Anita Wlodarczyk won her first major title at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin and the Pole’s most recent major triumph came in the same throwing circle at the 2018 European Championships in Berlin.
Wlodarczyk broke the world record for the first time with 77.96m to win her first of four world hammer titles in 2009 although her competition ended on a rather unfortunate note which also forced Wlodarczyk to prematurely end her season.
After the distance flashed up on the scoreboard, Wlodarczyk exuberantly celebrated her feat but the Pole badly twisted her ankle while running towards her coach on the sidelines. While she had put herself in a very fortuitous position, Wlodarczyk was forced to watch the remainder of the competition with her ankle bandaged and heavily iced.
Fast forward nine years later and Wlodarczyk broke yet another record in Berlin’s iconic Olympic Stadium but successfully avoided causing any undue damage to her ankle this time.
Wlodarczyk was considered one of the most failsafe favourites of Berlin 2018 and the irrepressible Pole lived up to that mantle by winning gold in the hammer for the fourth successive time, breaking her championship record in the fourth round with a mark of 78.94m. Her previous championship record stood at 78.76m from Zurich 2014 when she was in the midst of a 42 competition win streak.
As a mark of Wlodarczyk’s unbridled dominance in Berlin, the Pole won the title from France’s Alexandra Tavernier by more than four-and-a-half metres. Wlodarczyk’s first throw landed short of the 70 metre-line but her next five throws - 76.50m, 77.82m, 78.94m, 78.55m, 77.71m - all would have won gold by a margin of at least two metres.
“I have nice memories of this stadium and the support of the fans was just amazing. I had to fight till the end. But I come out of this competition with a smile on my face,” said Wlodarczyk who won Poland’s seventh gold medal of the championships in front of a sizeable Polish contingent who had made the short trip across the border to Berlin.
Wlodarczyk might not necessarily receive the plaudits she deserves globally but very few athletes can boast a medal cabinet replete with quite so many significant accolades in one event.
As well as winning four world and European hammer titles, Wlodarczyk has also won a pair of Olympic titles. She set a world record of 82.29m in 2016 and was promoted to gold in London 2012 after Russia’s Tatyana Beloborodova was retroactively disqualified after failing a retest.
The 35-year-old still harbours aspirations of becoming just the second athlete in history - and the first since 1908 - to win three successive Olympic hammer titles and she might consider the postponement of Tokyo 2020 as a blessing.
Wlodarczyk has undergone knee surgery and without any major international competitions on the horizon, the Pole has chosen to focus on her rehabilitation rather than rushing back into the throwing circle.
Like so many athletes around the globe, the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic has also made Wlodarczyk reconsider her future as well. Her initial plan was to draw her illustrious career to a close at the end of 2020 with a third Olympic title for posterity but having missed almost two full seasons due to surgery and the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, there is a fair chance we could see Wlodarczyk contend for a fifth gold medal at the Munich 2022 European Athletics Championships.
“Two years ago I planned to finish after Tokyo. Then I underwent surgery so I decided that I would fight until 2021, maybe 2022. This is my plan, and we'll see what comes out of it,” she said.