When Olympic champion Thomas Röhler takes to the javelin runway at the Golden Grand Prix on Sunday (21), he’ll be hoping that his performance at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Kawasaki will be more in line with his season-opening performance in Doha earlier this month.
The German threw a stunning 93.90m national record at the IAAF Diamond League curtain-raiser to move to second on the world all-time list. But eight days later, he finished fourth against – admittedly good – domestic opposition at a meeting in Offenburg with a best of just 83.22m.
“The runway was too short and the surface was slippery,” he said of his most recent outing. “Let’s see what’s coming here.”
Topping his Asian all-comers’ record from Doha would be a huge challenge, but Röhler is without doubt in the form of his life.
Hamish Peacock finished more than 10 metres adrift of Röhler in Doha, but the Australian champion will be keen to get closer to the world leader in Kawasaki. He has twice thrown beyond 84 metres this year and his season’s best of 84.36m is just three centimetres shy of his lifetime best.
Japan’s world and Olympic finalist Ryohei Arai and Czech duo Petr Frydrych and Jaroslav Jilek will also be competing in Kawasaki.
Bartoletta aims for third double
Röhler won’t be the only Olympic champion in action in Kawasaki.
Tianna Bartoletta will be returning to the scene of her double triumph from 2015 and 2016. The world and Olympic long jump champion has won the 100m and long jump in Kawasaki for the past two years and will be hoping to repeat the feat on Sunday.
It will be her first long jump competition of the year, but her third 100m contest. She clocked 11.08 in her opening sprint race of 2017 but was a well-beaten ninth at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha, running 11.49.
World silver medallist Shara Proctor of Great Britain will be her main opposition in the long jump, while 2012 European champion Ivet Lalova-Collio can be expected to challenge Bartoletta in the 100m.
Berry faces Olympic medallists
The Golden Grand Prix is the first meeting in the 2017 IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge series, so many of the world’s top throwers will be heading to Kawasaki in search of valuable points.
Gwen Berry is the in-form thrower. The US Olympian broke the North American record in her most recent outing, throwing 76.77m in Mississippi earlier this month. In fact, the six best throws of her career – all beyond 74 metres – have been achieved in her three most recent competitions.
World and Olympic silver medallist Zhang Wenxiu tends to produce her best at major championships, having made it on to the podium at the five most recent global championships. But, if pushed by Berry, the 31-year-old from China is more than capable of throwing beyond 75 metres.
British record-holder Sophie Hitchon will be opening her season in Kawasaki, but she will no doubt be buoyed by her bronze medal in Rio last year.
Asian champion Liu Shiying starts as favourite in the women’s javelin. The Chinese Olympian has already thrown 65.47m this year, just 17 centimetres shy of the PB she set last year.
She’ll be up against Australia’s Olympic finalist Kathryn Mitchell, Japanese record-holder Yuki Ebihara and Ukraine’s Hanna Hatsko-Fedusova.
Chinese jumpers to the fore
As one of the country’s strongest events at the moment, it would be no surprise to see a Chinese sweep of the men’s long jump in Kawasaki.
World indoor bronze medallist Huang Changzhou recently set an outdoor PB of 8.20m to finish third at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai. He will be joined in Kawasaki by Asian U20 record-holder Shi Yuhao, who jumped 8.18m just a few days ago, and world bronze medallist Wang Jianan, who boasts a best of 8.25m.
While Chinese athletes are among the favourites in the men’s triple jump and high jump in Kawasaki, the fields are far more closely matched.
High jumper Wang Yu will be up against Canada’s Michael Mason and Malaysian record-holder Nauraj Singh Randhawa, all of whom have an identical season’s best of 2.30m.
Olympic fourth-place finisher Cao Shuo is a 17.35m triple jumper at best, but his top mark this year is 16.59m. He might, therefore, be hard-pressed to beat the likes of US duo Matthew O’Neal and Donald Scott, who have both jumped beyond 17 metres this year.
Other highlights on the track are expected to come in the women’s 100m hurdles, where Pan-American champion Queen Harrison takes on Britain’s Olympic fourth-place finisher Cindy Ofili and her sister Tiffany Porter, the 2014 European champion.
In the men’s 100m, Su Bingtian will want to prove his victory at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai wasn’t a fluke as he comes up against world and Olympic silver medallist Justin Gatlin and world U18 champion Hakim Sani Brown.
Two-time Diamond Trophy winner Jairus Birech will be contesting his first steeplechase race of the year. He will face fellow Kenyan Nicholas Bett, the 2013 world U18 silver medallist, and rising Ethiopian talent Tesfaye Girma.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF