Sunday, 09 August 2009

Women's Discus Throw - PREVIEW

Franka Dietzsch of Germany - third World Discus Throw title  (Getty Images)

Franka Dietzsch of Germany - third World Discus Throw title (Getty Images)

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    • Stephanie Brown Trafton throwing at the US Champs
    • Song Aimin of China
    A year ago, Stephanie Brown Trafton struck unlikely Olympic gold after barely making the US team for Beijing. This year the 29-year-old will arrive in the German capital as the world leader and a solid contender to become the first American woman to take a World title in the Discus.

    Although she hasn’t competed since late June, Brown Trafton does have victory momentum on her side, riding an eight meet win streak to the World championships, among them, her first national title. She leads the world with a 66.21m throw from late May, a career best, but has also produced her most consistent season. And she’ll come armed with four of the year’s 10 farthest throws; only China’s Aimin Song can boast more than one appearance in the top-10 at the moment, with two.

    Song, who was fourth in Beijing last summer, has won her four last competitions, all in Asia. Her season’s best of 64.83 came in early April, but she followed up with a pair of efforts beyond 63.91m. Seventh in 2003 and 10th in 2005, the 31-year-old is certainly a candidate for her first major international podium finish.

    The sentimental favourite will of course be defending champion Franka Dietzsch of Germany, who at 41, will be making a record 10th appearance at the World championships. In Osaka she who won her third World title - after wins in 1999 and 2005 - and will be gunning for a third straight. But with just a 62.50m season's best to her credit – in her last outing, she couldn’t manage to hit the 53m line - she's barely among the world's 20 best at the moment, signalling that her illustrious career might be reaching its end.

    More realistic German hopes lie with national champion Nadine Müller who has improved to 63.46m this season, just inside the world top-10.  The 23-year-old took European junior silver in 2003 and World junior bronze in 2004, and should be pleased with a spot in the final after failing to advance from the rounds in Osaka.

    No stranger to the World championships stage is 37-year-old Romanian champion Nicoleta Grasu, whose trophy collection includes three World medals - most recently bronze from Osaka two years ago - and a pair of European medals as well. Rounding into form on schedule, Grasu's 64.40m season's best came at the national championships on 1 August, her 14th competition of 2009.

    2004 Olympic champion Natalya Sadova, another 37-year-old, remains a threat on the world stage, witnessed by her 65.40m throw late last month to take the Russian title, the year's second farthest. The two-time World and twice European medallist also took a 62.89m win at the Znamenskiy Memorial in early July.

    Making the strongest case to unseat the veterans of the event is Cuban Yarelis Barrios. The 26-year-old has made each of her two previous global appearances count. In Osaka she collected World silver, and matched that achievement on the Olympic stage last year. Not quite at the level she was at a year ago, Barrios has nonetheless taken her share of wins this year, with her season's best of 63.45m in Uberlandia in late May enough to defeat Grasu.

    She'll be joined by a pair of strong teammates who on their best day could be podium contenders. 23-year-old Yarisley Collado has improved bymore than four metres this year, first to 63.86m and then again to 64.10m, to arrive in Berlin as No. 5 on the season's list. Meanwhile, Osaka finalist Yania Ferrales beat them both to the Central American and Caribbean title last month and could be a threat.

    Bob Ramsak for the IAAF