Fresh from her world record earlier this month, Polish hammer thrower Anita Wlodarczyk heads to Beijing as one of the biggest favourites in any event.
The European champion leads the world lists by more than five metres, having become the first woman to surpass the 80-metre barrier with her 81.08m world record in Cetniewo (subject to the usual ratification procedures). She also owns the six best throws in the world this year.
Wlodarczyk will be looking to regain the world title she won in 2009 when she set her first world record. Her performance back then in Berlin came as something of a surprise, but a victory in Beijing will be anything but a shock.
Since that triumph six years ago, Wlodarczyk has won two European titles, an Olympic silver and a world silver medal. Gold in Beijing would mean she’d become the first woman to win world hammer titles six years apart.
With defending champion Tatyana Belobodorova (nee Lysenko) declining her wildcard entry, having recently given birth, Wlodarczyk’s main rival looks set to be 2007 world champion and former world record-holder Betty Heidler.
The German is the only other woman to have thrown beyond 75 metres this year and will be looking to make amends for her performance two years ago when she exited the competition in the qualifying round with a throw of 68.83m.
Heidler took silver behind Wlodaczyk in 2009; in fact, there could be a repeat of that podium finish as Martina Hrasnova of the Slovak Republic – who took bronze on that occasion – has been in good form this year with two throws beyond 74 metres, but the last of those was in May. Since then, she has not surpassed 70 metres.
The host nation has two genuine medal prospects in this event in the form of Wang Zheng and Zhang Wenxiu.
Wang’s breakthrough came at the 2013 World Championships, where she finished fourth with 74.90m. She broke Zhang’s Asian record one year later with 77.68m and has been consistent this year in the 73-metre region.
Zhang, winner of four global bronze medals between 2007 and 2013, has only competed twice this year, but has bags of international experience.
Alexandra Tavernier, the 2012 world junior champion, has enjoyed a breakthrough season this year. The 21-year-old from France has added almost three metres to her PB with 74.05m and more recently won the European under-23 title.
Moldova’s Zalina Marghieva broke her sister’s national record with 73.97m to win the Balkan title earlier this month. The 27-year-old could win her country’s first ever medal at the World Championships.
Other medal contenders include US champion Amber Campbell, Canadian record-holder Sultana Frizell, Venezuela’s Pan-American champion Rosa Rodriguez and British record-holder Sophie Hitchon.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF