Fresh off a victory at the Lithuanian national championships, Cal freshman discus star Mykolas Alekna will test his precocious talents against the best in the world at the Diamond League stop in Stockholm, Sweden on Thursday.
“It’s the big showdown before the Worlds,” said Cal throws coach Mo Saatara, referring to the World Championships next month at Eugene, Oregon.
Alekna is part of a field featuring six of the top seven throwers on the planet this year, including the top three: Reigning Olympic champion Daniel Stahl of Sweden, 6-foot-9 Kristjan Ceh of Slovenia and 31-year-old Andrius Gudzius, whom Alekna beat at the Lithuanian championships.
Alekna’s winning mark of 226 feet, 4 inches (69.00 meters) at his national meet ranks him No. 5 in the world this season and was the longest throw ever by a teen-ager.
“That distance is a magnificent performance for anybody, at any age. But at that young of an age, it’s pretty amazing,” Saatara said. “I think it shows his trajectory as an athlete.”
Saatara calls him “a once-in-a-lifetime talent.”
The 19-year-old posted the top mark by a collegiate athlete in any setting, although it will not count as the NCAA record because it did not come against college competition.
Others entered at Stockholm include American Sam Mattis and Australian Matthew Denny, who reside just behind Alekna at Nos. 6 and 7 on the 2022 world list.
Saatara isn’t concerned that the high-level field Alekna is facing on Thursday will be an obstacle.
“The other part that it really important is just his composure during competition,” Saatara said. “And being able to deal with all the pressures that come with being an elite-level performer.”
Asked when he and Alekna are expecting on Thursday, Saatara said, “His main focus is going to be to continue what he’s been doing, build on his performances, be stable and obviously have a good time and compete. Enjoy the process.
“That’s the one part he’s been very good at doing. I expect him to be very, very competitive.”
Alekna’s mark of 69.00 meters ranks him No. 47 on the all-time world list. Twenty-seven throwers in history have gone 70 meters, including his father, Virgilius Alekna, a two-time Olympic champion whose best of 73.88 is No. 2 all-time.
Asked by Track and Field News if he thinks he can reach 70 meters by the end of the summer, Alekna said, "I'm not a fortune teller, the future will show what will happen.”
Saatara isn’t making predictions but is pleased with Alekna’s embrace of their training program.
“We’ve been working very diligently . . . patiently, that’s been the main idea. Just move forward step by step. His training program is very strong. Obviously, he’s a very talented guy.
“He has a really great understanding of the technique and what he needs to do, which is really rare for a younger athlete. Especially discus, which takes a long, long time to learm.”
Alekna has improved by nearly 18 feet since the start of the college season in early spring. He delivered seven of the eight longest throws by a college athlete this season and was unbeaten against college rivals before finishing second at the NCAA championships.
His only other defeat this season came at the Mt. SAC Relays in mid-April when he finished second behind Stahl, the 29-year-old who competed at the World Championships for the first time in 2015. Alekna was in the sixth grade at the time.
Stockholm Diamond League Entry List
Men's Discus World Leaders List
Cover photo of Mykolas Alekna by Kirby Lee, USA Today
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo