Sara Kolak threw a PB of 66.18m to set a Croatian record and win Olympic gold in the women’s javelin on Thursday evening.
This was Kolak’s first time at a competition of this scale; she had won bronze at the recent European Championships and at the 2014 World Junior Championships in Eugene.
Kolak stood sixth after the third round. Her tremendous throw then came in the fourth and left her perched in first place for the rest of that round and the two remaining rounds after it.
Silver went to South Africa’s Sunette Viljoen, who threw 64.92m in the first round to take the early lead and only lost it to Kolak.
The battle for bronze was more heated. Belarus’s Tatsiana Khaladovich stood second after three rounds, and was bumped to third when Kolak took the lead.
In the fifth round, Barbora Spotakova of the Czech Republic, who had been third after the second round, improved to 64.80m, the mark which would wind up holding bronze.
Maria Andrejczyk of Poland, the best thrower of the qualifying with her national record of 67.11m there, couldn’t improve on her 64.78m in the fifth round and stayed fourth in the final, leaving Khaladovich fifth.
Kolak, just 21, has been improving steadily through 2016; this was her fifth national record of the year, improving on her 64.30m throw in the qualifying. Altogether she took 2.68m off her best (set while winning European bronze) here in Rio. She has improved more than eight metres this year. She has held the Croatian record since she was 18 and improved it eight times in total.
Kolak joins discus thrower Sandra Perkovic as the second Croatian gold medal winner in athletics at these games.
Viljoen, competing in her fourth consecutive Olympics, finally made it in to the medals. She was fourth in London and has won two World Championships bronze medals (in Daegu in 2011 and in Beijing in 2015), but this was her first Olympic medal. It was also the first medal in the women’s javelin won by an athlete from Africa.
“To come back and win silver means so much to me,” said Viljoen. “For my country it will mean a lot.”
Spotakova, the Olympic champion in 2008 and 2012, was one of four women who arrived in Rio hoping to be the first to win three consecutive golds in an individual event. Like the three before her, Spotakova settled for a lesser medal, but did become the first woman to win three medals in the javelin.
Parker Morse for the IAAF