With the World Championships now a little over than 15 hours away, let’s make a quick round over the various events on display and pick up the outlook of the action as it will be unfolding over the next nine days in Daegu, as close as it is possible anyway as there are definitely going to be many twists and turns in the plot. So how about starting off with some events that usually enjoy a great deal less of the spotlight and media prominence like the women’s throws? There are fascinating and intriguing affairs building up therein and worth watching out for all along.
Valerie Adams has returned with a vengeance to claim back what is hers and been battering the mid to high 20m region to dominate last summer’s number one Nadzeya Ostapchuk with aplomb, heading to the battle as a firm favourite to retain her title. Indeed, the Belarusian European champion is left scratching around for answers as she has lost every single encounter to her rival and time is running out on her; albeit holding the farthest put in the globe at 20.94m that forms her only consolation and a lifeline as yet. But the Kiwi is a hell of a competitor with so many strings to her bow and realistically I can’t see the trend shifting here either. You can’t help feeling that no matter what Ostapchuk pulls out of the ring Adams will come up with something special.
New American record-holder Jillian Camarena-Williams has not only surpassed 20m this term (20.18m) but is also very consistent in the high 19m and therefore appears to have the edge over young Chinese Lijiao Gong (20.10) in the fight for bronze, where one should also note American runner-up Michelle Carter (19.86m). Strangely enough, the Germans and Russians are hardly anywhere to be seen this summer.
Croatian European champion Sandra Perkovic suspended, there is no standout favourite in this one despite Yanfeng Li’s global-topping 67.98m (PB). The Chinese doesn’t appear to have thrown since mid June, though this could be gathered as a traditional competitive build-up pattern in context, and her record at major championships isn’t that spectacular having failed to get anywhere around the medals even in Beijing. For that matter, German Nadine Muller (66.05m) lies in even worse light and her slump at the European Team Championships has hardly helped her cause despite holding a respectable percentage of the best marks at the top end this summer.
If you call for reliability and consistency, then Yarelys Barrios (CUB, 65.44) will step forth. She was silver medalist in all three last major global championships and has won the bulk of her competitions as yet this summer so her time may have come to mount the highest step on the podium – my own slight favourite.
Defending champion Danni Samuels (AUS, 62.33m) hasn’t quite sparkled but should not be taken lightly while Olympic champion Stephanie Brown-Trafton (USA, 64.13m) is in her best shape for a while and could turn dangerous. A big unknown quantity will be former European champion Darya Pishchalnikova (RUS, 63.91m) who returns after five years.
Unless something extraordinary occurs, Betty Heidler should walk away with a second global title after four years as she is lying head and shoulders above anyone else, having not only set a massive new world record of 79.42 but also holding all four marks set over 76m in the world this season. I don’t know whether a slight disruption in her final preparations in Korea could affect her any but she looks to have got just too much for anyone else.
From there on, the battle for the minor medals ought to be waged between Olympic silver medalist Yipsi Moreno (CUB, 74.46), Beijing bronze medalist Wenxiu Zhang (CHN, 75.65m) and former world record holder Tatyana Lysenko (RUS) who all range around the 74 to 76m region although none should overlook returning defending champion Anita Wlodarczyk (POL), who set 73.05m less than a fortnight ago and could carve out a further couple of metres up on that leading up to the event. The other German, Katrin Klaas (75.30m), is an outside contender too.
Sophie Hitchon (69.59m) competes for the first time in a major senior championships and will very likely need a national record over 70m to advance to the final but she is an excellent big time competitor with a well-proven pedigree in this department and nothing should be ruled out.
This promises to produce fireworks blazing up in the sky of Daegu if the lead-up to the event is anything to go by. World record holder and Olympic champion Barbora Spotakova (69.45m) and Christina Obergfoll (68.86m) have been relentlessly fighting it out all season in the high 60s, with very much an equal share of the spoils, but when it comes to major championships the Czech looks to have the upper hand and she should start as favourite. By contrast, the German doesn’t quite get it right when it matters and that could weigh on her.
Maria Abakumova (RUS) has been there or thereabouts, having set 67.98m this term, and on her day could be capable of anything, including the world record which figures as a possibility in these championships, although she can be quite unpredictable at the same time as well. If she could incorporate that element of consistency into her performance, none really knows what she could do on her wide range of physical-technical qualities.
Goldie Sayers (64.46) has displayed a new improved version of herself and been enjoying her best and more consistent ever season so will be looking to work her way up nicely and pick off anyone who slips up from the above top three to force her way into the medals. Unlike previous seasons, she has developed a sound duration through the rounds and a tendency/ability to hit her best throw in the last two attempts in every single competition of hers this summer, which may stand her in good stead. After all, it’s always a great mental boost into a competition to know that your best may have yet to come.
South African Sunette Viljoen, with 66.47m last week so in good form, could be a danger on her day and Slovenian Martina Ratej has thrown 65.89m, but that was back in late May and hasn’t come anywhere near that since.