Sandra Perkovic in the womens Discus Throw at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Moscow 2013 (© Getty Images)
Sandra Perkovic made history inside the Luzhniki Stadium by becoming the first woman to complete the ‘Grand Slam’ of Olympic, European and World Discus titles with a typically dominant performance.
The 23-year-old Croatian led from the very first throw of the competition and as a measure of her superiority she put together an outstanding series boasting the three longest throws of the final.
It also extended Perkovic’s winning streak to 15, her last defeat inflicted by Australia’s Dani Samuels at the 2012 Paris Diamond League meeting some 13 months ago.
Silver medallist Melina Robert-Michon also carved out her slice of history by becoming the first French athlete to climb the podium in this event at a World Championships, courtesy of a national record effort of 66.28m.
In bronze, Yarelys Barrios of Cuba picked up an unprecedented fourth successive World Championships medal in the women’s Discus with a best effort of 64.96m. The 30-year-old Cuban landed silver medals at the 2007 and 2009 edition and bronze in Daegu two years ago, also taking medals at the past two Olympic Games.
Perkovic was delighted with her win, particularly the way she coped with the expectation levels.
“I knew I was favourite, everyone was expecting me to win,” she says. “It is flattering. I had some hard times after winning the Olympics. In January I injured my shoulder and I was out for one-and-a-half months. I was very upset. My next goal is the Brussels Diamond League and setting a national record.”
For Robert-Michon, patience was a virtue. “I have been waiting so long for this moment,” she added. “I learned from my mistakes and took time to arrive here. Coming fifth in the (2012) Olympic final gave me the strongest kick. I wanted to be on the podium and prove to everyone I was capable of doing this.”
Perkovic – to use sprinting parlance – ‘bolted out of the blocks’, recording 67.52m with her first throw to make a clear statement she would take some stopping.
The squat Barrios held second after the first vista with 64.96m while the giant German Nadine Muller held an early grip on bronze with a decent 64.12m opener. Robert-Michon, meanwhile, could only register a relatively modest 62.53m to place fifth.
Perkovic further rammed home her superiority in round two, extending her best with an impressive 67.99m. Muller enhanced her distance with 64.47m, if not her overall position. China’s Tan Jian nudged up to fourth with 63.16m after a first-round foul.
Robert-Michon barged her way into the medal picture in round three, a season’s best effort of 65.13m catapulting her from fifth to second in the overall standings. Perkovic registered a foul and Barrios and Muller suffered the same fate.
At the halfway stage Samuels, the 2009 World champion, took her leave of the competition finishing down in tenth with 62.42m. Also failing to earn the right for three further throws was Zinaida Sendriute of Lithuania, the lead qualifier for the final. Her best effort of 62.54m in the final was good enough for ninth only.
In round four, Perkovoic with 67.80m and Robert-Michon with 65.08m both came close to their best, but could not improve. Down the pack US champion Gia Lewis-Smallwood advanced up the leader-board to fifth with 64.23m.
The rain started to pour in round five and predictably this was reflected in the performance levels. Only two legal throws were registered by Barrios (61.28m) and Muller (61.92m) as the worsening conditions started to take a grip.
The sixth and final round witnessed no change to the medal picture, although huge cheers rang out in the stadium after Robert-Michon defied a greasy circle to hurl the Discus out to a national record of 66.28m, eclipsing the mark of 65.78m she set some 11 years ago.
Perkovic brought the curtain down on the competition with a red flag. No matter, it was the Croatian’s day as it has been so often recently. It was also the longest gold medal-winning distance in a women’s Discus final at the World Championships since Franka Dietzsch of Germany struck gold in Seville 14 years ago.
Steve Landells for the IAAF