After they finished second in the 2012 contest, the Polish pair of Pawel Fajdek and Anita Wlodarczyk both moved up a notch to claim the first prize of USD$30,000 in the 2013 IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge.
Fajdek had an engaging battle with the 2011 and 2012 winner Krisztian Pars for supremacy but eventually prevailed by a mere five centimetres down the home stretch of the 10 men’s meetings in this year’s challenge, its fourth year in existence since it was inaugurated in 2010.
The world champion totalled 244.23m from his best three outings in the challenge to relegate Pars to second place, just as the Pole had done in Moscow when Hungary’s Olympic champion also had to settle for the silver medal in his only defeat of the year.
Both Fajdek and Pars exceeded the previous ‘Challenge record’ of 242.35m, which the latter had achieved in 2012.
Replicating the World Championships podium, Czech Republic’s Lukas Melich also finished third in the challenge with 239.80m, a distance that would have won two of the three previous years of the challenge.
Wlodarczyk had a much more comfortable cushion on top of the women’s standing with an accumulated total of 233.83m from her best three outings across the 10 women’s meetings.
She had an advantage of more than six metres over Russia’s second-placed Tatyana Lysenko, who had a total of 227.59m.
The difference emphasised Wlodarczyk’s season-long high-level consistency even though Lysenko took the top honours at the World Championships.
Like with Fajdek, Wlodarczyk comfortably exceeded the previous ‘Challenge record’ of 230.49m, set by Germany’s World record-holder Betty Heidler last year.
Heidler, the winner every year from 2010-2012, was third this time with 226.93m.
The 2013 challenge started with three successive men’s competitions during May in Tokyo, Belem (BRA) and Ponce (PUR) and saw three different winners: Melich, Tajikistan’s Dilshod Nazarov and Poland’s former world champion Szymon Ziolkowski.
The emphasis then switched to the women, with Lysenko winning at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Beijing with 73.12m while Heidler came out on top at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene with 75.21m, beating both Lysenko and Wlodarczyk.
Wlodarczyk gets first win
Wlodarczyk notched up her first victory in this year’s challenge with a 74.28m effort in Moscow on 11 June, barely two months before the world’s attention would return to the Russian capital.
Sweden’s Tracy Andersson then won in Dakar to make it four different winners in as many women’s challenge competitions.
The first really big men’s meeting of the year came at the Janusz Kuscinski Memorial meeting in Szczecin, Poland, on 15 June which saw the first throws over 80 metres in this year’s challenge.
Pars threw 81.02m, which remained as the world-leading distance until the World Championships, while Melich went over 80 metres for the first time in his life with 80.28m. In third, Fajdek could not have been any closer to the 80-metre line with 79.99m.
The women’s competition in Szczecin was equally as exciting with Heidler triumphing with 76.48m from Wlodarczyk, who threw 76.06m.
Both Pars and Melich were again over 80 metres in the Czech city of Ostrava with the Hungarian coming out on top with 80.75m to his rival’s 80.16m.
The women’s contest at the famous Golden Spike meeting, traditionally held in the afternoon the day before the main competition, saw Heidler assert her early season dominance and again beat Wlodarczyk, albeit once again by a small margin with 75.24m to the Pole’s 74.98m.
On home soil in Budapest on 11 July, Pars notched up his third straight challenge win, and he was once again over 80 metres with 80.73m to take a clear lead in the challenge after six men’s meetings.
The last challenge event before the IAAF World Championships was in Karlstad, Sweden, on 23 July. In the absence of Pars and Melich, and with Fajdek having three fouls, Slovenia’s 2009 world champion Primoz Kozmus took the honours with 77.69m.
At the World Championships, Fajdek rose magnificently to the occasion and improved his personal best to a world-leading 81.97m for an upset victory over Pars, who threw 80.30m. His 1.67m margin of victory was to have a crucial impact on the destination of the challenge.
In the women’s competition in Moscow, Heidler crashed out in qualifying which meant she was not going to add to her accumulated total although, to be fair, she was probably more upset at not being able to fight for a medal.
Lysenko and Wlodarczyk did however add to their tally with the Russian’s winning distance and national record of 78.80m ultimately helping to her to finish ahead of Heidler in the challenge at the end of the season. Wlodarczyk’s 78.46m for the silver medal was good enough for her to overtake Heidler and move to the top of the challenge standings with three competitions left, which is where she stayed until the end of the season.
Fajdek moves into pole position
At the Memorial Zdenka Hrbacka in the Slovakian town of Dubnica just a few days after the end of the World Championships, a terrific men’s contest saw Pars hurl a 2013 world-leading 82.40m but Fajdek finished second with a personal best of 82.27m, and went to the top of the challenge standings.
There was no Lysenko or Heidler in Dubnica so Wlodarczyk made the most of their absence to consolidate her position at the top of the standings with a huge effort of 78.22m to win by more than three metres from the USA’s Jenna McCall, who was second with a personal best of 74.77m.
The penultimate women’s challenge event of 2013 was at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in the German capital Berlin and Wlodarczyk as good as sealed first place with her third best result of the season, winning with 77.15m.
Lysenko finished second with 74.86m which was just enough to overtake Heidler for second place in the standings as well, the latter finishing third on home soil with 74.62m.
The final challenge meeting, both for men and women, was in the Italian town of Rieti on 8 September.
Pars won with 79.80m from an off-form Fajdek, who was second with 76.29m, but the Hungarian was exactly a metre short of the distance he needed to snatch the challenge title from his Polish rival.
Wlodarczyk could relax a little in Rieti, confident that her rivals were not going to find more than six metres and put her pole position in the challenge under pressure. She won by more than two metres from Lysenko, 76.57m to 73.90m, for her third consecutive victory in the 2013 challenge.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF