Anita Wlodarczyk spinning to gold at the IAAF World Championships London 2017
With world record-holder Anita Wlodarczyk and a home nation medal prospect in the field, it did not take long for the women's hammer final to come to life.
As soon as Great Britain and Northern Ireland's Sophie Hitchon stepped into the ring in round one as the fourth athlete to throw, the capacity crowd roared the Olympic bronze medallist's implement out to 71.47m as she took a brief lead.
It was soon passed in the opening round by eventual silver medallist Zheng Wang’s 74.31m and eventual bronze medallist's Malwina Kopron's 74.76m, but two-time world and Olympic champion Wlodarczyk didn’t take pole position until the fourth round.
Six metres clear at the top of this year’s world list with 82.87m and owning the seven farthest throws in 2017, the Pole had entered the IAAF World Championships London 2017 as one of the biggest favourites in any event.
But after opening with a modest 70.45m, the 31-year-old fouled in round two before improving only to 71.94m in round three – still more than 10 metres shy of her season's best and placing her under pressure at the halfway point.
Showing her competitive mettle, a fourth-round throw of 77.39m gave Wlodarczyk the lead and it looked as though she had finally found her rhythm. She followed it in round five with a throw of 77.90m – farther than the PB of any other finalist – to effectively wrap up the competition.
China’s Wang – third on the world list in 2017 – improved to 75.94m in round two and again to 75.98m in the final round to secure the silver medal, while Wlodarczyk's 22-year-old teammate Kopron's first-round throw proved enough for bronze, ensuring two Poles made it on the podium.
“There were a couple of serious technical problems in the final,” said Wlodarczyk. “First of all, I injured my finger during my first training session in London and it was quite painful. And I started to have cramps tonight.
“I am used to starting as a favourite and I did not want to disappoint the fans. I know there were many of them in the crowd and that was very supporting. I was just a bit nervous because of the injury. But I am the world champion and that is the most important thing now.”
After placing fourth in 2013 and fifth in 2015, and having failed to record a valid mark at last year's Olympics, Wang was rewarded for a consistent series with her first global championships medal.
Sixteen years after making her first World Championships final at the age of 15, world and Olympic silver medallist Zhang Wenxiu recorded a season's best of 74.53m for fourth, just 23 centimetres shy of bronze. It was her 11th consecutive global championships final and her 10th consecutive top-five finish.
European bronze medallist Hanna Skydan of Azerbaijan placed fifth with 73.38m, while the third Pole in the final, Joanna Florodow, threw 73.04m for sixth. Although she saved her best for last with a 72.32m throw in the final round, British record-holder Hitchon had to settle for seventh.
Czech Republic’s 2008 world U20 silver medallist Katerina Safrankova placed eighth with a 71.34m season's best, while US bronze medallist Deanna Price found 70.04m was not enough to qualify for a further three throws, placing ninth.
Both Germany's Kathrin Klaas (68.91m) and France's 2015 world bronze medallist Alexandra Tavernier (66.31m) struggled to find their form, throwing almost eight metres short of their respective lifetime bests for 11th and 12th respectively.
Emily Moss for the IAAF