Sandra Perkovic in the discus at the London 2012 Olympic Games (© Getty Images)
Sandra Perkovic is a clear favourite in the women’s discus at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, having won in London four years ago and dominated the event so far in 2016.
The Croatian leads the Diamond Race in her event and has the four longest throws of the year so far. Her best, at 70.88m, is more than two metres longer than Cuba’s Yaime Perez, the next best so far in 2016.
Perkovic followed up her London victory with another at the IAAF World Championships Moscow 2013 but at last summer’s World Championships in Beijing, Perkovic found herself coming into the fifth round in fourth place with three of her four previous attempts winding up in the net.
She managed to salvage the silver medal but the loss to Cuba’s Denia Caballero reminds us, and her, that while Perkovic might be a favourite, she won’t be weighing the medal until it’s safely around her neck.
Caballero and Perez are both lined up for another crack at Perkovic in Rio, the latter having finished fourth and just outside the medals in Beijing. Caballero currently stands fifth on the year’s world list, just over a metre behind Perez at 67.62m and hasn’t yet reached the kind of distance this year that she achieved in the first round in Beijing, but clearly can come good when it counts.
The top-rated returner from the London final, outside Perkovic herself, is Germany’s Nadine Muller, who placed fourth in London and, more recently, at the European Championships where Perkovic also won.
Muller took bronze behind Caballero and Perkovic in Beijing and might reasonably expect to be in medal contention, and will be motivated by failing to win a medal in Amsterdam where she finished behind Perkovic and her German compatriots Julia Fischer and Shanice Craft.
Craft, still only 23 and a former European junior discus champion and world junior shot champion, does not have quite the big distances to her name of her anticiapted rivals but neither does she buckle under pressure on the bug occasion.
Another leading contender in Rio is likely to be Australia’s Dani Samuels, the world U20 champion in 2006 and world champion in 2009.
Samuels has the fourth-best mark of 2016, her 67.77m coming in a second-place finish to Perkovic at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai and not all that far from her career best.
Also not to be discounted are the Chinese pair of Su Xinyue and Feng Bin, who have both thrown beyond 65 metres this year, and France's 2013 world silver medallist Melina Robert-Michon.
Parker Morse for the IAAF