Aksana Miankova on her way to winning Olympic hammer gold (Getty Images) © Copyright
However, it’s very difficult to judge the competitive form or an athlete who has not competed abroad since throwing 69.58m in the qualifying round in Berlin at the World championships on 20 August 2009 from which she failed to proceed. However, Miankova also set out her stall before Beijing with a national record of 77.32m at home, and despite only scrapping through the qualification round (11 of the 12 finalists), took the title in an Olympic record of 76.34m.
National records seem to be the order of the season as Russia’s World champion Tatyana Lysenko lies second in the 2012 list with 78.51m, the best ever throw by a Russian and a solid series to match (77.37m, 76.81m, 76.24m, X ,78.51m 77.26m). Unlike the Olympic champion, Lysenko has been on the international circuit with her best performance outside of Russia, a 76.14m release which took second in the Hammer Throw Challenge meeting in Daegu in May.
What Miankova and Lysenko have been aiming at is the World record of 79.42m which is held by 2007 World champion Betty Heidler, who also took silvers in 2009 and 2011. With a win streak of 12 competitions which began after her defeat in the Daegu final, everything looked good for the 28-year-old German until disaster struck with a non-qualification for the European championships final in June; two fouls with a lowly best of 65.06m. Perhaps that was a well-timed wake-up call for the usually reliable thrower? "She wants to lay down a marker to her rivals by being the first woman to throw over 80m," confirmed her coach Michael Deyhle.
In the absence of the aforementioned women the continental title in Helsinki fell to Poland’s Anita Wlodarczyk, the former World record holder who set the first of those marks when winning the 2009 World title in Berlin with 77.96m; her current national record is also a former World mark, 78.30m set in 2010. There is no doubt she has the potential to threaten for gold especially as in her last competition before the Games in Szczecin she improved her season’s best to 76.81m.
In second place (71.90m) in that last competition came Cuba’s two-time World champion (2001 and 2003) Yipsi Moreno who twice has brushed close to the Olympic laurels with silvers in Athens and Beijing. A world player of the highest stature, with an Area record of 76.62m dating back to 2008, but if the London competition really kicks off its likely that the 31-year-old will find herself a metre or two short. She enters London with a 2012 best of 75.59m.
Perhaps more likely to step up a rung or two will be China’s 26-year-old Zhang Wenxiu, the 2008 bronze medallist who also took third in Daegu, and notably set a Asian record of 76.99m in Ostrava in May behind Heidler’s 2012 best of 78.07m. That was quite an important form guide as in third came Wlodarczyk, with Moreno fourth, and in fifth, Germany’s Kathrin Klaas, the 2009 World champs fourth placer whose season’s best is 75.13m.
Further up the 2012 lists with a season’s best of 76.56m is another Belarusian Alena Matoshka, and do not discount the Russian team’s number 2 and 3: Gulfiya Khanafeyeva (77.08m) and Mariya Bespalova (76.72m). Khanafeyeva was World record holder back in 2006 with 77.26m, and that mark remains her PB.
Chris Turner for the IAAF