The focus of the women’s Javelin Throw tonight fell on two women whose credentials have been well established, but it was a third, the event’s rising star, who ultimately stole the spotlight.
A year ago in Stuttgart, Barbora Spotakova set a World record at the World Athletics Final. A month ago in Berlin, Germany’s Steffi Nerius, in her ninth and final appearance, finally won gold at the World Championships.
Thessaloniki was an important follow-up for each. For Spotakova, a chance to end her season on a high after injury setbacks early on. And for the 37-year-old Nerius, a final winner’s trophy in the final competition of her career.
But it was Maria Abakumova, at 23 the youngest entrant in the field, who wrestled control of the competition early on and grasped to it nervously but tightly to take the biggest victory of her career along with a $30,000 paycheck.
The Russian, the surprise silver medallist at the Olympic Games last year who briefly held the European record during the Beijing final, set the tone with a 64.60m opening round effort to win by more than a metre over Olympic champion Spotakova who threw 63.45m in the third round of four. It was the third straight victory for Abakumova since taking bronze at the World Championships
Nerius made a valiant effort with the final throw of her career, reaching 62.59m to finish third ahead of her compatriot Christina Obergfoll (62.14). Third place and Kaftanzoglio Stadium will prove memorable for Nerius – her first-ever medal, a bronze in the European Junior Championships back in 1991, came at this same Thessaloniki stadium.
“The journey ends here,” said Nerius, whose signature headband read ‘goodbye’ in Greek and English.
No other women broached the 60 metre line. Olisdeilys Menendez, the 2004 Olympic champion and former World record holder, came closest, reaching 59.93m for fourth.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF