Sandra Perkovic will seek a record-breaking sixth successive discus title at the European Athletics Championships from 15-21 August, part of the wider multi-sport European Championships, when she moves into competitive action in Munich’s Olympic Stadium.
The 32-year-old Croatian, who also won back-to-back Olympic titles in 2012 and 2016, made history last month in Oregon as she became the first athlete in the women’s discus to win five world medals - starting at Moscow 2013, where she won the first of her two world titles.
In so doing, Perkovic earned sweet revenge over the American who took her Olympic women’s discus title last year, Valarie Allman, as she beat her to world silver in Eugene with a season’s best of 68.45m.
That was not quite enough to prevent China’s Bin Feng from earning a surprise win after adding more than three metres to her personal best with her first-round throw of 69.12m. Silver, however, clearly meant a huge amount to Perkovic and now she arrives in Munich with renewed vigour and confidence.
And if she is successful in the stadium constructed to host the Munich 1972 Olympic Games, she will further extend her record of most titles in the same event to six after becoming the first athlete in history to win five successive titles in Berlin 2018.
A sixth gold medal in Munich would also match the accomplishments of East German sprinter Marita Koch who has won an unmatched six gold medals at the European Athletics Championships - three in the 400m and three in the 4x400m relay - between Prague 1978 and Stuttgart 1986.
Among those most eager to deny Perkovic another crowning glory will be 22-year-old Dutch thrower Jorinde van Klinken, a top level discus thrower and shot putter. Currently based at Arizona State University, van Klinken last year became only the second European after Perkovic to surpass 70 metres this century when she threw 70.22m.
Since then there has been palpable frustration for this rising talent as she failed to reach the Olympic final and last month missed out on a world medal by one place despite throwing 64.97m. She will be out for a tangible reward in Munich.
Another strong challenge looks likely to come from Kristin Pudenz, who achieved the second best European mark of the season, a personal best of 67.10m, in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium at the German Championships two months ago.
Pudenz, who won Olympic silver last summer with what was then a personal best of 66.86m, will be part of a strong home challenge who will be looking to match - if not better - their achievements of four years ago where Nadine Muller and Shanice Craft won silver and bronze respectively behind an all-conquering Perkovic.
A serial bronze medallist in major championships, Craft is also part of the home triumvirate along with world fifth-placer Claudine Vita.
At 43, France’s Melina Robert-Michon is still a serious force and will be seeking to add to her list of accomplishments in her seventh European Athletics Championships which dates back to Budapest 1998 and also includes an appearance in Munich 2002 where she made her first major final.
She has thrown 62.61m this season and has a best of 66.73m dating back to the 2016 Olympic Games where she won silver behind who else but Perkovic.
Who will emerge from Wlodarczyk’s shadow in the hammer?
The absence of the incomparable world record-holder Anita Wlodarczyk, who has won the last four European titles having taken bronze in 2010, means the women’s hammer throw is more open than it has been in a decade.
Among those best placed to take advantage will be Wlodarczyk’s compatriot Malwina Kopron, who won bronze at the 2017 World Athletics Championships and at last year’s Olympic Games but surprisingly exited in qualifying at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon.
Kopron, 27, won bronze at the 2015 European U23 Championships but has yet to earn a medal at the senior event, having finished sixth in 2016 and fourth in Berlin four years ago. Can she atone for Oregon by reaching the rostrum for the first time in Munich?
The Pole, who has a best of 76.85m, has been in fine form this year, throwing 75.08m. But Italy’s Sara Fantini has gone even further with a personal best of 75.77m to head the 2022 European lists. Never before has an Italian won a title in a women’s throwing event at the European Athletics Championships.
Also bang in form are two Nordic throwers who have set personal bests this season - Finland’s Krista Tervo, who has recorded 74.40m, and Denmark’s Katrine Koch Jacobsen, who has improved from 71.09 to 74.09m in 2022.
France’s Alexandra Tavernier brings a wealth of experience to this competition having won world bronze in 2015 and European silver in Berlin four years ago. She has thrown 71.97m this year but has a best of 75.38m.
Others to watch out in this year’s European list are Azerbaijan’s Hanna Skydan (73.23m), Romania’s former world and European U20 champion Bianca Ghelber (73.15m) and Moldova’s Zalina Marghieva (72.62m).
Spotakova against the new guard for the javelin title
There is a similar dynamic to the women’s discus in the women’s javelin, where another double Olympic champion Barbora Spotakova - one of four athletes who also competed when Munich staged the 2002 edition of these championships - seeks a fourth European medal at the age of 41.
The Czech thrower won her only previous European title in 2014 to complete the Grand Slam of major javelin titles, having previously won silver in 2006 and bronze in 2010.
It is 14 years since Spotakova set her world record of 72.28m in Stuttgart, but a recently set season’s best of 62.29m puts her very much in the medal reckoning in an event sorely lacking a standout gold medal favourite.
Two of Spotakova’s principal rivals for the javelin title are more than 20 years her junior. Only 20, Greece’s reigning European U20 champion Elina Tzengko leads the European list with 65.40m while 18-year-old Adriana Vilagos will be a threat for senior gold if she can replicate the 63.52m she threw last week to regain her world U20 title in Cali, Colombia.
Other medal contenders include Croatia’s 2016 Olympic champion Sara Kolak and reigning European silver and bronze medallists Nikola Ogrodnikova from the Czech Republic and Lithuania’s Liveta Jasiuniaute.
Sadly for the hosts, reigning champion Christin Hussong has been ruled out of the championships due to illness.
In the women’s shot put, the chances look good for Auriol Dongmo to secure an outdoor gold following her victories in last year’s European Athletics Indoor Championships in Torun and this year’s World Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade where she set a massive national record of 20.43m.
The 32-year-old missed out on a medal by one place at last year’s Olympics and finished fifth in last month’s World Championships but there will be added eagerness to reach the podium this time around in Munich.
Dongmo has serious opposition in the form of in-form Dutch thrower Jessica Schilder, who took bronze behind Dongmo in Belgrade but won world bronze last month with a fifth-round national record of 19.77m.
The 23-year-old is clearly a rising force in the event along with her aforementioned compatriot van Klinken who threw a personal best of 19.08m indoors earlier this season.
Sweden’s Fanny Roos, European indoor silver medallist last year, set a personal best of 19.42m this year and will be another strong medal contender.
Meanwhile watch out for the home challenge of Sara Gambetta, who threw a personal best of 19.05m indoors this season; Katharina Maisch, who did likewise with 18.88m; and Julia Ritter, who also has a personal best to her credit this year of 18.60m.
The Munich 2022 European Athletics Championships will be streamed live in its entirety through the European Athletics website.