Gold medals beckon for Europe's elite in London

Wlodarczyk is Poland's No. 1
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Anita Wlodarczyk is poised to claim her third world title in London and the Pole is in shape to improve her world record of 82.98m set last year

Will it be Renaud Lavillenie winning his first world outdoor title? Will it be Mo Farah winning 10,000m gold for the third time in a row? Will it be Johannes Vetter beating Olympic champion and teammate Thomas Rohler? Will Anita Wlodarczyk extend her world record? Or will be it be a European sprinter upsetting the farewell party of Usain Bolt? 

As the hours, minutes and seconds tick away until the start of the IAAF World Championships in London on Friday evening, one fact is for sure: European athletes will find themselves at the epicentre of some of the great stories which will emerge over the 10 days of action at the London Stadium.

The stock of European gold should rise once more, too, because of the quality of stars heading to the venue which staged the Olympic Games five years ago such as two-time world and Olympic hammer champion Anita Wlodarczyk, who arrives in sensational form after her 82.87m in Cetniewo last weekend, the second longest throw in history. 

 

Distance is her aim, but height is the focus of Frenchman Lavillenie - the Olympic pole vault champion from 2012 - as he looks to complete the set of major outdoor honours. Wlodarczyk looks unbeatable after dominating her event all summer while Lavillenie is just simmering, waiting for the spectacular pole vault that he - and the sport - knows he is so capable of.

It has been a wonderful few weeks for Lavillenie, who became a father for the first time last month before winning his seventh French outdoor title in Marseille. He will now look for gold - at last - at the World Championships.

When he won in Marseille he cleared 5.80m - and he was not far away from clearing 5.90m - but then a few days later, it was his words at the Diamond League in Monaco, when he was fifth with 5.72m, that said so much.

“There is nothing to worry about just before the Worlds because sometimes my worst performances are preceded by my best ones,” said Lavillenie, who has one silver (2013) and three bronzes (2009, 2011 and 2015) from the World Championships. 

He heads to London fourth in the world lists after his 5.87m in Lausanne at the start of July with American Sam Kendricks top of the list with 6.00m. At 31 in September, it may be the last major chance for Lavillenie to seek this elusive title. Fifth time lucky? It could be. 

A javelin duel for the ages

It might not start until 8.15pm on the penultimate day of the championships – Saturday, August 12 – but note the time and date for the final of the men’s javelin. It could be something to remember. 

While it might be a stretch to predict that Jan Zelezny’s world record of 98.48m could be under threat, few would have expected that Germany’s Johannes Vetter would have gone out to 94.44m on a cold evening in Luzern last month to move to second on the world all-time lists. 

And yet, is he even the favourite? His teammate - the Olympic champion Thomas Rohler - would argue otherwise after an outdoor season where they have shared some amazing duels. At the start of the season, Rohler went out to a since-beaten world-lead of 93.90m in the Doha Diamond League to defeat Vetter and he also had the beating of his teammate in Rome and in Monaco.

 

But the German Championships in Erfurt and Luzern saw the turn of the tide and with his mammoth fourth round throw in the latter event, it gave Vetter an advantage on the world lists heading into the World Championships. The pair have met ten times this season with Rohler edging the head-to-head 6-4. 

It might not be just between the two and it could be a German clean sweep with Andreas Hofmann third on the world lists with 88.79m. Four more European athletes have also surpassed the 88m line this year: Finland’s Tero Pitkamaki (88.27m), Poland’s Marcin Krukowski (88.09m), Czech Republic’s Jakub Vadlejch (88.02) and Greece’s Ioannis Kiriazis (88.01m).

Barbora Spotakova is another returning Olympic champion from 2012 and at the age of 36, the world record-holder has said this could be her last World Championships before retirement. Spotakova also claimed victory in the same arena at the London Diamond League last month where she narrowly defeated Olympic champion Sara Kolak from Croatia - some fourteen years her junior - 68.26m to 67.83m.