Barbora Spotakova in the javelin at the London 2012 Olympic Games (© Getty Images)
Two-time defending champion Barbora Spotakova is aiming for a third gold medal in the women’s javelin at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and if Tirunesh Dibaba, Valerie Adams and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce all fall short earlier in the athletics programme then the Czech thrower could become the first woman ever to get three individual athletics gold medals in the same event.
Spotakova, then a newly-minted world champion, threw a European record of 71.32m in 2008 to win the Beijing final in the last round and then threw the still-standing world record of 72.28m at the end of the season in Stuttgart.
In 2012, she dominated the competition from the beginning in London, but Spotakova’s uneven record at the IAAF World Championships is evidence that she is beatable.
After her 2007 victory, she was second in 2009 and 2011, then skipped the 2013 season on maternity leave. After returning in 2014, the world record-holder struggled at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 and finished ninth.
Her form this year has been somewhat mixed. She finished sixth on her season debut at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rome, but rebounded to win in Prague four days later. She then threw a world-leading 66.87m to win the Czech title, but finished fifth at the European Championships and third at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco.
But on 4 August, just a few days before heading out to Rio, she threw 66.06m in a low-key competition, showing that her form is picking up again at the right time.
Should Spotakova not deliver in Rio, the cast of challengers is broad and the event competitive.
No Molitor among German trio
The German team is so deep, world champion Katharina Molitor was not even selected for Rio; 2011 world U18 champion Christin Hussong, second on the 2016 world list at 66.41m, and 2010 European champion Linda Stahl, fifth at 65.25m, lead that team, along with 2013 world champion Christina Obergfoll.
Tatsiana Khaladovich of Belarus was the surprise winner of the European title earlier this summer, and followed up with a victory in Monaco. Khaladovich is the only woman to have thrown beyond 65m three times this year.
The Chinese duo of Lyu Huihui, a silver medallist last year in Beijing, and Li Lingwei were surprisingly competitive last year but their cover is blown now and it will be no surprise should they appear among the medalists in Rio. They will be joined in Rio by Liu Shiying.
Another perennial contender is South Africa’s Sunette Viljoen, the 2015 world leader who took bronze in Beijing and finished just outside the medals in London.
Also worthy of consideration as a potential medal contender is Latvia’s Madara Palameika, the current Diamond Race leader after having shown good early season form when winning at the IAAF Diamond League meetings in Rabat and Birmingham.
Palameika finished eighth in London four years ago but it should be noted she didn’t reach the final of either the 2013 or 2015 World Championships and was only seventh at the European Championships last month.
Parker Morse for the IAAF