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Robert Harting: Dominating the Discus

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Robert Harting: Dominating the Discus

Robert Harting throws the discus at the 2009 World Championships.

Martin Rose/Getty Images
Two-time World discus champion Robert Harting enters the 2012 season in search of his first Olympic medal. After posting an undefeated 2011 campaign, Harting – if healthy – will be among the favorites in London. Overall, Harting won 16 consecutive meets in 2011, topping 67 meters (219 feet, 9 inches) during eight competitions. He posted the second-longest throw of the year (68.99/226-4, trailing only Zoltan Kovago at 69.50/228-0), plus throws number three, five, seven and eight.

Joining the Family Business:

The son of two shot putters, Bettina and Gerd Harting, Robert nevertheless began his track and field career as a multi-events competitor in his early teens. He soon gravitated to throws, however, and placed third in the discus throw at the German Youth Championships at age 16, in 2000. He then moved to Berlin where he met current coach Werner Goldmann. Though the two briefly parted company later in the decade, their partnership eventually resumed.

Junior Ups and Downs:

At age 17 Harting took the silver medal at the World Youth Championships in Debrecen, Hungary with a throw measuring 62.04/203-6 (using the 1.75-kilogram junior discus). The next year, however, he considered quitting as a discus thrower when he only threw 56.23/184-5 at the World Junior Championships in Kingston, Jamaica and failed to reach the final. The thought passed, however, and Harting broke through in 2003. He led the junior rankings entering the European Junior Championships in Tampere, Finland. Unfortunately, Harting broke his ankle in a freak accident while exiting a bus prior to the qualification round. Harting tried to tough it out and compete anyway, taking one throw before he prudently chose to withdraw. He came back to earn the gold medal at the 2005 European Junior Championships, at age 21, then turned professional.

World Breakthrough:

After a couple of years progessing on the pro circuit, Harting emerged as a world contender in 2007. He posted the world’s ninth-best throw, 66.93/219-7, won the silver medal at the European Cup and, most impressively, earned a silver at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, Japan with a 66.68/218-9 effort.

New Champion:

Harting took fourth at the 2008 Olympics, topping out at 67.09/220-1. He then appeared on the way to a second World Championship silver medal in 2009. But with the home crowd in Berlin cheering him on, he shot past leader and rival Piotr Malachowski with a sixth-round throw measuring 69.43/227-9. Malachowski couldn’t answer, and Harting took the gold. The overjoyed Harting ripped off his shirt, then grabbed the Championship mascot, Berlino, threw the mascot over his shoulder and held him upside-down.

Check out a video of Harting’s winning performance, including his manhandling of Berlino.

Defending the Title:

Harting overcame a knee injury to repeat his World Championship triumph, in Daegu in 2011. He took just two qualifying throws – passing on a third try to help rest his knee – even though his best throw of 64.93/213-0 wasn’t an automatic qualifier. The effort stood up as the first best qualifying throw, putting him safely in the final.

Harting had to consult with German team doctors on the afternoon of the discus final to see if he should compete that day. He chose to compete, but gave an extra effort in the first round, not knowing how long his knee would hold up.

“Because of my recent knee problems it had been my aim to have a very good first attempt and try to impress the others,” Harting told reporters later. “It was an advantage for me that I was the third thrower in the rounds – this was a great chance and I took it.”

Harting’s opening-round 68.49/224-8 would’ve been good enough for the gold, although he improved his mark to 68.97/226-3 in the fourth round. In the end, nobody came within 2 meters of Harting.

Stats:

  • Height: 6-feet-7
  • Weight: 254 pounds
  • Birth date: Oct. 18, 1984
  • Hometown: Cottbus, Germany
  • Personal best: 69.69 meters (228 feet, 7 inches)

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