After round two of the women’s hammer final, Anita Wlodarczyk was restricted to sitting around, watching the other competitors and chewing bubble gum. But she had already done enough.
The 24-year-old from Poland had established a world record* with her second throw, when the hammer came down at 77.96m. Wlodarczyk had improved the mark of Russia’s Tatyana Lysenko – 77.80m in 2006 – by 16 centimetres.
Besides her winner’s prize money of $60,000 Wlodarczyk received an extra $100,000 world record bonus sponsored by IAAF partner Toyota.
“This is the happiest day of my life," said Wlodarczyk. "I have the gold medal and the world record."
She was so overjoyed after her second round throw that she jumped up and down again and again on the track – until her celebration came to an abrupt end with a twisted ankle. Instead of throwing, she had to receive treatment by a doctor.
The first diagnosis was that she had not hurt her ankle too seriously. And after cooling the foot with ice and then getting a bandage she indeed even went back into the ring for her final throw. But she only threw without rotating and then made it a fault. The world title was hers anyway.
“She explained that she simply had to celebrate because she was so happy by having thrown a world record,” said Rafal Bala, the press officer of the Polish Athletics Federation, who translated for Wlodarczyk at the post-race press conference.
Wlodarczyk comes from Rawicz, in the western part of Poland, and not too far from the German border and Berlin. So a lot of fans, including her family, had come to the stadium to watch her throw and win her first major gold medal.
“Maybe they were a bit upset that I could not throw any more after the injury,” said Wlodarczyk, who also spent her down time watching the 4x100m relay and especially Usain Bolt, who was running the bend where she was sitting.
Steady rise to world No.1
After placing sixth last season at the Olympics in Beijing and improving to beyond 70 metres for the first time, Wlodarczyk developed significantly further in 2009. At the recent meeting in Cottbus, she had thrown a personal best of 77.20m, improving the Polish record of the late Kamila Skolimowska (76.83m).
“After breaking the national record in Cottbus I was really very confident about my chances in Berlin. I knew that even the world record might be possible.”
But then there was a scare, because one week before the World Championships she experienced some back pain. “I could not do any training for three days, but I remained confident and the qualifying was good.”
On her first throw she just wanted to make sure to have a mark that would keep her in the final. “On my second throw I gave it everything. I felt relaxed and in great shape. But I never expected a world record to come already then.” Then she celebrated...
“When I had entered the stadium and saw this great audience I sensed that this could become a great and important day for the women’s hammer throw,” said Wlodarczyk, who had been an indoor track speed cyclist at her early teens. In her age group she was among the best in Poland.
Going solo in Berlin
Wlodarczyk had entered the World Championships without a coach. Just three weeks before Berlin – not the best of timing it seemed – she had parted from Zbigniew Cybulski, the man who guided Szymon Ziolkowski to the Olympic gold medal in the hammer at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. Cybulski had coached Wlodarczyk since 2004, when her personal best stood at 52.14m.
“I did well at a couple of meetings without him so there was no reason why I should not do well here without a coach. But I will have a top coach for the next season.” After going solo for the past few weeks, Wlodarczyk became the first Polish athlete to break a world record since legendary race walker Robert Korzeniowski’s last mark in the 50km race walk at the World Championships in Paris in 2003.
So does she think 80 metres will be possible for her in future? Wlodarczyk gave no answer to this question – she was only smiling. However, this season may be over for the world champion, because of her injured ankle. She may have more time to celebrate then, but without jumping up and down.
Jörg Wenig for the IAAF
*pending the usual ratification procedures