The 2013-2016 IAAF Strategic Plan has six Core Values: universality, leadership, unity, excellence, integrity and solidarity, and a Vision Statement: “To lead, govern and develop the sport of athletics in all its forms worldwide, uniting the Athletics Family in a spirit of excellence, integrity and solidarity.”
This seems a straightforward twohorse race. World season leader (21.58m national record) Nadzeya Ostapchuk of Belarus and New Zealand’s Valerie Adams who stands second with 21.11m, are the clear joint favourites for gold. They are also in fine form, their two season’s bests coming in July. Of the top ten competitions in the world in 2012 they own them all (6 – 4 in Adams’ favour).
Ostapchuk has recaptured the form which took her to the 2005 World Championships title. That was the year when she first went beyond 21 metres setting a national record of 21.09m, and until this year she had not managed to reclaim those heights. Now in 2012 she has broken her record three times in consecutive competitions - Minsk, 12 Jun (20.66m 20.65m 21.13m NR X 20.31 X); Grodno, 6 Jul (19.91m 21.32m NR 21.05m X X 21.39m NR); Minsk, 18 Jul (21.47m NR 21.58m NR X P P P). However, the Belarusian has yet to go beyond 21m outside her country, and it has to be seen whether this form will travel with her to the Olympics.
The same cannot be said of her arch rival Adams, the reigning Olympic and three-times World champion, who has put 21m+ outside her homeland consistently, including her Area record of 21.24m with which she retained her World outdoor title in Daegu last summer. Her season’s best has also come recently in Lucerne, Switzerland with 21.11m.
In career head to head standings the two protagonists at this event are very close. Adams has finished ahead of Ostapchuk in 17 competitions to her opponents 15 successes over her. However, the decisive statistic in terms of London is the fact that of their last nine encounters since and including the Continental Cup competition in the September of 2010, the New Zealander has won them all. This year Adams has beaten her opponent, the defending champion, at the World Indoor Championships, and most recently at the Rome Samsung Diamond League meeting in Rome.
The 2010 season in which Ostapchuk took the World Indoor title, which was the start of a series of eight consecutive victories over Adams, was the last time that she has truly had the ascendency over the New Zealander since the latter was an emerging talent, having taken World Youth and Junior championships, and then her first senior title (Osaka 2007). It’s easy to forget with her trophy cabinet already full of trophies that Adams is for a throwing champion especially, a relatively youthful 27, while Ostapchuk is four years her senior.
So barring injury to these leading players who is in the hunt for the remaining Olympic medal?
With only two others, Russian Evgeniia Kolodko (20.22m) and Lijiao Gong (20.21m) beyond 20m this season any predictions are difficult because below them there are another five over 19.50m which is within shooting distance of the last rung on the podium. The ‘third’ medal in the last three major champs (Beijing, Berlin and Daegu) has gone to different women. In 2008 it was Ostapchuk’s colleague who actually went one better and split the favourites by taking the silver. The next year in Ostapchuk’s absence (injury) in Berlin it was Germany’s Nadine Kleinert who took second spot with Lijiao Gong in bronze. Last year it was USA’s Jillian Camarena-Williams pouncing to take that medal in Daegu. All four are in with a chance again.
The youthful Russian trio of Kolodko, Olesya Sviridova (19.72m) and Anna Avdeeva (19.54m), must not be discounted to spring a surprise, and don’t overlook Kleinert who won the European crown in June.