Anita Wlodarczyk in the hammer at the London 2012 Olympic Games (© Getty Images )
Anita Wlodarczyk will start as the overwhelming favourite to add the one title missing from her bulging CV as the Polish colossus looks to further cement her legacy.
The formidable 30-year-old world record-holder, who also owns a pair of world titles and a hat-trick of European crowns, is indisputably the finest female hammer thrower of her generation and, probably, the greatest ever.
For all her outstanding levels of success, she has yet to climb the summit at an Olympic Games after taking silver in London four years ago, but it is difficult to see anyone other than the Pole – who has racked up 28 straight wins stretching back to June 2014 – from sweeping to gold at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
She comfortably leads the world list with a monster 80.26m effort – the third longest throw of all time – and is almost four metres ahead of the chasing pack.
The best of the rest would appear to be former world record-holder Betty Heidler and China’s Zhang Wenxiu, the 2008 Olympic bronze medallist.
The experienced Heidler may be a little shy of her absolute best this season but the 32-year-old German still boasts a highly respectable season’s best of 75.77m and secured silver behind Wlodarczyk at the European Championships last month.
The 30-year-old Zhang has also grabbed four World Championships medals (one silver, three bronze) during a distinguished career. Although she has opted to only throw domestically so far this year, a season’s best of 75.58m marks her out as a serious podium candidate once again.
Zhang’s teammate Zheng Wang has been knocking on the door of a medal with fourth and fifth-place finishes at each of the past two World Championships. With an impressive season’s best of 74.50m, she too could threaten.
After a breakthrough campaign last year, world bronze medallist Alexandra Tavernier has struggled to repeat her form of 2015. The French champion had three fouls in qualifying at the European Championships last month and her season’s best stands at relatively modest 72.16m, but should she rediscover her top form, she could be a contender.
Skydan aims to make a little history
European bronze medallist Hanna Skydan has emerged as a rising force this year and should also be taken into consideration. The 24-year-old World University Games champion has set a pair of Azerbaijani records this year, nudging her PB up to 73.87m, and will be looking to become the first Azerbaijani athlete to win an Olympic medal since the break up of the Soviet Union.
Another to watch is 2015 World Championships fourth-place finisher Sophie Hitchon. The fast-spinning Briton is two metres down on her lifetime best this year – with a longest throw of 71.86m – but if she can find her groove, the 25-year-old can feature in Rio.
The three-strong US challenge is led by 35-year-old Amber Campbell, who will be making her third Olympic appearance and is clearly in the form of her life after setting a lifetime best of 74.03m to clinch the US title.
She is joined in Rio by US teammate DeAnna Price and Gwen Berry, with both having matching season's best marks of 73.09m.
The hugely experienced German Kathrin Klaas, who finished fifth in London, is some way down from her vintage best but is capable of a prominent showing.
Also present in Rio will be Slovakia’s 2009 world bronze medallist Martina Hrasnova (season's best of 72.34m) and Moldova’s Zalina Marghieva (74.21m), a fifth-place finisher at last month’s European Championships.
Steve Landells for the IAAF