Angler Mykolas hooks a 38-year-old men's discus world mark - Hindustan Times

Angler Mykolas hooks a 38-year-old men's discus world mark

ByRutvick Mehta
Apr 16, 2024 08:05 AM IST

The 21-year-old Lithuanian, son of an Olympic and world discus champion, achieved the record in a throws event in Oklahoma

When not thinking discus throw, Mykolas Alekna, the Lithuanian athlete whose father is a two-time Olympic and world champion discus thrower, likes to go fishing.

FILE - Mykolas Alekna, of Lithuania, celebrates(AP)
FILE - Mykolas Alekna, of Lithuania, celebrates(AP)

In his fast-swelling net of throws, his recent catch stands out. It's one that has shattered the longest standing men’s world record in track and field.

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The 21-year-old threw a whopping 74.35m -- it was initially measured 74.41m but was later revised and remains subject to World Athletics’ usual ratification procedure -- in the Oklahoma Throws Series World Invitational meet on Sunday to eclipse the discus world mark that stood for 38 years. The effort bettered the record of 74.08m set in 1986 by Jurgen Schult, the two-time Olympic medallist who then represented East Germany. It also pushed an intimate name for the 2002-born Mykolas down to third in the all-time list: his father, Virgilijus Alekna.

And so, when in an interview to World Athletics last year, Mykolas conveyed his ambition of one day being like his “legendary thrower” father, "maybe even be better than him", he wasn't kidding.

He certainly wasn't in his season-opening competition, a low-key throws meet in Oklahoma that stood witness to another exceptional throw a day earlier (Cuba’s Yaime Perez threw 73.09m for the longest among the women in the world since 1989). Mykolas produced an incredible series of six 70m-plus throws, which began with the youngster bettering his personal best off the first one and breaking the record off the fifth. All through, he rose in the all-time list of best throws. The first, 72.21m, moved him up to 10th. The third, 72.89m, to 4th. The fifth, 74.35m, to history.

Some of the longest standing world records in athletics -- Marita Koch (women’s 400m, 1985), Jarmila Kratochvilova (women’s 800m, 1983), Yuriy Sedykh (men’s hammer throw, 1986) -- were set in the 1980s, a dope-tainted period in the sport. Schult's mark of 1986 was untouched for almost four decades. Virgilijus, a three-time Olympic and four-time World Championships medallist with a personal best of 73.88m in 2000, came close. Only for his son to emphatically cross it at age 21 in an event where athletes usually hit their best in the later stages of their careers.

Not that Mykolas always wanted to walk his father's discus talk, despite the discipline running deep in the Alekna family; Mykolas's older brother, Martynas, is also a top level discus thrower. Mykolas took some time finding his feet in discus throw as until 16, he was into football and high jump. The feet, by the way, turned out to be the reason for his switch.

"I grew a lot, my feet got bigger. I was slower and that’s when I transitioned to discus," Mykolas told World Athletics. "I was pretty late, I suppose. My parents only wanted me to do sports. It didn’t matter what sports, just to do something.”

Something he did, quite quickly at that, in his new sport. By the time he turned 19, he was the European and world U-20 champion (both in 2021). A scholarship to California State University followed, and so did success at the senior level. In 2022, he won gold at the European Championships and silver at the World Championships in Eugene.

His progression over the last few years has been consistent and remarkably rapid. The season bests have surged from 57.68 in 2020, 63.52 in 2021, 69.81 in 2022 to 71.00 in 2023, the year in which he added a bronze at the Budapest Worlds and also became Europe's U-23 champion.

His father remains his "big idol", and fishing his most relaxing getaway from his profession. "I think about discus all the time," he said. "But when I start fishing, I forget about everything.”

The world of athletics will sure warm up to him very fast if he goes on to achieve glory in the Paris Olympics.

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