Normal service was resumed on closing night of these unforgettable 2017 IAAF World Championships. In the discus circle, at any rate.
After all of the upturning of the form book in the London Stadium, there was never a hint of a shock in the women’s discus final. Sandra Perkovic, the strong gold medal favourite from Croatia, took control from the off, throwing 69.30m in the opening round, improving to 70.31m with her second attempt and backing up with 70.28m and 69.81m before partially blotting the copybook of a text book series with fouls in the last two rounds.
Not until the last round did any of her rivals even better her opening round effort, Already in the silver medal spot with 66.82m, Australia’s 2009 world champion Dani Stevens uncorked a lifetime best of 68.64m, an Oceania record. Bronze went to Melina Robert-Michon with 66.21m, a season’s best for the 38-year-old Frenchwoman who took Olympic silver in Rio last year and world championship silver in Moscow in 2013.
For Perkovic, it was a fourth title in five global championships, having claimed gold at the 2012 Olympics in London, the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow and the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
“I won my first Olympic gold here and now I have won world championship gold here,” said the Croatian member of parliament. “This is my lucky track. I feel safe here.”
In Rio last year Perkovic fouled her first two attempts in qualifying and managed just one valid throw in the final. In London she qualified with a huge 69.97m, the best ever qualifying mark in the history of the IAAF World Championships, and there were no signs of jitters in the final as she set out her stall with her opening round 69.30m.
That, for good measure, was farther than her winning distances at the 2012 Olympics in the same arena (69.11m), the 2013 world championships (67.99m) and 2016 Olympics (69.21m).
The next best throw of round one was 65.49m by Robert-Michon, the Frenchwoman once again rising to the big occasion. Stevens hit 64.23m first time and stayed in third place with an improvement to 65.46m in round two.
Perkovic, too, strengthened her hold on pole position, flashing across the circle in that dynamic athletic-balletic style of hers and hurling the discus out beyond the 70m line to 70.31m – within striking distance of the championship record figures of 71.62m set by East Germany’s Martina Hellmann at the second edition of the IAAF World Championships in the Stadio Olimpico in Rome in 1987.
Her third round effort looked like it might go farther but died a little, dropping just 3cm short of her leading throw at 70.28m.
At the halfway stage, Germany’s Nadine Muller was just behind the top three with 64.13m in fourth place. Surprisingly, the two Cuban challengers were struggling to find their rhythm. Denia Caballero, who took the 2015 world title ahead of Perkovic, was back in sixth with a best of 63.22m. Former world youth champion Yaimi Perez, who beat Perkovic in Stockholm and Sotteville early this season, was seventh with 62.54m and two fouls.
Perez, however, started to get her act together in round four, moving up to fourth place with 64.82m. There was a change in the medal order, too, Stevens relegating Robert-Michon to third place and moving into second with 66.82m, a season’s best.
Caballero is the only woman other than Perkovic to have ventured beyond 70m this century. The 27-year-old could not come close to recapturing that form but she did climb from seventh to fifth with 64.37m in the penultimate round.
And there the positions remained – only Stevens, with her 69.64m area record, and Robert-Michon, with 66.21m, registering improvements.
Simon Turnbull for the IAAF