Sudden bout of flu complicates things for reigning javelin World Champion Tero Pitkämäki
Finns have four competitors in flagship event
Thursday afternoon’s news of javelin thrower Tero Pitkämäki having contracted flu has been a cause of mild panic among many Finnish athletics fans.
Today Friday, the reigning World Champion will take part in the qualifying round of the men’s javelin event at the IAAF World Championships in Berlin, whether he is still ill or already on his way to recovery. On Thursday his temperature was slightly over 38 degrees Celsius.
”Tero will take part in Friday’s qualification. In my view this is a case of a common cold that may have been caused, for example, by Tero’s room’s air conditioning”, states Finnish team doctor Timo Kuusisto.
“It is not a case of swine flu, which would cause the patient to be bedridden”, Kuusisto continues.
In the Finnish team’s hotel Pitkämäki has been isolated to a room of his own, where he is only visited by Kuusisto and javelin coach Hannu Kangas.
Pitkämäki was, and still is, at least until Friday evening, the greatest medal hope among the Finnish athletes in Berlin.
Javelin throwing is first and foremost a discipline based on technique. Had Pitkämäki been a long-distance runner, it would have been a different matter. He might just as well have changed his Monday return flight ticket to Thursday.
”In a discipline based on technique a slight fever may even render the athlete more responsive. It can go either way”, Kangas comments.
On Thursday both Kangas and Kuusisto were hopeful with regard to Pitkämäki pulling it off. Such hopes are justified.
Pitkämäki has previous experience in competing while feverish and slightly under the weather. In the 2007 Brussels Golden League event he produced a throw of nearly 88 metres. Two days later at the Berlin Olympic Stadium he sent his javelin past the 88-metre mark.
At the Berlin World Championships the men’s javelin elimination round takes place this evening in two groups.
An 82-metre throw would guarantee a place in the final two days later. Anything less, and the competitor will have to hope he is among the 12 best throwers who will progress.
Finland has no fewer than four javelin throwers taking part in the discipline, thanks to Pitkämäki’s 2007 World Championship victory in Osaka.
The trio of Teemu Wirkkala, Tero Järvenpää and Antti Ruuskanen are healthy and simply overflowing with self-confidence and good humour.
“Tero’s flu has not really increased pressure on me. The only difference is that perhaps I wash my hands more often than normally”, says Wirkkala.
Wirkkala’s season has gone very well and he is aiming to make it to the podium.
Even in international comparisons Wirkkala, with a personal best this year of 87.23, is definitely one of the favourites in the discipline, where Finland’s only serious athletics medal hopes lie these days.
The country's once-vaunted reputation as a producer of long-distance runners is dim and distant history: the nearest they have come this year is a creditable 8th place by Jukka Keskisalo in the 3,000 metres steeplechase.
The entire javelin quartet’s preparation to the games has gone by the book - apart from Pitkämäki’s fever and sore throat.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Statistics promise Finland just one medal from IAAF World Championships (14.8.2009)
Javelin thrower Pitkämäki´s Sunday injury perhaps not as serious as feared (4.8.2009)
Javelin world champion Tero Pitkämäki takes Sports Personality of the Year trophy (18.12.2007)
Tero Pitkämäki official site
Tero Pitkämäki (Wikipedia)