By Mitch Phillips
BUDAPEST (Reuters) – It is not often – make that never – that the hammer throw is considered top of the bill at a major athletics event but this world championships is taking place in Hungary, where hurling a lump of iron 80 metres is held in the highest of esteem.
The promotional poster for the championships features a hammer thrower in action, while seven of the host nation’s 14 world medals have come in hammer, with Bence Halasz probably their best hope for a podium in Budapest.
The women’s event, however, has a decidedly north American feel after decades of domination by eastern Europe, Cuba and China.
Having never medalled in the first 10 editions after the hammer was added in 1999, DeAnna Price jumped straight in for the United States with gold in 2019 and Brooke Andersen repeated the deal last year, with Janee Kassanavoid taking bronze.
Six of the top seven in the world this year are American, with only Canada’s Eugene silver medallist Camryn Rogers spoiling the sweep.
Kassanavoid is hoping to move up a couple of steps this week and said she can’t wait to compete in front of a 30,000-crowd who won’t consider her event a mere distraction to what’s happening on the track.
“I’m excited and I want to put on a show. It’s super-important to come to a country that appreciates and respects hammer,” Kassanavoid told a news conference on Friday. “Flying into the airport and seeing women’s hammer front and centre was super-awesome and super-empowering.”
Kassanavoid also takes “empowerment” from her position as the first Native American to win a world championship medal, and became tearful when talking about what it meant to her.
“As a member of the Comanche people it says “we are still here today’, and our history is very sentimental to me,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that a lot of kids in the school system aren’t learning the traditional and correct history.
“Having this platform and this voice I want to share my journey and try to influence those around me and shine a light on the Native Nations.
“As much as I wear U.S.A. and what it means to be a United States citizen, being a Native American means a lot more and it just empowers me to have success in the sport.”
Andersen goes into the event as hot favourite to retain her title, her 80.17 throw back in May making her the only woman to reach the magic 80-metre mark this season and only the third ever to do it. She has won nine of her 10 events this year.
Price, who also went beyond 80 metres two years ago, and Rogers have both produced 78-metre throws, with Kassanavoid (76.60) and Jillian Shippee (74.93) maintaining the U.S. strength in depth.
Hoping to reclaim the title for Europe is Poland’s 38-year-old world record-holder Anita Wlodarczyk, who threw 82.98m in 2016. The four-times world champion and triple Olympic champion missed last year’s worlds after damaging a muscle chasing a thief who had tried to steal her car.
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Toby Davis)
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