Robert Harting ended his glittering career on Sunday with a second place finish at Berlin’s ISTAF athletics meeting. Despite his share of injuries and scandal, he is set to go down as a giant of German sport.
It ended where it all began. Olympic and three-time world champion Robert Harting threw his final competitive discus in Berlin on Sunday, bringing to an end a glittering career which saw him soar to the pinnacle of his sport.
A second-placed finish, behind his brother – and reigning Olympic champion – Christoph, was a fitting swansong for a man who has always valued the support of family, friends and fans.
"I am thrilled! Everyone is here, my rivals, my friends and my family. I have always hoped for such a farewell," beamed a tearful Harting before embarking on a lap of honour in front of his adoring public.
His final title shot came three weeks ago, again in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, at the European Championships. The 6 foot 7 inch giant was unable to launch himself onto the podium that day, finishing a lengthy 81cm behind the bronze-medal distance, but received a hero’s farewell nonetheless.
Placards reading “Thank you, Robert” were held aloft as swells of fans gathered to see a legend of German sport take his final shot at glory. He received a similar send-off here.
Towards the end of his career, injuries took their toll, but fans will fondly remember Harting’s glory years, which culminated in a gold medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games. That triumph came at the tail end of an era in which Harting dominated his sport, claiming three world titles between 2009 and 2013, alongside European Championship gold medals in 2012 and 2014. For the two and a half years leading up to London, Harting was undefeated.
Olympic and three-time world champion, Harting threw his final competitive discus in Berlin on Sunday.
It wasn’t to last, however, with a serious knee injury in 2012 curtailing this period of unrivalled domination. He never truly recovered. No longer could his body be subjected to the vigorous training regimes that made him the world’s most feared discus thrower. Other body parts followed suit, with back injuries forcing him out of the Olympic Village in Rio De Janiero in 2016. Even this season, two years on from that heartache, Harting tore his knee tendons again, limiting his participation.
Not without his controversies, Harting was involved in several scandals down the years. His association with one high profile coach, formally operating in the DDR, accused of doping clients cast a shadow on his achievements, though Harting fought tirelessly against allegations.
He later accused IOC president Thomas Bach of not doing enough to prevent doping in sport. “He’s part of the doping system, not the anti-doping system. I am ashamed of Thomas Bach,” he said in 2016.
For athletics fans however, it is not the injuries, or the controversy which will live long in the memory. It’s the power and the determination to win that made him a true great of German sport.