|Discus Throw||52.26||Poznan||21 AUG 2008|
|Hammer Throw||82.98||Warszawa (Stadion Narodowy)||28 AUG 2016|
|2016||82.98||Warszawa (Stadion Narodowy)||28 AUG|
|2015||81.08||Cetniewo (OPO)||01 AUG|
|2014||79.58||Berlin (Olympiastadion)||31 AUG|
|2013||78.46||Moskva (Luzhniki)||16 AUG|
|2012||77.60||London (Olympic Stadium)||10 AUG|
|2010||78.30||Bydgoszcz (Zdzislaw Krzyszkowiak)||06 JUN|
|2009||77.96||Berlin (Olympiastadion)||22 AUG|
|2008||72.80||Biberach an der Riss||28 JUN|
|The XXXI Olympic Games||1||82.29||Rio de Janeiro (Estádio Olímpico)||15 AUG 2016|
|15th IAAF World Championships||1||80.85||Beijing (National Stadium)||27 AUG 2015|
|2nd IAAF Continental Cup 2014||1||75.21||Marrakech (Le Grande Stade)||14 SEP 2014|
|14th IAAF World Championships||2||78.46||Moskva (Luzhniki)||16 AUG 2013|
|The XXX Olympic Games||1||77.60||London (Olympic Stadium)||10 AUG 2012|
|13th IAAF World Championships in Athletics||5||73.56||Daegu (DS)||04 SEP 2011|
|12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics||1||77.96||Berlin (Olympiastadion)||22 AUG 2009|
|6th IAAF/VTB Bank World Athletics Final||3||70.97||Stuttgart (Gottlieb-Daimler Stadion)||13 SEP 2008|
|The XXIX Olympic Games||4||71.56||Beijing (National Stadium)||20 AUG 2008|
Focus on Athletes biographies are produced by the IAAF Communications Dept, and not by the IAAF Statistics and Documentation Division. If you have any enquiries concerning the information, please use the Contact page, selecting ‘Focus on Athletes Biographies’ in the drop down menu of contact area options.
Updated 2 August 2016
Anita WŁODARCZYK, Poland (Hammer Throw)
Born: 8 August 1985, Rawicz
Coach: Krzysztof Kaliszewski
Be warned, dear reader, as the story that’s about to unfold is moving. Deeply moving. Who wouldn’t be touched by the picture of Anita Włodarczyk, a hammer thrower talking to her deceased friend, Olympic champion Kamila Skolimowska. Those two, even though in two different worlds, share a special bond and... some throwing equipment. Anita dedicated to Kamila all her splendid successes. And after coming back home celebrated them with Kamila’s parents.
But first things first. All of Anita’s throwing started... under the bridge. Deserted land down there is what the town of Poznań has to offer when it comes to hammer throw training facilities. No wonder she didn’t spare one thought for Olympic medals or World records at the time. It was a long way to go just to get to a proper stadium.
Before Anita became a track athlete, she tried her luck in speedway cycling in her hometown of Rawicz. What’s speedway cycling? Cycle racing on a dirt track. “I was the only girl in the country to race with boys,” Włodarczyk recalls.
In 1998, Anita excelled in speedway cycling. She took team gold in the European Youth Championships, held in England. She was a part of a male team and on top of that, the youngest participant, a 13 year old girl, competed against boys four years her senior or more. That odd discipline wasn’t easy. The skin on Anita’s elbows and knees still holds pieces of dirt from brutal falls – a souvenir for the rest of her life. “But I have no regrets, thanks to those unusual races, my legs grew unbelievably strong. And strong legs are crucial in hammer throw,” Włodarczyk points out.
Years later, in the Olympic final of London 2012, Anita had a plan she worked out with her psychologist. The plan stated to concentrate on every single thing Betty Heidler did. Watching closely her main rival who took away from her the World record, was supposed to draw the competitive drive from Anita. Before the season’s main event she had already notched up two World records, and one World championships and European championships titles. Only one title was missing – that of Olympic champion. No need to mention, that was her goal.
With Olympics in her mind, she practiced with heavier hammers, 5-6 kilos of weight. “Regular hammer seemed light as a feather, but my technique was all over the place. I had no touch or speed,” Anita recalls. But that didn’t keep her from taking European gold in Helsinki one month before London. She scored 74,29m, but was disappointed because Heidler didn’t make it to the final. “If Betty was there, it would be comparable to the Olympics. My attitude would be different. Without her, I was a front-runner. And I couldn’t rehearse an important option of a mental game before London,” Anita explains.
In the end, the mental game between Włodarczyk and Heidler was won by Tatyana Lysenko, who became Olympic champion. Anita took silver. But there’s a bigger story behind all that.
In London, Włodarczyk wore shoes and gloves that used to belong to Kamila Skolimowska, who became Olympic champion as a 17-year old in Sydney 2000. Later, in 2009, Kamila suffered a blood clot while in training camp in Portugal and died. “When I entered the Olympic stadium in London, I asked Kamila to be with me. I won the medal thanks to her and I dedicated it to her,” Anita said.
Her Olympic silver was a big success for the whole country of Poland and even bigger for Skolimowska’s parents. “Me and my wife, we watched the competition as if our daughter was in it. We cried from excitement, jumped with joy and popped champagne at the end. Exactly how we used to,” Robert Skolimowski recalls. It’s him who gave Kamila’s gloves and shoes to Anita.
“After Kamila died, we were left with tons of throwing equipment, good quality professional stuff, to die for when you’re a young athlete. I decided to divide it among several promising girls. Anita received the best part,” Skolimowski continues. It’s hard to listen to him with a straight face.
“Her competing in London Olympics was very valuable for us and a great pleasure to watch. Kamila used to say she would call it a career after London and focus on family. Life went a different way, but with her shoes and gloves, it was her symbolic presence. Somehow, we feel satisfied. As she closed that chapter. But who knows, maybe Kamila continues to train wherever she is now? One sure thing is she’ll always help Anita,” Skolimowski says.
That kind of support wasn’t a new thing for Anita. Both girls were in Beijing 2008, but only Anita made it to the last eight in the final. “She helped me a lot in my Olympic debut, congratulated me and said I had to worthily represent my country. And I still do my best to fulfil that responsibility,” Anita assures.
Skolimowski, a tough man as he is, shed a tear when saw Włodarczyk was being decorated on the podium in London. He greeted her in the airport with 77 roses – one rose for every metre she scored (exact result: 77.60m). They remain very close. Anita visits them whenever she’s in Warsaw, where all they live now. “She knows her favourite pork chops always await her. She always calls and asks to make them for her. Exactly like Kamila used to ask for roast chicken,” Skolimowski says.
It is well a known fact in Poland that Anita likes to eat big. There was a story all over the news about her remarkable breakfast the day she took a bronze medal in the European Championships in Barcelona 2010. Nine hardboiled eggs! “I was late and the last one in the breakfast room, so I ate all what’s left,” she explained.
The 2009 season had brought her the title of World champion and a World record, in Berlin (77.96). She jumped from joy so vigorously that she twisted her ankle.
She beat the World record again in 2010 in Bydgoszcz (78.30).
But it’s the 2013 season that Włodarczyk rates really high. She took silver at the World Championships in Moscow with a splendid result (78.46). The success is even more
Włodarczyk may seem especially prone to injuries. She admits that there were times when she found herself caught by dark thoughts. But what are friends and family for? And psychologist and her coach, of course.
Right before the World Championships in Berlin, she decided to quit cooperation with her coach from the early years, Czesław Cybulski, the one she threw under the bridge with. Then for a brief period she trained under Grzegorz Nowak, only to find a real soul-mate, former hammer thrower Krzysztof Kaliszewski. They say they chose to work together for good and bad times. “We spend together way more time than with our families, at least 300 days a year; training camp, competition, training camp, constant life on the road,” Włodarczyk said.
Moscow 2013 has a special spot in Anita’s heart. She threw there further than back in 2009 or 2010, when she beat the World records. But the gold medal still went to somebody else – Lysenko. Isn’t that frustrating? “Not at all. This silver is very valuable, hard fought for. The victory was within my reach. After the competition, everybody congratulated me, strangers, even the Russian fans. Women throw further and further every year, there’s a constant progression in my discipline which is good,” Włodarczyk said.
Fans kept waiting for the first woman to break the 80 metre barrier. So did Anita. “My result from Moscow shows that you have to count me in on that race,” Anita said. Just a few days after the Moscow championships, in a minor meet in Dubnica, she threw 78.22. “I was convinced I can score 80 metres any day, but then the pressure waned and my competitive drive fall apart somehow. I still train hard and want the result really bad, but can’t fight for it. It’s a case for psychologists,” Włodarczyk admitted. But then she admitted also that it won’t be hard to fix. “I feel I’m really close to the goal of 80 metres and won’t let the chance slip away. It’s going to be my season,” she predicted at the start of 2014.
And it was indeed. She defended her title of European champion and regained the World record! But it wasn’t without some drama involved. At the end of February, at a training camp in USA, she felt sudden pain in the left knee – this is the leg she rotates on during throws. The knee hurt for seven weeks and so long was the break from practice. “That’s a massive period. I started to prepare for the thought that we can write the whole season off,” coach Kaliszewski admits. But who’s better than the two of them in making up for lost time? So they got to work.
The day of the European Championships final in Zürich, Anita started with five hard boiled eggs. After lunch she was too nervous to take a nap. The competition she started with a foul. The same happened in the second attempt. When she entered the circle for the third time, she said to herself: it’s either now or never. And that was the case, as a third foul would put her out of the competition. And well aware of that, Anita threw 75.88, the result that assured her gold. “This is when I showed I have the mind of the champion,” Anita said. For the remaining part of the competition, she improved in the next two throws, chasing the World record. “I hoped Betty Heidler would helped me in that race, but she failed again on the big scene,” Anita recalled. In Zürich she stopped at 78.76, but she showed she’s capable of much more. In the sixth attempt she fouled again, but the German analysts sent her later some material stating that if that throw had been measured, Anita would wear the crown of World record holder in Zürich. And what a result that would be – 80.36!
Speaking of the crown of World record holder - she put the jewel on just two weeks later, on 31 August at the meet in Berlin. The Olympic stadium, the same that saw her beat the record in 2009, turned out lucky again. In front of Heidler’s home crowd, Włodarczyk surpassed the German thrower’s mark by 16 cm scoring 79.58. “The audience was great, they supported me from the start and later on treated me with a standing ovation. That place is my lucky charm,” Anita said. The Berlin meet was also the final contest of the 2014 IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge, which Anita won for the second year in a row.
As the chase for of the 80 metre’s mark continued it become obvious – not only for some German geek – that it’s within Anita’s reach. And finally, in 2015 she got there. On 1 August, just one week shy of her 30th birthday, Anita Włodarczyk made history throwing 81.08. She not only crossed the magic 80 metre line but surpassed her own World record by a stunning 1.5 metres! To judge the result properly, one has to realise she made it while still on a hard training regime for the main event of the season, the IAAF World Championships in Beijing. The venue of the deed can’t seem incidental – the Throws Festival Kamila Skolimowska Memorial in Cetniewo, Poland. The special bond of two throwers from two worlds apparently keeps on.
What’s the next challenge for Anita? According to coach Kaliszewski for her only the sky is the limit. “I’m not surprised. I know what she’s capable of and I’m sure in Beijing she will add in some more length to the result. She would throw further then the men’s World record of 86.74 if her back wasn't so injury prone. But I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that one day Anita will embarrass manhood,” Kaliszewski assured.
So far Anita keeps the over 80 metre throws just for special occasions – one of them was regaining a World title after long 6 years. The crowd in the splendid Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing saw her sending the hammer to the 80.85 metre mark to regain the crown at the 2015 World Championships and set a new Championships record. An amazing final series, with two throws over 80 metres and four out of five measured attempts that would assure her victory. The winning mark was a whopping 4.5 metres better than the result of China’s Wenxiu Zhang, who took silver (76.33).
Anita was thrilled, but quick to point out what was missing from the competition – the competition itself.
“I’m this kind of athlete who enjoys the competition and frankly speaking, if there was somebody a little bit closer to my results, I could be more motivated. Unfortunately I had to fight with myself rather, but I know I can throw even further and add something to my World record,” Anita assured. And it wasn’t a case of just that event as Anita’s, dominance in the last three seasons is overwhelming. She scored the seven best results of the hammer throw all time top list, with Betty Heidler, the only other one who crossed 79 metre line, being next (79.42 in 2011, only once).
“2015 was almost a perfect season. We fulfilled everything that was planned with just one flaw, that the World record wasn’t set at the World Championships but a little earlier. I very much hope an Olympic season will be even better,” says Anita.
She checked the first important box of 2016 –the European Championships in Amsterdam – in an almost perfect manner. She became European champion for a third consecutive time. However she didn’t break the 80 metre barrier (78.14) and outperformed silver medalist Betty Heidler by “only” 2 metres.
“I’m happy I was able to improve with every throw. I wish the final in Rio de Janeiro unfolds like this. One thing I was surprised with is a good result of Betty. She’s got stronger mentally and I know she will show it at the Olympics. But I miss some fight on the stadium and I want to fight my rivals not just myself,” Włodarczyk admits.
The European Championships has shown that she is well prepared to the most important event in 4 years. But at the same time it was an opportunity to learn from somebody else’s mistake.
“With the Olympics just days ahead, we need humility. Anita keeps winning and setting records, but you don’t have to go to the Olympics to see the favorites failing. If you asked who will win the pole vault in Amsterdam, anybody would say Renauld Lavillenie, and he ended up with zero. When there’s pressure and a lot at stake, anything can happen. And I’ve heard we’ll be commuting to the stadium 1.5 hours one way. It’s not going to be easy to excel. But on the other hand, Anita is healthy, everything goes according to the plan so far,” coach Kaliszewski sums up.
Anita seems to be handling a pressure well. “I know everybody is already seeing a gold medal hanging on my neck. I understand that and I’m not stressed out. I think it would be inappropriate to set my goals below gold. In Amsterdam, I scored 78 while hardly feeling my joints, tired from the heavy training. In Rio I should score better. I gave it all and I can’t wait,” she promised. She was able to break 80 metres for the third time just days after Amsterdam, throwing 80.26 in another edition of the Throws Festival Kamila Skolimowska Memorial in Cetniewo. Rio de Janeiro Olympics is probably as high on Anita’s special events list.
Włodarczyk and her coach make a special couple. Their cooperation is an art of treading the fine line. Between the athlete’s great potential and her health limitations. They need to be extremely careful as one kilo of extra weight training may lead to serious injury. It’s been almost 7 years they‘ve been mastering the art and while they aren’t unerring they have the results to say the least.
They’re both strong characters of zodiac, Leo. “We were born only one day apart. We are like a marriage, old but unconsummated. The lioness goes hunting and brings the trophy home. My role is to bolt it down,” Kaliszewski used to say.
Hammer Throw: 81.08 WR (2015)
2004: 52.14; 2005: 60.51; 2006: 65.53; 2007: 69.07; 2008: 72.80; 2009; 77.96 WR; 2010: 78.30 WR; 2011: 75.33; 2012: 77.60; 2013: 78.46 WR; 2014: 79.58 WR; 2015: 81.08 WR; 2016: 80.26
2007 9th European U23 Championships (Debrecen) 63.74
2008 1st European Cup Winter Throwing (Split) 71.84
2008 6th Olympic Games (Beijing) 71.56
2008 3rd World Athletic Final (Stuttgart) 70.97
2009 1st European Cup Winter Throwing (Los Realejos) 75.05
2009 1st European Team Championships (Leiria) 75.23
2009 1st World Championships (Berlin) 77.96 (WR)
2010 3rd European Championships (Barcelona) 73.56
2010 2nd IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge 225.88
2011 5th World Championships (Daegu) 73.56
2012 1st European Championships (Helsinki) 74.29
2012 2nd Olympic Games (London) 77.60
2012 2nd IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge 223.13
2013 2nd World Championships (Moscow) 78.46
2013 1st IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge 233.83
2014 1st European Championships (Zürich) 78.76
2014 1st IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge 232.52
2014 1st IAAF Continental Cup (Marrakech) 75.21
2015 1st European Team Championships (Cheboksary) 78.28
2015 1st World Championships (Beijing) 80.85
2015 1st IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge 235.28
2016 1st European Championships (Amsterdam) 78.14
Prepared by Rafał Kazimierczak and Marta Mikiel for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2014-2016