Anita Wlodarcyk captured gave us more drama than expected as a finger injury required her to come from behind for the win in yesterday’s women’s hammer final. Now all eyes turn to the men, who begin qualification tomorrow. If you thought the women’s hammer podium was wide open, the men’s will be even more so. There is a long list of contenders, and even more who could rise to the occasion. As Andrisu Gudzius and Mason Finley showed us in the discus on Saturday, all it takes is a personal best to bring someone out of the shadows and onto the podium.
In any event, the podium will have a different composition than at last summer’s Olympics. Rio silver medalist Ivan Tikhon has not officially retired, but is absent from the World Championships. Favorite Pawel Fajdek also should finish better than his disappointing qualification bomb out in Rio. A throw of 77 to 78 meters has won a medal at recent championships and such a mark will likely get on podium again. What makes the competition interesting is that nearly a dozen throwers in the field are capable of that.
The Field: 32 athletes from 18 different countries will compete in the hammer throw. In order to compete, athletes were required to be area champion or achieve the Olympic qualifying mark of 76.00 meters this year. Eight 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 Wednesday evening (7:20pm 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 75 meters will get an athlete into the top 12 . Look back at the last two major championships marks of 73.47 meters (Rio 2016) and 74.51 meters (Beijing 2015) were the final qualifiers. All but one thrower in the field has hit those marks before. You can take a more historical look at finals qualification in the men’s hammer here.
Final Round: The men’s hammer final will take place on Friday evening (8:30pm 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 Wednesday’s qualifying round are not counted in the finals.
2017 World Performance List
Pawel Fajdek (POL)
Season Best: 83.44m (1st), Personal Best (2015): 83.93m, Last WCs: 1st
As with the women’s competition, the clear favorite is from Poland. Pawel Fajdek enters the competition having won 11 of 12 competitions this season and 42 of his last 44 competitions. Fajdek has 44 career competitions over 80 meters. The next best in the competition has just six. His personal best is two and a half meters better than anyone else in the field. Looking at the numbers, he is the clear favorite.
But unlike the women’s competition, a Polish is far from guaranteed. Fajdek does not lose very often, but when he loses he does so spectacularly. In the same ring at the 2012 Olympics he fouled out. Last summer in Rio he was more than ten meters under his best. So far these failures have not come at the World Championships, where he has won the last two titles. But it might still be in the back of his head, especially after he lost the Polish title in July to Wojchiech Nowicki. This year he will face tougher competition, but if he is on form, no one can beat him.
Wojchiech Nowicki (POL)
Season Best/Personal Best: 80.47m (2nd) Last WCs: 3rd
When Nowicki won bronze at the World Championships two years ago, it was a big surprise. But over the past two years Nowicki has been working hard to make sure we all realize it wasn’t a fluke. Last summer he added two more bronzes to his collection: first at the European Championships and then in Rio. This summer he became the first new member to the 80 meter club since 2014. He broke the barrier twice, and handed Fajdek his only loss of the season in the process. His results on the circuit also point to a podium finish as he has placed no lower than second this season in eight competitions.
Dilshod Nazarov (TJK)
Season Best: 77.81m (9th), Personal Best: 80.71m (2013) Last WCs: 2nd
The Olympic champion has been quiet so far in 2017, putting together some good competitions but not laying down some of the marks he has in prior year. But he is still consistent and it is his consistency and experience that will put him in a good position. He is always in the mix and that allows him to step up when opportunity arrives, as he did in Rio to claim gold.
Valeriy Pronkin (RUS)
Season Best/Personal Best: 79.32 (3rd), Last WCs: Did not compete
The 23 year old Russian will be making his senior international debut in London. The Russian team was banned right as he started to come of age. Now, two years later, Russia is still banned but he is one of three hammer throwers that have received an exemption to compete as neutral athletes. He set a new personal best two weeks ago at the Russian Championships, but it is hard to gauge how he will fare as he has never competed against the favorites.
Pavel Bareisha (BLR)
Season Best: 78.04m (5th), Personal Best: 78.60m (2016) Last WCs: 25th
The top Belarussian thrower is Pavel Bareisha, currently ranked fifth in the world. He has struggled recently at championships, failing to make the finals at the Olympics, European Championships, and World Championships. But he has competed well on the circuit this year, finishing as the runner-up at the European Team Championships and in Madrid, and third at the Szekesfehervar and Turku IAAF Hammer Challenges.
Quentin Bigot (FRA)
Season Best: 77.87m (8th), Personal Best: 78.58m (2014) Last WCs: Did not compete (doping ban)
After returning from a drugs ban at the end of last season, Bigot has shown great form so far this year. He won the European Winter Throwing Cup, took fourth at the European Team Championships, and has thrown over 77 meters in four of his last five competitions.
Others to Watch
Nick Miller (GBR) and Marcel Lomnicky (SVK) have both been consistely top five on the circuit this year. Lomnicky also took home that place at last year’s Olympics and European Championships, while Miller struggled in qualification at both events. Joining Pronkin as neutral athletes will be Sergej Litvinov (RUS) and Aleksey Sokirskiy (RUS) who both appear in shape to make the final and challenge for a top finish and/or medal.
Bence Halasz (HUN) is the youngest thrower in the competition. He just turned 20 years old on Friday and improved his personal best nearly five meters this year to 78.85 meters. He took third place in Ostrava and ranks fifth in the world, but has been more consistent around the 73 to 75 meter level this year. He might be in the mix, but even if he isn’t he is a name to look out for in the future. His teammate and 2012 Olympic champion Krisztian Pars (HUN) has been competing in the world Championships since 2005 and never finished lower than sixth. But injuries and age seem to have caught up with him finally this year.
The American team will be led by veteran Kibwé Johnson (USA), who will be making his last World Championship appearance. Rudy Winkler and new US champion Alex Young (USA) are both just 22 years old and show the next generation is deep and strong.
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 also has medal predictions. Both publications pick a Fajdek-Nowicki-Nazarov podium.