to injury. This made my task of compiling an annual ranking harder than normal. The finished product is below and the women’s rankings will be up later in the week too.
Just one disclaimer before we begin: the rankings are a subjective evaluation of who had the best season in 2016. In coming to the final rankings I look at following factors, listed in their order of importance:
- Performance at major championships and competitions;
- Other head-to-head performances against top throwers;
- Consistency; and
- Season’s best.
In short, performing when it counts is the best judge that you are better than another thrower. Also of note: Russian throwers have been left off the rankings as they were officially banned by the IAAF this year, although it is important to note that not all Russians are dopers and some of their performances would have put them on the rankings had they been allowed to compete in Rio.
1. Pawel Fajdek (POL)
Season Best: 82.47m (1st)
2015 Rank: 1 (-)
2016 Highlights: IAAF Hammer Challenge Champion, European Champion, 17th Place Olympic Games
For better or worse, when I think back on Fajdek’s 2016 season one meet defines it in my mind: the Olympics. An overwhelming favorite entering the competition, he choked on an epic level by managing just 17th place. His best mark of 72.00 meters was 10 meters under his season’s best.
But as the year is coming to close and I take a step back it is unfair to let one competition define a man. My rankings give the highest value to big meet performance, but the rest of his season was so dominant that I cannot justify giving the top rank to anyone but Fajdek. He was undefeated in 13 other competitions, beating all of his other top competitors. More than that he did not just win; he killed his competitors with an average margin of victory of nearly four meters. What we learned in Rio was not that others were better than him. We learned that the only person beat Fajdek is himself. Therefore he keeps the top honors for the second straight year.
2. Dilshod Nazarov (TJK)
Season Best: 78.87m (3rd)
2015 Rank: 2 (-)
2016 Highlights: Olympic Champion, 2nd Place IAAF Hammer Challenge
Like a fine wine, Nazarov just get better with age. Once Fajdek failed to qualify for the finals, Nazarov assumed the favorite role and delivered to collect his country’s first ever gold medal. At age 34 his marks were down slightly this year, but his consistency was as good as ever. On the circuit he was a runner-up behind Fajdek at nearly every event (he only lost once to another thrower) and even in Rio all six of his throws were good enough for a podium finish.
3. Ivan Tikhon (BLR)
Season Best: 80.04m (2nd)
2015 Rank: Not Ranked
2016 Highlights: Olympic and European Championships Silver Medalist
Tikhon is the most controversial figure of the year, with many arguing it is hypocritical to ban Russia yet allow an athlete’s whose entire career has been shrouded in doping controversy on the podium at the European Championships and Olympic Games. But if you look at the numbers he was indisputably one of the top throwers of the year. He was one of just two throwers over 80 meters this year. And while he did not compete much head-to-head with other throwers, both times he did he won medals.
4. Wojciech Nowicki (POL)
Season Best: 78.36m (7th)
2015 Rank: 6 (↑ 2)
2016 Highlights: Olympic and European Championships Bronze Medalist, 3rd Place IAAF Hammer Challenge
A surprise medalist at the 2015 World Championships, Nowicki proved last year was no fluke this summer. While he did not improve his personal best, he improved his consistency and found frequently on the podium at IAAF Hammer Challenge events and, more importantly, both the Olympics and European Championships.
5. Marcel Lomnicky (SVK)
Season Best: 77.48m (14th)
2015 Rank: 8 (↑ 3)
2016 Highlights: 5th Place Olympic Games, European Championships and IAAF Hammer Challenge
Lomnicky flew under the radar this year, but if you look back at the results he put together a very solid season which earns him a tie for his highest ranking ever. While he did not make a major podium, he was always in the mix with top-5 finishes at both major championships and the IAAF Hammer Challenge.
6. Ashraf Amjad Al-Saifi (QAT)
Season Best: 78.19m (8th)
2015 Rank: Not Ranked
2016 Highlights: 6th Place Olympic Games, 4th Place IAAF Hammer Challenge
At just 21 years of age, Al-Saifi makes his debut in the rankings and also becomes the youngest man ever to make the rankings. With good results on the circuit and 6th place Olympic finish the future seems bright.
7. David Söderberg (FIN)
Season Best: 77.60m (12th)
2015 Rank: 10 (↑ 3)
2016 Highlights: 7th Place European Championships, 8th Place Olympic Games, 6th Place IAAF Hammer Challenge
Like Nazarov, Söderberg seems to be getting better with age. Not until age 34 did he make a major championships final and this year, at age 37, he made the finals at both the European Championships and Olympics to earn his highest ranking ever.
8. Krisztian Pars (HUN)
Season Best: 77.38m (15th)
2015 Rank: 3 (↓ 5)
2016 Highlights: 7th Place Olympic Games, 9th Place IAAF Hammer Challenge
Since starting the rankings in 2011, Pars has taken in four first-place finished and one second-place. But when I started putting together my rankings I wasn’t even sure he would make the cut. Injuries and age hindered his season, but he pulled together enough at the end of the year to make the Olympic final and squeeze in yet again. Along with Nazarov, he remains the only thrower to have been ranked every single year.
9. Siarhei Kalamoyets (BLR)
Season Best: 76.00m (30th)
2015 Rank: Not Ranked
2016 Highlights: 6th Place European Championships, 9th Place Olympic Games, 2nd Place European Winter Throwing Cup
With such a mass of throwers around 76 to 78 meters, it was hard to put together the last part of this list. While 30 throwers were over 76 meters, only a few were able to back up those marks at major championships. You could easily put Rio 4th place finisher Diego Del Real (MEX) in here, but while Kalamoyets was further down the annual performance lists he showed a lot of consistency by making the finals at both major championships and this helped set himself apart from the crowd.
10. Serghei Marghiev (MDA)
Season Best: 78.48m (6th)
2015 Rank: Not Ranked
2016 Highlights: 8th Place European Championships, 10th Place Olympic Games, 7th Place IAAF Hammer Challenge
Maghiev is another athlete that quietly put together a good year, making two major championship finals. While he had some good finishes on the circuit, Kalamoyets got the edge since he won both head-to-head matchups against Marghiev at the major championships. In addition, with both of his sisters having served doping bans during their careers, he is another thrower that is viewed suspiciously among insiders.
You say Nazarov was first gold medalist for his country, but don’t forget Abduvaliyev, who won Barcelona gold while competing for the CIS unified team.
Exactly, he was the first gold medalist for Tajikistan, not the first gold medalist from there.
Thanks Martin. You say under Al-Saifi = “good results on the circuit”. That’s just it – what circuit? The IAAF Hammer Challenge was curtailed early and few did more than a few meets. European meetings don’t have a clear structure. Creating a more coherent fixture list needs to be a priority else rankings in the future will only be based on the major champs!
Specifically he had 2nd place finishes with solid results in Szczecin and Hungary. But the issue you raise is a huge one. Furthermore, the same athletes tend to get invited to the few elite meets, meaning if we base the rankings on them it is a disadvantage to those athletes without a good agent to get them into those meets.