Polish hammer thrower Anita Wlodarczyk (© Getty Images)
World record holder Anita Wlodarczyk will make her 2015 debut at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in the famous Bird’s Nest stadium in the Chinese capital of Beijing on Wednesday (20).
Wlodarczyk will clash with China’s Zhang Wenxiu, one of her strongest rivals for the gold medal at the IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015 to be contested in the same stadium later this year. Zhang is also making her season’s debut.
The hammer will be the second leg of the women’s IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge.
The women’s first competition was in Kawasaki, Japan, just over a week ago on 10 May. The first three from that competition – Slovakia’s Martina Hrasnova, China’s Wang Zheng and Canada’s Sultana Frizell – are also in the field for Wednesday night.
Wlodarczyk won last year’s Hammer Challenge, crowning her efforts with a world record of 79.58m in Berlin.
The top two represent something of a contrast.
Wlodarczyk was the 2009 world champion and the reigning world and Olympic silver medallist. She has also won the past two European titles.
Zhang has also been a model of consistency but has never been able to break through for a big gold medal. She has an Olympic bronze medal from Beijing in 2008, and two World Championships bronzes.
She has finished no worse than fifth at seven Olympics or World Championships since Helsinki in 2005.
Could Beijing be the Gong show?
The women’s shot put also boasts a strong line-up – and a potential Chinese winner – with Gong Lijiao and Christina Schwanitz set to reprise their battle from Shanghai on Sunday in the IAAF Diamond League.
Gong came out on top there, reaching a world-leading 20.23m to beat Schwanitz’s 19.94m.
The men’s 110m hurdles is another event which should see a virtual repeat of the Shanghai meeting.
World champion David Oliver narrowly beat Orlando Ortega there, 13.17 to 13.19. Both men are lining up again, along with four more of the field from last Sunday: Ronnie Ash, Xie Wenjun, Andre Riley and Ryan Wilson.
Xie, in particular, will no doubt keen to atone for his mediocre IAAF Diamond League performance after winning in Beijing last year.
Wang looking for repeat win
Wang Jianan caused something of a sensation last year when, still three months short of this 18th birthday, he won the long jump ahead of his better-known compatriots Li Jinzhe and Huang Changzhou.
Wang, who turns 19 during the World Championships this coming August, will obviously be out to win again this year, and an 8.25m Asian junior record for third in Shanghai suggests he is not without a chance of a repeat victory.
However, it will be tougher this time.
For a start, the two ahead of him on Sunday, world champion Aleksandr Menkov and world leader Jeff Henderson, are on the entry list again, while Li will also be looking to bounce back from his Shanghai performance.
Li jumped 8.21m but may feel a bigger distance got away as he also had two big jumps which were fouls.
Ahye and Campbell-Brown in women’s sprints
The women’s sprints look strong, though the talent is split across the 100m and 200m.
Michelle Lee Ahye has gone under 11 seconds already this year and was third in Shanghai behind Blessing Okagbare and Tori Bowie.
With neither of the first two coming on to Beijing and Veronica Campbell-Brown opting for the 200m, she looks to have the race here at her mercy.
Perhaps with good conditions, which are the norm in the Bird's Nest, Ahye will again be under 11 again.
Campbell-Brown goes up against Caribbean opposition from her Jamaican compatriots Schillonie Calvert and Aleen Bailey as well as Porscha Lucas and Kaylin Whitney from the USA.
The women’s 1500m in Doha last Friday was the quickest outdoors in the world so far this year. Thus, Ukraine’s Anna Mishchenko is the fourth-fastest in the world for 2015 at 4:01.95. Two others who competed in Beijing – Luiza Gega and Malika Akkaoui – are also in Wednesday’s field, along with Ekaterina Kupina, Marina Pospelova, Rababe Arafi, Susan Kuijken and Nikki Hamblin.
Paul Kipsiele Koech gave gallant chase to Jairus Birech in the 3000m steeplechase in Shanghai on Sunday and is back for another race over the barriers in Beijing.
South Africa’s Wenda Nel, who held the world lead at 54.90 before last weekend, is the fastest on current times in the women’s 400m hurdles, with Bahrain’s Kemi Adekoya and USA’s Tiffany Williams also running.
Justin Gatlin was due to chase his third third successive 100m win at this meeting but, after arriving in Beijing, was a late withdrawal as a precaution after suffering from cramping in a hamstring after his win in Doha on Friday.
Len Johnson for the IAAF