London Olympic Preview: Women’s Hammer Throw

The hammer cage at the London Olympic Stadium.

Get ready for the best women’s hammer throw competition of all time. On Wednesday, the top seven throwers of all time will step foot in the hammer ring at the London Olympic Stadium. This includes three throwers over 78 meters, eight throwers over 76.50 meters, and 11 over 75 meters! Not only will the throws likely be far, but the competition should be close as the front runners closely packed together through the season. Even the experts cannot agree on a favorite. Below you will find an overview of the competition format, profiles of the top athletes, start lists, 2012 performance lists, and predictions.

The Format

Over the past two years, 37 of the world’s best hammer throwers qualified to compete the Olympics. In order to qualify, throwers had to either achieve the Olympic B Standard of 69 meters or, if their country wanted to send more than one representative, reach the tougher Olympic A standard of 71.50 meters. Each country can send no more than three athletes. All 37 throwers will get three attempts in a qualifying session on Wednesday morning. The top 12 finishers in meters in the qualifying round will move to compete in Friday’s final. In the final each thrower receives three throws, with the top eight receiving three more after that. Only results from Friday are counted when determining the final placings.

As was the case in the men’s competition, where a throw under the A standard was good enough to move on to the finals, that will surely be the case in the women’s qualifying round too. At last year’s world championships a throw of 68.92 meters was good enough to move on to the finals. This year’s Olympics will likely showcase a higher level and could become the first time a throw over 70 meters was not good enough to qualify for the finals. What it takes for a medal will also be undoubtedly stronger than ever. China’s Zhang Wenxiu holds the record for the furthest bronze medal throws at both the Olympics (2008) and world championships (2011) and all other meets with throws of 74.32 meters, 75.03 meters and 75.68 meters respectively. Expect those records to fall.

The Favorites

World Champion Tatyana Lysenko

Tatyana Lysenko (RUS)
Season Best: 78.51m (2nd), Personal Best: 78.51 (2012)
Credentials: 2011 World Champion; Former World Record Holder (2005-2009); Ranked Third All-Time

Lysenko surprised many by winning last year’s world championships. Leading up to the meet she had been quite inconsistent and averaged under 72 meters throughout the season. But she unleashed a 77 meter throw to dominate world record holder Betty Heidler and several other strong challengers. This year she will be entering the Olympics in even better form; she has averaged over 76 meters in all her meets since the start of June include a new personal best and the third best throw ever in the world. This season she has placed no lower than third and is the most consistent of the elite throwers.

Oksana Menkova (BLR)
Season Best: 78.69m (1st), Personal Best: 78.69m (2012)
Credentials: 2008 Olympic Champion

Menkova disappeared from the international throwing scene as quickly as she arrived, but now it looks like she is back. The surprise Beijing gold medalist followed up her triumph with a mediocre 2009 season. In 2010 she gave birth to her first child before throwing just 67.78 meters last season. In 2012, she quickly made people remember her name with three meets over 78 meters and a world leading mark just a few weeks ago. She might still be a little rusty though. She has competed little this year and has not competed outside of Belarus since 2009 when she had several sub-70 meter marks at various meets. In fact, she has only broken 75 meters twice outside of Belarus, but since once of them was Beijing she remains a favorite.

Betty Heidler (GER)
Season Best: 78.07 (3rd), Personal Best: 79.42m (2011)
Credentials: Current World Record Holder, 2007 World Champion, 2011 World Championhip silver medalist

Last year Heider looked untouchable. After throwing the world record in May, she arrived in Daegu with a long winning streak and rumors of 80-meter training throws. But Lysenko surprised her and she had to settle for second. She hasn’t quite seemed like herself since then despite putting together her second best throw ever this year. She has only lost one competition this year, but it was the big one and a big loss. She failed to even qualify for the finals at this year’s European Championships, a performance which her coach described as “Psychoterror, Catastrophe, a kindergartner’s mistake.” She has not competed since then and hopefully arrives in London with a renewed focus and in her old form. She has, after all, beaten Lysnenko in their only two matchups this season.

Anita Wlodarczyk (POL)
Season Best: 76.81m (6th), Personal Best: 78.30 (2010)
Credentials: 2009 World Champion, Former World Record Holder (2009-2011)

Wlodarczyk took over the world record in 2009, but has been plagued by injuries since then. She came back from one injury to produce the first 78 meter throw in history, but then injured herself again. This year she seems like she has finally found consistency again with a strong season’s best a few weeks ago, a European Championship in June and top three finishes at several of the other top European hammer competitions.

Wenxiu Zhang (CHN)
Season Best: 76.99m (5th), Personal Best: 76.99m (2012)
Credentials: Asian record holder, Olympic bronze (2008) and world championships (2011)

The consistent Chinese thrower is a frequent presence on the podium, but has found it hard to emerge from the shadow of Lysenko and Heidler. She always arrives in form, and has produced the best ever bronze medal performances at various meets. This year she has set two new Asian records and placed no lower than third in any competition since May 2010. She has the potential to win, and maybe her time is due.

The Contenders

Yipsi Moreno (CUB)
Season Best: 75.59m (9th), Personal Best: 76.62m (2008)
Credentials: Two-time Olympic Silver Medalist (2004, 2008); two-time World Champion (2001, 2003)

Along with Olga Kuzenkova, Moreno is the most successful athlete in the short history of women’s hammer throw, having won six World Championship or Olympics medals. She is the oldest of the contenders. While her form is still consistent, she doesn’t appear to be capable of a big 78 meter throw that might be needed to win.

Kathrin Klaas (GER)
Season Best: 75.13m (10th), Personal Best: 76.48m (2011)
Credentials: Fourth place 2009 World Championships

Credentials: Klaas was one of the few people to beat Heidler last year and looked to be in similar form this year before a terrible accident at the Prefontaine Classic. After a few weeks away from training she was able to start up again last month and could be a factor if she is back to full strength.

The Eastern Block – Gulfiya Khanafeyeva (RUS), Mariya Bespalova (RUS) and Alena Matoshka (BLR)
While all three of these throwers have thrown over 76.50 meters this year, they are also the most inexperienced of the contenders. Neither Khanafeyeva or Bespalova have ever competed at a World Championship of Olympic Games. While Matoshka competed at last year’s World Championships, it was her first appearance and she failed to make it out of the qualifying round. This will be their first chance to prove themselves on the big stage.

Sultana Frizell, the top entrant from North America

The North Americans – Sultana Frizell (CAN), Jessica Cosby (USA), Amber Campbell (USA), Heather Steacy (CAN), Amanda Bingson (USA)
All five North Americans enter the competition with nearly equal footing. Frizell has the top result with her Canadian record of 75.04 meters from March. Cosby has the top performance of the year with her fourth place finish and American record of 74.19 meters against a world class field at the Prefontaine Classic. But even Frizell and Cosby are consistently in the 70 to 72 meter range at most meets along with Cambell, Steacy, and Bingson. All five have a good shot at making the finals if they can replicate that throw in Wednesday’s qualifying round.

Sophie Hitchon (GBR)
Season Best: 71.61m (32nd), Personal Best: 71.61m (2012)
Credentials: UK Record Holder, 2010 World Junior Champion

Credentials: Hitchon won’t make it on the podium, but she will be the crowd favorite. If she can channel the energy of 80,000 fans she could make an impact. She just turned 21 last month and no matter what happens in London she has a bright future ahead of her.

Start List

Start lists for the qualifying round can be found here.

2012 Performance List

Number Name Country Mark
1 Oksana Menkova BLR 78.69m
2 Tatyana Lysenko RUS 78.51m
3 Betty Heidler GER 78.07m
4 Gulfiya Khanafeyeva RUS 77.08m
5 Zhang Wenxiu CHN 76.99m
6 Anita Wlodarczyk POL 76.81m
7 Mariya Bespalova RUS 76.72m
8 Alena Matoshka BLR 76.56m
9 Yipsi Moreno CUB 75.59m
10 Kathrin Klaas GER 75.13m
…other contenders
11 Sultana Frizell CAN 75.04m
14 Jessica Cosby USA 74.19m
26 Heather Steacy CAN 72.16m
28 Amber Campbell USA 71.80m
29 Amanda Bingson USA 71.78m
32 Sophie Hitchon GBR 71.61m


Below are some predictions and rankings from various sources. The All-Athletics world rankings are simply that, a ranking and not a prediction of who will place high in London. The rankings are calculated using a formula based on an athlete’s performances over the past year. Athletics Weekly and Track and Field News are the two leading English language athletics magazines and their methodology is more subjective.

All-Athletics World Rankings Track and Field News Athletics Weekly
1 Betty Heidler (GER) Aksana Menkova (BLR) Tatyana Lysenko (RUS)
2 Tatyana Lysenko (RUS) Betty Heidler (GER) Oksana Menkova (BLR)
3 Anita Wlodarczyk (POL) Tatyana Lysenko (RUS) Anita Wlodarczyk (POL)
4 Yipsi Moreno (CUB) Zhang Wenxiu (CHN) Betty Heidler (GER)
5 Wenxiu Zhang (CHN) Gulfiya Khanafeyeva (RUS) Zhang Wenxiu (CHN)
6 Oksana Menkova (BLR) Anita Wlodarczyk (POL)
7 Zalina Margieva (MDA) Yipsi Moreno (CUB)
8 Jessica Cosby (USA) Mariya Bespalova (RUS)
9 Martina Hrasnova (SVK) Alena Matoshka (BLR)
10 Kathrin Klaas (GER) Kathrin Klaas (GER)
3 replies

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] The question everyone wants the answer to is “who will win.” Our sister site gives a detailed run down of all the contenders and story lines to watch in London for both the men’s competition and the women’s competition. […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *