The competitive road to potential third Olympic titles in Tokyo later this summer will begin in earnest at the European Throwing Cup in Split, Croatia on 8-9 May for both Poland’s Anita Wlodarczyk and Barbora Spotakova from the Czech Republic.
Both days of the European Throwing Cup will be streamed live on the European Athletics website and European Athletics YouTube channel without restrictions from 10.00am CEST and with English-language commentary. The final entries for the European Throwing Cup can be found here. The timetable can also be found here.
Wlodarczyk is unquestionably the most dominant female hammer thrower in history and the many times global champion and world record-holder is seeking to add even more lustre to her unparalleld career by becoming just the second athlete in history - male or female - to win three Olympic hammer titles later this season.
The Pole has been out of action since June 2019 after undergoing knee surgery but Wlodarczyk made her competitive return to the throwing circle in a low-key competition at her training base in Antalya, Turkey at the start of the month. In her first competition in 685 days, Wlodarczyk launched the hammer out to a respectable 73.87m.
But a sterner challenge awaits Wlodarczyk in Split where she faces a line-up including France’s Alexandra Tavernier who will have aspirations of succeeding the venerable Pole as Olympic champion in Tokyo. Tavernier has already extended her French record to 75.38m this season which is in excess of the event record held by Wlodarczyk at 75.05m.
It seems appropriate that Wlodarczyk should begin the final chapter of her competitive career at the European Throwing Cup as the Pole emerged at the very same event - and at the very same venue - in 2008 with a surprise victory over world champion Betty Heidler from Germany. Wlodarczyk won again the following year when she set her still-standing event record.
The hammer line-up also features Belarus’ Hanna Malyshik, who won the 2019 edition of the European Throwing Cup in Samorin, and Wlodarczyk’s compatriot Malwina Kopron who won a bronze medal behind her at the 2017 World Athletics Championships in London.
The women’s javelin is arguably the strongest event of the weekend which brings together the last three European javelin champions: Christin Hussong from Germany, Tatsiana Khaladovich from Belarus and Barbora Spotakova from the Czech Republic.
Like Wlodarczyk, Spotakova - who turns 40 next month - is looking to win her third Olympic javelin title next month after back-to-back titles in 2008 and 2012 before a bronze in 2016. If she succeeds, she would emulate the achievements of her compatriot and former coach Jan Zelezny and she would also become the oldest female Olympic champion in athletics history.
Spotakova competed sparingly last summer but the world record-holder demonstrated she will still be a factor on the global stage after producing her first 65 metre-plus throw in three years with 65.19m in Ostrava.
While Spotakova seldom competes at the European Throwing Cup - her first and only appearance dates back to 2005 - Khaladovich and Hussong will be picking up their rivalry from the 2019 European Throwing Cup. On a cold March afternoon albeit with favourable wind conditions in Samorin, Khaladovich threw 65.89m to defeat Hussong’s best mark of 65.47m.
The line-up also features three more women with lifetime bests over the 67 metre-line, including Poland’s Olympic fourth-placer Maria Andrejczyk from Poland (67.11m), Turkey’s Eda Tugsuz (67.21m) and Hanna Hatsko from Ukraine (67.29m).
Also watch out for Austria’s Victoria Hudson who leads the European list with a recently set national record of 64.68m and world U20 record-holder Elina Tzenggo from Greece, the youngster of the field at 18.
With reigning Olympic and European champion Sandra Perkovic absent, domestic hopes will be largely shouldered by reigning European U23 champion Marija Tolj in the discus.
Tolj won the U23 division in Samorin two years ago and while she is eligible to defend that title in Split, the 21-year-old has opted to step up to the senior division having recently extended her lifetime best to 63.39m.
Two of the standout names in the line-up are Portuguese record-holder Liliana Ca who leads the European list with 66.40m and the very experienced German Shanice Craft, a three-time European bronze medallist who also won gold at the 2019 European Throwing Cup.
The Germans should also feature prominently in the women’s shot put courtesy of their duo of Sara Gambetta and Katharina Maisch. The line-up also includes European outdoor bronze medallist Aliona Dubitskaya from Belarus and European indoor finalist Maria Belen Toimil from Spain who smashed the national record in qualifying with 18.64m.