Darya Pishchalnikova of Russia competes in the women's discus throw qualification round (Getty Images) © Copyright
Backing-up that mighty heave is her 68.18m with which she won in Moscow on 20 June. That performance neatly completes a high quality seasonal sandwich at the top of the world, whose filling is provided by the 68.89m and 68.24m throws respectively of Germany’s Nadine Müller and Sandra Perkovic of Croatia which presently hold second and third positions in 2012. The only other woman beyond 68m is Cuba’s highly experienced Yarelys Barrios, the Olympic silver medallist in Beijing, who took World bronze in Daegu. Just below in the lists are the reigning World champion Yanfeng Li of China, and the surprise Olympic gold medallist of four years ago USA’s Stephanie Brown Trafton.
In the final major meeting prior to the Games, which took place in Monaco, Perkovic (65.29m) beat Muller (64.64m) who was in turn ahead of Barrios (64.49m) with the Olympic champion in fourth (63.70m), and that’s a pretty accurate guide to their season’s form so far. Throw the Chinese and the Russian into that mix and you have all the serious podium contenders. Realistically with no one else close to 66m, and the top 20+ performances this year owned by these six, the medals in London will be between this group.
Pishchalnikova, who turned 27 on 19 July, was a lowly 11th in Daegu last year, and is in the form of her life with six of her top-ten career performances coming this season, and as was seen with her brief US tour, she travels well with a second place in Eugene (Diamond League) with 63.76m and a victory in Portland two days later (66.38m).
However, it is the World silver medallist Müller and double European champion Perkovic who have been at the centre of most of the main circuit battles this season, and it has been the Croatian who has won all three duels including the continental title in Helsinki (67.62m). While the German has been in super form too, her second place in the season lists dates far back to March.
Of the top ten performances of the year, four have been thrown by Perkovic, with Pishchalnikova the only other thrower with two efforts in those standings, so barring injury it would seem inconceivable that the Croatian will not medal in London.
The 33-year-old Yanfeng Li is another proven competitor and not just because of her Daegu gold. She is also the reigning Asian Games champion. Her season’s best of 67.84m - just 14cm below her personal best - came in a German meeting on 12 May, and she is bringing similar pre-Games form to London as she did last year ahead of the World Championships. She also has the experience of two previous Olympic finals (9th 2004 and 7th 2008).
The reigning Olympic champion Stephanie Brown Trafton won her title in what was a relatively low level final with a first round effort of 64.74m. That’s not taking anything away from the American and while her 12th place finish in the 2009 World Championships was a real low point, her fifth position in Daegu last year more fairly reflects her current rank in the world. Arguing against that is her Area record of 67.74m which she set on 4 May in Wailuku, Hawaii, but that’s a venue which has regularly produced long distances in past seasons.
Chris Turner for the IAAF