The Norwegian star has announced his retirement from athletics in the month where he looked set to make his comeback in Prefontaine, after missing last year with injury.
'Have decided to end my career as a professional javelin thrower, its been a fun ride,' wrote Thorkildsen, 34, on his instagram page. 'Thanks for all the support these years. Thanks to everyone who have helped me along the way.'
He bows out after a remarkable career, one which brought Olympic gold in 2004 and 2008, the European crown in 2006 and 2010 and in 2009, that triumph at the IAAF World Championships in Berlin, with a punishing second round throw of 89.59m, to seal the triple crown.
Only five men in history have defended the European title - Janis Lusis, of the Soviet Union, and Steve Backley, of Great Britain, did it more than once - and Thorkildsen is the last.
His first European gold came in Gothenburg 2006, with an extraordinary performance that showed the strength he could produce.
His second round throw at the Ullevi Stadium reached 87.37m. It would have been enough to win gold, so too would his fourth round effort of 87.35m and then, just for good measure, with the triumph in the bag, he completed the series with his best effort - 88.78m - as he beat Finland’s Tero Pitkamaki (86.44m) and Jan Zelenzy (85.92m), the world record-holder and three-time Olympic champion, from the Czech Republic.
Four years later in Barcelona, it was all over in round two of the final when Thorkildsen threw 88.37m, enough to successfully defend his gold with Germany’s Matthias de Zordo (87.81m), his closest rival on the day.
It was in the weeks prior to Gothenburg a decade ago that he delivered his personal best, a stunning national record of 91.59m, fittingly at home in Oslo at the Bislett Games, which remains the seventh best of all-time. He really did leave his mark on the event.
MEN TO HAVE RETAINED JAVELIN’S EUROPEAN CROWN:
Matt Jarvinen (FIN) 1934/1938
Janusz Sidlo (POL) 1954/1958
Janis Lusis (USR) 1962/1966/1969/1971
Steve Backley (GB) 1990/1994/1998/2002
Andreas Thorkildsen (NOR) 2006/2010