Sandra Perkovic of Croatia competes in the Women's Discus Throw Final on Day 8 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 4, 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
Darya Pishchalnikova was that athlete. The world season leader from Russia had a fifth round best of 67.56 which skipped past China’s World champion Yanfeng Li whose 67.22 had held second position on the podium since the second volley of throws, and ultimately was good enough to secure bronze.
This event was previewed last week with the statement that "barring injury it would seem inconceivable that the Croatian will not medal in London." That was based on the impressive statistics that coming into the Olympics, of the top ten performances of the year four had been thrown by Perkovic, and that she had won nine of her ten meetings (finals only) this season including the retention of her European title.
However, while a medal seemed a certainty the Olympic title was by no means as Pishchalnikova was the only other thrower with two efforts in the world season’s lists. Furthermore her 70.69 world lead set in July was the longest throw in the world for 20 years. Yet the former European champion was far off that sort of form tonight and at the midway point she was languishing out of the medals in fifth (65.19). The 27-year-old improved in the fourth round to 66.42 and it seemed the duel with Perkovic was truly engaged when with her next effort she flew into silver but that was to be the end of the Russian’s ascent.
In essence tonight ended-up being more or less a one-woman show of excellence.
The other pre-event favourites were as much adrift of gold medal form as the Russian. World champion Yanfeng Li only had two valid efforts, while Germany’s Nadine Müller who until tonight’s final had held second place on the world season list with 68.89, could not surpass the 66m line, her best of 65.94 coming in the last round for fifth place. Sandwiched between the Chinese and the German in fourth was the Cuban Yarelys Barrios, the Olympic silver medallist in Beijing, but the best she could muster on this occasion was 66.38.
Spare a thought for the defending champion Stephanie Brown-Trafton of the USA who had struggled in the qualification round and was way off the pace in the final with 63.01, in the first round, her best.
No Croatian had ever made it to an Olympic women’s Discus Final before let alone medalled and in the history of Croatian Olympic track and field Perkovic is only their second ever medallist following Blanka Vlasic’s silver in the High Jump in Beijing.
"It’s a great feeling, a dream come true. I’m so, so happy. I never imagined this moment, a national record, what a wonderful day," said the winner whose previous national record was the 68.24 with which she had won the Shanghai Samsung Diamond League meeting in May.
Chris Turner for the IAAF
1999 Women 60m heats