The 2017 World Championships kick off today in London. For hammer throwers the action starts tomorrow with the women’s qualification round. While the favorite is the surest bet of the entire meet, the women’s hammer will feature a wide open competition for the podium. Poland, China, and America bring the strongest teams of throwers with multiple medal hopefuls each. After a surprise Olympic bronze last summer, Sophie Hitchon will try to make another podium in front of a home crowd. And many other top throwers will join the battle too.
The Field: 32 athletes will compete in the hammer throw. In order to compete, athletes were required to be area champion or achieve the Olympic qualifying mark of 71.00 meters this year. Seven additional athlete received a special IAAF invitation as not enough athletes had met the entry standard.
Qualification Round: All 32 athletes will participate in a qualification round on Saturday morning (10:35am London time). Each athlete will receive 3 throws. Athletes who throw over 71.50 meters will automatically move on to the final. If less than 12 throwers hit this mark, then the top 12 finishers will awarded a spot in the final regardless of distance. Historically, a throw of 70 meters will get an athlete into the top 12. In fact, no woman who has thrown 70 meters at a World Championship has missed the final. This did, however, happen at the Olympics last year where it took 70.30 meters to make the final.
Final Round: The women’s hammer final will take place on Monday evening (7:00pm London time). In the final all 12 throwers will receive three attempts, and the top eight will receive another three attempts. Athletes will be ranked on the best of their six attempts. Marks from Saturday’s qualifying round are not counted in the finals.
2017 World Performance List
Anita Wlodarczyk (POL)
Season Best: 82.87m (1st), Personal Best (2016): 82.98m, Last WCs: 1st
There are a million reasons why Wlodarczyk should win: she has thrown six meters better than her competitors this year, hasn’t lost in three years, and holds the top 24 throws in the world this year and 29 throws ever recorded. There are also no points counting against her: no competitor has shown the ability to come close to her and, unlike her compatriot Pawel Fajdek, shows no signs of folding under pressure.
The question then is whether Wlodarczyk will break her own world record. She has set a world record in August the past three years. Just last week she came within 11 centimeters of her record at a meet in Poland. More than that, she had a ridiculous 5 throws over 80 meters. No one else has ever thrown 80 meters and Wlodarczyk did it five times in one competition! She is rounding into form at the right time and I can’t wait to see what results she will post.
The Top Challengers
Gwen Berry (USA)
Season Best/Personal Best: 76.77m (2nd) Last WCs: Did not qualify
The new American record holder enters the world championship with the second best mark in the world in 2017. More than that, she is also the second most consistent. She has posted six competitions over 74 meters this year, more than anyone but Wlodarczyk. The difficulty with Berry has been her performance at big competitions. Last year’s Olympics was just her first major championships after struggles at the US championships. While she failed to make the final in Rio, technical progress this year has helped her consistency and led to her first ever US outdoor title and put her in contention for the first ever World Championship medal for America in the hammer throw.
Wang Zheng (CHN)
Season Best: 76.25 (3rd), Personal Best: 77.68m (2014), Last WCs: 5th
Zheng has been one of the strongest throwers on the circuit this year, with a win in Fränkisch-Crumbach and second place finishes behind Wlodarczyk in Halle, Ostrava, and Székesfehérvár. Despite being among the top throwers in the world for years, Zheng has yet to make a podium. Last year she fouled out of the Olympic final. Before that she had fourth and fifth place finishes at the World Championships. The odds look like the might finally make that breakthrough this year.
Wlodarczyk is just one thrower on a strong Polish team. The next generation of Polish throwers is led by Malwina Kopron (POL). At just 22 years old, she is the youngest thrower in the world’s top 10. She threw a personal best of 75.11 meters to finish second at the Polish championships and move up to fifth in the world this year. Overall she has improved her personal best by over two meters in 2017. Competing alongside her will be Joanna Fiodorow (POL) finished just third at the Polish championships but improved her season’s best last week to rank 6th in the world. She has had success as past major championships, finished on the podium at the 2014 European Championships and making the Olympic final last year.
America is arguably the strongest hammer throw nation in 2017 with five throwers among the world top 20. Last summer Amber Campbell threw 72.74 meters to finish sixth at the Olympics. Domestic competition was so strong this year that she threw 73.58 meters and finished just fourth at the US championships. Beating her out for a spot on the team were 24 year old DeAnna Price (USA) and 22 year old Maggie Ewen (USA). Both throwers rank in the world top 10 and have bests over 74.50 meters this year. Ewen is an overall throwing talent with top results in the discus and shot put as well and an NCAA record in the hammer. Price was already an Olympic finalist last year, where she finished 8th. Along with Berry, America has three podium contenders.
Zheng has led the way for China this year, but historically she has played second fiddle to Zhang Wenxiu (CHN). Wenxiu has been under the radar this year; her season’s best of 72.12 meters ranks just 16th in the world. Nevertheless it is hard to count her out. She has been on every podium at a World Championships or Olympics since 2011 including three bronzes (2011, 2012, 2013) and two silvers (2015, 2016).
Several other contenders will in the mix. Olympic bronze medalist Sophie Hitchon (GBR) has not been that consistent this year. She threw over 73 meters to place second in Kawasaki and fourth in Ostrava, but also has had several competitions well under 70 meters and has not competed in over a month. Perhaps the home crowd will give her a boost as it did in 2012, where she threw a national record to make the Olympic final at age 21. Hanna Skyden (AZE) has the fourth best mark in the world this year and has competed well on the circuit, including a third place finish in Ostrava and second place in Szczecin and Prague. She was a surprise medalist at last year’s European championships, but failed to make the Olympic final. Hanna Malyshik (BLR) has improved her best by more than two meters this year and currently ranks seventh in the world. She also took first place at the European Team Championships in June.
The official timetable, start lists, and results can be found on the IAAF webpage. Ken Nakamura of Track and Field News has put together in-depth world championships stats. Track and Field News has also posted their top 10 predictions, and Athletics Weekly published their podium picks.