Wlodarczyk in a class of her own as London basks in her brilliance

Anita Wlodarczyk at the IAAF World Championships London 2017
European Athletics

Anita Wlodarczyk at the IAAF World Championships London 2017

At the end, Anita Wlodarczyk thanked the crowd for their support but it was the 55,000 people inside the London Stadium who were probably the lucky privileged ones.

They had just witnessed one of the great stars of contemporary athletics produce one of the greatest performances of her career, just when it seemed the IAAF World Championships London 2017 could be heading for a mighty shock.

What a way for her to celebrate her birthday. Wlodarczyk is 32 today on 8 August, and her present is draped with gold.

But rarely in the past few years has Poland’s prolific world record hammer thrower found herself in seventh in a competition, let alone a major final, the focal point of a whole season, as she did on Monday night.

Her first three throws read like this: 70.45m, x and 71.94m.

Wlodarczyk could not find her rhythm, she could not find her distance, she could not find the magic touch which has made her the only woman to have ever broken 80 metres, a double Olympic champion and two-times world champion seeking the title again.

Anita Wlodarczyk at the IAAF World Championships London 2017
Anita Wlodarczyk at the IAAF World Championships London 2017

But we should have known better.

Round four saw her twist and execute with the rhythm and venom the sport has come to expect.

Her implement landed at 77.39m. By her exalted standards, the distance was nothing too special, but on this occasion it was possibly the most special throw of a season in which she leads the world lists with 82.87m.

It was, literally and metaphorically, a hammer blow to the rest of the field.

In round five, she extended that advantage to 77.90m and nobody else had anything left to respond with as China’s Rio 2016 Olympic Games silver medallist Zheng Wang again had to settle for finishing second behind the dominant Pole with 75.98m and Wlodarczyk’s and teammate Malwina Kopron finished third with 74.76m, the biggest success of the latter’s career.

Wlodarczyk’s winning mark was her sixth best throw of 2017 in terms of distance but it was the 77.39m which defined why she is such a formidable force.

Anita Wlodarczyk at the IAAF World Championships London 2017
Anita Wlodarczyk at the IAAF World Championships London 2017

She was worth the entrance fee alone.

Here was a study of a champion not entirely at her best, a champion who was favourite at staggering odds of 1/40 with some London bookmakers, the athlete that more than any other among the 2000 competing in London who was expected to win gold.

It is some pressure to carry, let alone with the added 4kg weight of the hammer itself.

Despite her poor opening three attempts, Wlodarczyk stayed cool, she stayed composed, she walked around the waiting area just to get her mind right and she entered the cage for round four like it was just another day at an office she knows only too well.

From the moment she launched it, the device had an extra zip to it. Her mind and her technique had worked as one and now she was a triple world champion.


Thanking the crowd was her instant reaction when she was interviewed trackside after her success and the spectators were in her thoughts again later when she reflected on her glory.

“I am used to starting as a favourite and I did not want to disappoint the fans,” reflected Wlodarczyk. “I know there were many of them in the crowd and that was very supporting.

“There were a couple of serious technical problems in the final. I injured my finger during my first training session in London and it was quite painful and I started to have cramps tonight. I was just a bit nervous because of the injury. But I am the world champion and that is the most important thing.”

She is also the triple European champion and in a year’s time she will be chasing her fourth successive crown in that competition in Berlin 2018, when the European Athletics Championships will be part of the first multi-sport European Championships along with co-hosts Glasgow.

Next summer potentially brings a glorious symmetry to her story.

It was in the German capital, at the 2009 world championships there, where Wlodarczyk won her first major senior title and nine years on, she will want to return to show once more what a supreme performer she really is.