I’ll get straight to the point . . . this year the women’s hammer was about one thrower: Anita Wlodarczyk. The sport has never seen such a dominating figure. In fact 2016 was the first time the season’s best in the women’s hammer was better than the men’s hammer. But putting together the rankings after her was not as easy as throwers scrambled to position themselves. Below you will find my top 10 rankings for 2016. Feel free to share your thoughts and opinions in the comments. Read more
After a four year wait, Olympic track and field action starts up today and one of the first events will be the women’s hammer throw. And I can’t think of a better event to start with. The hammer throw not only features high level action with the best chance of a world record in Rio, but it also adds drama as a wide open field will make for an interesting battle to get on the podium. We don’t have time to preview every event in depth, but as the hammer is closest to our hearts we will provide you all that you need to know. Check out the women’s preview below and come back next week to read up on the men’s action. Read more
The year is coming to a close, which means it is time for the HMMR Media world rankings. After a quieter year in 2014, competition was again fierce in 2015 with a world title on the line. The women were no exception as Anita Wlodarczyk led the event to new levels. Below are our women’s rankings. Stay tuned for or men’s rankings in the coming days. Read more
After an exciting men’s hammer throw competition over the weekend, the women step into the ring on Wednesday. As with the men the favorite is clear: Anita Wlodarczyk has a chance to help Poland caputre it second hammer throw gold and third hammer throw medal at the meet. But, also as with the men, the podium is very wide open. Silver and bronze had the same result in the men’s competition and less than two meters separated second place from seventh. Look for much of the same in the women’s competition. Read more
The track in Zurich has gained the nickname piste magique, the magic track, for no small reason. The annual Weltklasse Zurich meet is know as the best one-day meet in the world for its enthusiastic sell-out crowds and more than 20 world records set in the stadium. With a new fast ring and the same energetic atmosphere, it could be the perfect atmosphere for another world record. The top female hammer throwers have been flirting with the 80-meter barrier for a while. Both the world leader and world record holder will be battling not only for gold this week, but also to be the first to break the landmark barrier. In any event, it should be one of the most exciting competitions of the meet. Qualifying takes place Wednesday morning, with the top 12 moving on to Friday’s finals. A live stream for the hammer will be available online in certain countries from Eurovision.
Anita Wlodarczyk (POL)
Season Best: 78.17m (1st), Personal Best: 78.46m (2014), Last EC/Best Finish: 1st
When defending Olympic and World Champion Tatyana Lysenko announced an early end to her season, what was a three-woman race for the European title suddenly became a two person race and Wlodarczyk became the clear favorite. The former world record holder was ranked first in the world last year and she is by far the most consistent of the world’s elite hammer throwers. This year she has competed only four times, but won three and is just under her personal best. She split her two matchups with her closest competitor Heidler, but as returning champion she will likely have more confidence and a good throw in the early rounds could secure her the win.
Betty Heidler (GER)
Season Best: 78.00m (2nd), Personal Best: 79.42m (2012), Last EC: 3rd, Best Finish: 1st (2010)
After a slow start to the year she seemed to find her groove with a world lead of 78 meters in June, but then at the German championships last month she again fell back below 70 meters. This was not the first time her inconsistency has shown up. Heidler won the European title in 2010, but it was the next edition where the problems first arose in a major way. At the 2012 European Championships she threw just 65 meters, a performance her coach described as “Psychoterror, Katastrophe, Kindergartenfehler.” Since then she has been quite inconsistent, winning an Olympic medal but then failing to make the finals at last year’s World Championships. Heidler has a big chance to win again, but it depends on which Heidler shows up on Wednesday. Wednesday’s qualifying round will tell a lot about her prospects.
Kathrin Klaas (GER)
Season Best: 74.62m (4th), Personal Best: 76.05m (2012), Last EC/Best Finish: 4th (2012)
After throwing her personal best in the Olympic final, Klaas started the next Olympic cycle fresh last year with a new coach. After a slow first year, it is starting to pay dividends as she has produced one of her most consistent season’s this year. She lost six times in six meets to her German rival Heidler last year, but in five matchups this year she has won three. She has also taken down other top European names and looks in good position to make the podium.
Martin Hrasnova (SVK)
Season Best: 75.27m (3rd), Personal Best: 76.90m (2009), Last EC/Best Finish: 2nd (2012)
After a down year last year, Hrasnova has returned to form with several strong performances this summer. She has secured wins against Orban and Bulgakova, split against Fiodorow, and lost several times to Klaas. She will likely have to beat Klaas to get on the podium, which will be difficult, but within her reach.
Anna Bulgakova (RUS)
Season Best: 74.16m (6th), Personal Best: 76.17m (2013), Last EC/Best Finish: 3rd (2012)
The fourth-ranked European from last season is surprisingly the sole Russian in the field. She started the season with a slow spring, but had a strong July and looks near the form that placed her fifth at last year’s World Championships and put her on the podium at the last European Championships.
Joanna Fiodorow (POL)
Season Best/Personal Best: 74.39m (5th), Last EC/Best Finish: First Appearance
At first it was unclear if Fiodorow was actually going to compete. She was not named to the official team from Poland, but she was included on the final entries list. But now that she is confirmed on the Polish team it is clear that she will be one of the top medal candidates. After a down year last year she has returned to the form that made her a 2012 Olympic finalist. So far in 2014 she has hit a new personal best, won the the European Cup Winter Throwing, and found consistency over 71-72 meters.
Others to Watch
Americans looking for a connection to the meet might look at some of the former NCAA stars competing. Hungary’s Eva Orban was an NCAA champion at the University of Southern California in 2008 and could place very high after making the World Championship final last summer. Sweden’s Ida Storm just finished her career as a multiple-time All American at UCLA and Nicole Lomnicka of Slovakia was the 2010 NCAA Champion while throwing for the University of Georgia. Lomnicka’s brother is a medal favorite in the men’s competition and if she qualifies for the finals it would be a rare instance of two siblings qualifying for the finals. This would be the first time to my knowledge in the hammer throw.
One of the youngest competitors at the entire meet will be participating in the women’s hammer throw: Reka Gyuratz. At just 18 years old, the young Hungarian is fresh off of a silver at the World Junior Championships. Last season she won the World Youth Championships and set a new world under-18 all-time best.
Another big name in the field is Aksana Miankova of Belarus, the 2008 Olympic champion. But her shape so far this season has shown no signs that she is ready to return to the podium.
The month of May traditionally marks the start of the international season. The top North American throwers have already started to knock off the dust and the IAAF Hammer Challenge kicks off next weekend in Tokyo. Ready or not, the season is starting.
Some view this as a lost year as there is no World Championship or Olympics. For American athletes it could indeed be hard to find a challenge, but there is plenty to look forward to this year. As is my annual tradition now, here are ten of the things I am most looking forward to. Feel free to leave a comment below about what you are looking forward to this season as a fan of the sport at any level.
There was hardly a hangover after the London Olympics. With records, upsets, and lots of youth talent emerging, 2013 was a year for the history books. My men’s and women’s rankings took a look at the top performers, but there were many more moments to remember. Here is my list of the biggest hammer throwing stories of 2013.
1. Surprise Winners at the World Championships – Those outside of the hammer throwing world likely had never heard of Pawel Fajdek, the young Polish thrower. Insiders knew he was a rising star, but after fouling out in London he had yet to make his mark at a major championships. Krisztian Pars was undefeated and a clear favorite entering the world Championships, but Fajdek came out firing and led from start to finish with a new personal best of 81.97 meters. At just 24 years of age, this will be the fist of many World Championships medals for him.
Just like Pars, Betty Heidler entered the women’s competition undefeated but unlike Pars she failed to even make the finals (more on this below). As defending Olympic and World Champion, Tatyana Lysenko was hardly an outsider but was still an underdog. And for the third year in a row she turned that underdog role into gold.
2. Women Put on a Competition to Remember – Combined, the stellar men’s and women’s competitions made this year’s world championships the most exciting that I have ever seen. I risk overusing this phrase, but the women’s competition in particular was perhaps the best of all-time. I also said this after the London Olympic final when five women broke 76 meters and it took 74 meters just to place in the top eight. The depth was not as good this year, but the competition was better. Lysenko opened the competition with a bomb of 77.58 meters. Since Heidler didn’t make the final and Wlodarczyk opened up with just 70 meters, I thought this would secure the win. By Wlodarczyk slowly started to warm up improving to 74 meters in round two and then took the lead in round three with 77.79 meters. In round four, Lysenko responded with the second furthest throw ever of 78.80 meters. Wlodarczyk then entered the ring and watched her throw nearly surpass Lysenko again. While the throw ended up being a little shorter (78.46 meters), it was still enough to move Wlodarczyk to third on the all-time world list.
There were also lots of competition and lead changes for the other positions too. Zhang Wenxiu won bronze, but was only 1.42 meters ahead of sixth place finisher Yipsi Moreno. Five of the top six had season’s best. Three had personal bests. And two set national records. Even the battle to make the finals was close. Position seven through ten were separated by just 20 centimeters with the two Americans missing the finals by just inches.
3. Heidler’s Future in Question – World record holder Betty Heidler was having a great season until she fell apart at the World Championships. This left many people asking questions, but her actions since then have only generated more questions. Other than a mediocre performance at home in Berlin, she abruptly called her season to an end after the World Championships. After the season she had surgery on her left knee. She also uprooted from her longtime training base in Frankfurt to more back home to Berlin. Then the big shocker came after some strange comments in an interview last month, when she said “I will not start again at the World Championships.” She clarified that she does not intend to retire, just to forgo competing at the World Championships. That’s a strange comment and strategy in an era where the World Championships is one of the only chances for a hammer thrower to make money.
4. New American Record – The top American women were huddled around 72 meters for several years until Jessica Cosby finally broke through and set a new record last season. That opened the flood gates and Amanda Bingson shatter the record this season with a toss of 75.73 meters to dominate the US Championships. With two records in two years and a young crop of throwers, it looks like the breakthrough has just started. Bingson had a very strong season overall and placed 10th at the World Championships, just five inches away from the top eight.
5. Strong American Women – Entering last season the American record was 73.87 meters. This year five women were over 73 meters. Along with Bingson, Jeneva McCall threw 74.77 meters and was actually the top ranked American in my world rankings. Gwen Berry, who like McCall is just 24 years old, also threw nearly 74 meters. Veteran Amber Campbell also had strong season and set a new personal best to make the World Championship team. And Jessica Cosby was once again quite strong. It was unthinkable that an American would not make the national team with a throw of 72.39 meters at worlds, but that is just what happened to Cosby as she placed fourth.
Not only are the marks increasing, but the athletes are also moving up the world rankings. Based on the yearly performance list, five of the top 18 women in the world were Americans.
6. Winkler Improves the American High School Mark – While the American men have not yet seen , a sign of progress can been seen in the development of youth throwers across the country. Once a seldom contested event, the hammer throw results have taken off over the least few years. This year the national record was yet again bettered by New Yorker Rudy Winkler. Winkler’s best of 79.38 meters (260’05”) from July added five inches to former World Junior champion Conor McCullough’s mark from 2008. Winkler also became the third hammer thrower in the last eight years to be named the Track and Field News high school athlete of the year.
7. Gomez Puts South America on the Map – Argentinean Joaquín Gómez fouled out at the World Youth Championships earlier this summer, but he had redemption this month by setting a new world under-18 best with the 5-kilogram hammer. His throw of 85.38 meters added 12-centimeters to the old best by Ashraf Amgad Elseify set in 2011. This may not be the most impressive throw by a youth athlete ever (Elseify also threw 85.57-meters with the heavier 6-kilogram hammer as an under-18 athlete), but it is still the farthest 5-kilogram throw ever by a youth thrower.
South America has lagged behind other countries in the hammer, and Gómez’s results are a good sign that an 80-meter thrower might be on the continent’s horizon. Oceania and South America are the only two areas in the world that have not produced an 80 meter thrower at the senior level. And South America lags the furthest behind with an area record of just 76.42 meters. Oceania is at 79.29 meters.
8. Hungarian Girls Demolish Youth Record Books – Hungrian men have long been winning global medals, but the Szombathely training group run by Zsolt Nemeth now has the two most promising young women’s throwers in the world. Like Gómez, Réka Gyurátz and Helga Völgyi both surpassed the old world under-18 best. Gyurátz’s best of 76.04 meters with the 3-kilogram hammer added nearly three meters to the old mark. Völgyi also posted an impressive 74.38 meters and the easily won gold and silver at the World Youth Championships. Gyurátz then jumped up an age group and threw 65.01 meters with the 4-kilogram hammer to place second at the competitive European Junior Championships.
Combined the two throwers have 18 of the top 19 performances of all time in the under 18 category. But their records might not last for long. Their third teammate Zsófia Bácskay already hit 71.76 meters (fourth all-time) and has one more year in the age category.
9. Hammer Challenge Finally Expands – In previous years there were so few meets on the circuit that were grouped so closely together that part of the jackpot remained unpaid since many athletes could not compete in the minimum three competitions. This year the IAAF expanded the challenge to feature 11 men’s competitions and 10 women’s competitions. While this was a great change, it also fell short of fixing the IAAF Hammer Challenge. As I mentioned in an editorial this spring, this only fixed part of the problems. The overall prize money still is minuscule in comparison to the Diamond League and most of the “new” competitions already offered the hammer throw in previous seasons. But with one Diamond League competition officially becoming part of the challenge the change offers a distant hope that more will join in the future.
10. The UK Loses a Legend – On a more somber note the hammer throwing community lost a legend when Alan Bertram passed away in May. The British coach was a die hard advocate for the sport that left an impact wherever he was, like he did with the training groups he led in London and Scotland. When I visited Glasgow in October I heard many stories of his impact on developing the event there. Even in America I remember reading Bertram’s guide to the hammer throw when I was first trying to teach myself to throw. Like Harold Connolly in the US, Bertram was a unique character and the type of people we need more of in this sport. Athletics Weekly had a thoughtful obituary that is well worth the read.
I had it easy with my men’s rankings this year. Other than an upset finish at the World Championships, the rest of the season generally progressed as scripted and the rankings almost wrote themselves. But with the women it was another story. The top three were clearly ahead of the pack, but the rest of the spots were decided by the narrowest of margins and several other athletes also had strong cases to make the top ten. A win few more centimeters at one competition or another could have meant a few places in the rankings. But this was exactly how the season went. At the World Championships there was just 1.5 meters between third and sixth places. Seventh through tenth was even closer with only 20 centimeters separating the five throwers. It’s no wonder I take my time below dissecting each athlete’s season.
1. Anita Wlodarczyk (POL) – The former world record holder from Poland put together her strongest season her 2009. After capturing the world title and world record that year she struggled to regain her dominance. While she was not able to win her second world title in 2013, she had nine wins and placed no lower than second in 14 competitions. And against rival Tatyana Lysenko she won five of six competitions, losing only narrowly at the World Championships in a back and forth competition that produced the top two throws ever at a World Championship. Her winning mark bettered her Polish record (which was her previous world record too) and puts her third on the current all-time list. She was the overall IAAF Hammer Challenge winner as well as winner of the Francophone Games and big meets in Berlin, Rieti, Warsaw and Dubnica. She was the strongest from July on and had two competitions over 78 meters, another over 77 meters and all of her final seven meets were over 75.50 meters. She did have a handful of losses against Betty Heidler early in the year, but Heidler seemed to fall from the face of earth at the end of the season. Had Heidler turned up to more competitions, Wlodarcyzk would have evened the score against her with this late season dominance.
2. Tatyana Lysenko (RUS) – The Russian champion continued to solidify her modus operandi. Here’s how it works: she puts out good but not great results at the start of the season, losses to her competitors, and then throws a big season’s best at the championship to win gold. She didn’t fool me in year’s past but this year her early season performances even convinced me that she would not repeat as World Champion. But she did in style by overcoming Wlodarczyk in the fourth round to set a new personal best, World Championship record, Russian national record, and the second best throw of all-time. She had a strong season overall and placed second in the IAAF Hammer Challenge series, but other than the World Championships she had no wins against her major rivals. This is chiefly what kept her out of the top spot.
3. Betty Heidler (GER) – Just looking at the numbers, Heidler’s season puts her in contention for first place. If you ignore the World Championships and she won four of five competitions again Wlodarczyk and split with Lysenko. Heading into the World Championships she was undefeated in nine competitions. But it was that one meet that was the difference maker; she threw 68.83 meters and finished in just 18th place. Combined with the European Championships last year, this is her second major flop in two years. After the meet she basically called it a season and competed only once more, which further hurt her ranking.
4. Zhang Wenxiu (CHN) – There is not much to judge Wenxiu by this year. On the one hand she won bronze in Moscow with a season’s best of 75.58 meters. But on the other hand she competed just five times this year and only twice against international competition. At her other international meet, the Pre Classic, she placed eight. In national competition she did face off a lot against World Championships sixth-place finisher Wang Zheng and beat her in three of four meets.
5. Yipsi Moreno (CUB) – At 33 years old, Moreno is the oldest of her competitors and it looks like the three-time world champions is starting to show her age. Moreno placed just 6th at the Wprld Championships season’s best of 74.16. Other than 2009 (which she skipped while pregnant) it was her lowest seasons best and world championships finish since 2002 and 2001 respectively. But while she didn’t get a big throw, she was consistently on the top three or four on the circuit, which earned her an overall fourth place in the IAAF Hammer Challenge rankings.
6. Anna Bulgakova (RUS) – Despite placing third at the European Championships last year, Bulgakova did not get the chance to compete at the Olympics. She made up for it this year with her a fifth place finish in Moscow, her best finish at a global championship since she won World Junior silver in 2006. She had several other strong performances, but limited herself mostly to domestic competitions. In her one meet outside of Russia, she threw just 67 meters.
7. Wang Zheng (CHN) – Zheng has often lived in the shadow of her countrywoman Wenxiu, but this year she started to emerge as a force of her own. After beating Wenxiu leading up to Worlds, she nearly eclipsed her again and won a very close battle for fourth place with a personal best of 74.90 meters. She also won the Asian Championships, but as with the other Chinese and Russian athletes, did not compete often on the circuit against other international competition.
8. Jeneva McCall (USA) – No American women appeared on my ranking last, but this year McCall matches Jessica Cosby’s eight place ranking from 2011. The US runner-up had the best international record amongst the strongest crop of American throwers in history. Her biggest result was a gold medal win over Kondratyeva at the World University Games. She then lost to Kondratyeva by just 11 centimeters to place ninth at the World Championships. One meet after worlds she threw a personal best of 74.77 meters to earn second in Dubnica and then ended her season with a strong third place finish in Rieti. Overall she took fifth place in the IAAF Hammer Challenge.
9. Oksana Kondratyeva (RUS) – The highlight of Kondratyeka’s season was her throw of 77.13 meters in July to win the Znamenskiy Memorial meeting. The throw moved her to sixth on the all-time list. However the rest of the season wasn’t at that high of a level. She placed a solid seventh at worlds and won silver at the World University Games in Ukraine. But in domestic competition she had abysmal record against to Lysenko (zero wins to four losses) and Bulgakova (one win to five losses). And other than one competition in Ukraine, she also did not compete outside Russia and that hurts we ranking against non-Russian athletes.
10. Éva Orbán (HUN) – The Hungarian champion had been stuck around 70 meters for several years until her breakthrough this season. Already a solid big meet performer, the USC grad used the extra distance to finish eight at the World Championships. She also won the European Team Championships 1st League, was second at the Beijing Hammer Challenge, and second at Halle with a new national record of 73.44 meters.
The one thing the men’s hammer throw final on Monday taught us was that anything can happen in the hammer throw. Krisztián Pars was the clear favorite and none of the leading athletics publications picked Pawel Fajdek to win a medal, let alone win gold. But the young Polish thrower lead the competition from start to finish and his dominance never looked in doubt. In hindsight, the result wasn’t a complete surprise. As I noted in my preview, the top ten throwers all had a season best within two meters of Pars which left him vulnerable.
With the men’s competition over, the women now take center stage and once again anything can happen. The women’s hammer throw is not as deep as the men, but the top five entrants are all within two meters of each other creating a similar situation to the men’s competition. Added to this is the unpredictability of the event. Tatyana Lysenko entered both the 2011 World Championships and 2012 Olympics having suffered significant losses at the hands of her rivals, but both times overcame the underdog role to win gold. Predicting this year’s winner is equally difficult. And, as is always the case when the top women come together, the world record will once again be under threat. When all these factors come together the women’s competition will likely be even more exciting than the thrilling men’s final.