“I’m pretty tired right now, but I’ll drink three or four Red Bulls and then it’s on,” the 24-year-old told reporters around midnight before heading into the official athletes’ meeting place, the Berlin Champions’ Club, where fans and sponsors waited.
The native Berliner thrilled his hometown fans with a powerful throw in the final round of the men’s discus event to reach 69.43 metres – his best throw to date. That was enough to beat Polish athlete Piotr Malachowski’s throw of 69.15 metres. Defending champion and Olympic gold medallist, Estonian Gerd Kanter, took bronze with 66.88 metres.
Harting went on to tear his shirt off and grab a person dressed as a bear mascot, who he then carried around the stadium on his back before a roaring crowd of 32,000.
His gold medal marked the 50th German win in the IAAF history.
“After Malachowski chucked out the 69.15, I battled with myself internally a bit. And that helped,” Harting said during a press conference. “The crowds were so awesome. That was definitely a comfortable situation for me,” he added.
But fun and games may be over soon for the 2.01-metre-tall Harting, who faces consequences from the DLV German track and field association for making defamatory comments about athletes who were victims of systemic doping under the communist regime in former East Germany.
“I was nervous I would get boos after all the interviews,” Harting said. “Naturally, I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart.”
A campaign by the DHO, an association for the support of East German doping victims, made waves at the events by passing out 25,000 foam eyeglasses to draw attention to continued problems caused by doping. On Tuesday, Harting – who is known to be at odds with anti-doping activists – stunned the DLV by insulting the campaign.
“When the discus bounces off the pitch it should hit one of the glasses the doping victims distributed here,” he said. “I’m not a murderer, I just want for them not to see anything else.”
Anti-doping advocates called his comments “embarrassing,” “brutal” and “dumb,” and the DLV has demanded Harting make an official apology on Thursday.