Robert Harting, Germany’s incredible discus champion
Following a boisterous victory celebration at London 2012, German discus thrower Robert Harting earned the nickname “Incredible Hulk”, and has since lived up to it by racking up further European and world titles.
Born in Cottbus in the former German Democratic Republic, Robert Harting threw his first discus at the age of 15, in 2000. The following year, he earned a silver medal at the World Youth Championships. After prevailing at the 2005 European U23 Championships with a throw of 64.50m, he took part in his first major senior competition, the 2006 European Athletics Championships in Gothenburg (SWE), but failed to advance past the qualifying round.
In 2007, the up-and-coming athlete enjoyed a breakthrough moment, taking silver with a throw of 68.68m at the IAAF World Championships in Osaka (JPN), and took his strong form into his first Olympic Games in Beijing, where he finished fourth in a final won by Estonia’s Gerd Kanter.
Series of successes
At the 2009 Worlds in Berlin (GER), Harting claimed his first global crown, recording a career-best performance of 69.43m. Two years later in Daegu (KOR), having dominated at IAAF events throughout the season, he successfully defended his title by throwing 68.97m on his fourth attempt. Then, in Helsinki (FIN) in May 2012, he twice surpassed the 70m mark as he triumphed at the European Championships for the first time.
Fifth time lucky in London
In the qualifying round at London 2012, Harting advanced to the final in second place behind reigning Olympic champion Kanter. The following day, his quest for gold got off to a poor start as he struggled to find his rhythm, first throwing 67.79m and then fouling on his second attempt.
His third and fourth-round efforts of 67.27m and 66.45m also failed to propel him up the leaderboard, topped at that stage by Iran’s Ehsan Haddadi, who had thrown 68.18m on his first attempt.
However, the imposing German subsequently dug deep to produce a fifth throw of 68.27m, surpassing Haddadi and moving into pole position. As no competitor was able to better that distance in the sixth and final round, Harting claimed the Olympic title ahead of his Iranian rival and Kanter (68.03m), and celebrated by exuberantly ripping his shirt in two.
“It’s just amazing, I can’t believe it,” said the bare-chested champion. “It was so difficult for me, because I started so badly. I felt like I needed to do it, because 68.18 is not that far, after all. I kept thinking about that, but in the end, I got lucky. I’ve been dreaming of this moment for twelve years. The first discus I threw was in 2000, and from then on, I knew I needed to be here and win this title.”
From strength to strength
Following his Olympic success, Harting continued to impress on the international circuit, securing two European Team Championship victories (in 2013 and 2014), a third straight World Championship gold medal (in 2013, with a throw of 69.11m in Moscow) and a second consecutive individual European Championship title (in 2014 in Zurich).
The German, who will be 31 by the time Rio 2016 comes around, is now at the peak of his powers and looks likely to reign over his sport for some time to come.More