By Justin Palmer
LONDON (Reuters) - Andreas Thorkildsen has been dogged by injuries this season but the return to the stage he loves best has put the Norwegian in the mood to emulate the great Jan Zelezny and win a third successive Olympic javelin gold.
"I love this stuff, walking into a stadium of 80,000 people cheering, it's good fun," Thorkildsen told reporters on Wednesday after getting his timing right with his second qualifying throw to reach Saturday's final.
"This is where we create new memories. Beijing was awesome...this is London, let's make it better."
The 30-year-old was understandably rusty with his first effort of 76.20, but made no mistake on his next attempt and, qualifying mark achieved, was able to sit back down and lap up the atmosphere on a warm evening in the capital.
Thorkildsen is hoping to match world record holder Zelezny's three golds which the Czech won between 1992 and 2000, but has struggled to hit top form this year.
"It's been my groin and quads and back...you name it and I'll add it," he said. "Age? - that's probably the biggest one," he said.
"(I have) still stuff to work on, timing... I'm not as consistent as I've been before and that's all because of injuries and not being able to compete that much.
"Hopefully, this qualifying will lead to having a good final and getting my timing back."
Thorkildsen said he could take a great deal of confidence from his 84 metre effort, although it was a long way off the Olympic record 90.57 mark he threw to win gold in Beijing.
"It was a little shaky," the 2009 world champion said of his opening throw.
"Just getting that 84 was comforting, to feel that it's there, after that 76. I know what I've done in practice but practice and competition are different things."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)