Only four of the medallists from the 2013 World Championships made it to the final here, so there was a good chance for new faces on the podium.
Both the defending champion German Christina Obergfoll and Olympic champion and world record-holder Barbora Spotakova were in the competition, but neither has been near their best for this season, which threw the competition wide open.
The final started with the Chinese duo getting the crowd warmed up, taking the lead after first-round efforts of 64.10m for Li Lingwei and 63.80m for Lyu Huihui. Obergfoll and Spotakova both fouled their opening throws and world leader Sunette Viljoen of South Africa managed just a 60.18m opener.
Little happened in the second round, the biggest change being Viljoen moving into third place with 63.09m. But then the competition heated up in round three, with the lead changing from one throw to another.
First to throw from all athletes, defending champion Obergfoll took the lead with her third throw, landing at a 64.61m season’s best. Then Lyu, who finished fifth at the 2012 Olympics, bettered that with a 64.72m season’s best to take the lead back to China with just an 11-centimetre margin.
But she didn’t keep her place at the top for long, because the next thrower, Germany’s Katharina Molitor, threw 64.74m to better Lyu’s mark by just two centimetres. The 31-year-old was in unfamiliar territory; before today, her best championship finishes had been fifth at the 2011 World Championships and sixth at the 2012 Olympics.
There was heartbreak for Spotakova, who needed to improve on her second-round throw of 59.54m, but her third attempt landed at 60.08m, just 80 centimetres short of a place in the final three rounds.
Viljoen regained the lead in the fourth round with 65.79m and Germany’s Christin Hussong also progressed to 62.98m, but was still in sixth.
With the Chinese crowd roaring, Lyu took advantage of the support and produced a 66.13m Asian record with her fifth throw to take the lead. But the competition was not over.
No one throwing before Lyu in the final round improved on their position. Lyu took her last throw, but at 63.72m it wasn’t an improvement, so it all came down to Molitor, the last thrower in the competition, competing at her third World Championships.
She unleashed her throw high and powerfully to reach a world-leading PB of 67.69m to secure the gold medal; the third for Germany in the past four editions of the World Championships.
Lyu’s silver was China’s first medal in the women’s javelin since Xu Demei won the gold in Tokyo in 1991. Replicating their finish from 2011, Viljoen and Obergfoll finished third and fourth respectively.
Li’s fifth-place finish with 64.10m was three places higher than her performance in Moscow two years ago. Hussong, whose 65.92m was the best throw in qualification, was sixth in the final with 62.98m.
Mirko Jalava for the IAAF