Men's Shot Put:
Predicting a winner in this year’s shot put competition is difficult, due to the depth of the world’s talent. If history is any indicator, however, an American will win the silver medal. U.S. shot-putters have won the last seven Olympic men’s shot put silver medals, and have taken 20 silvers overall in the 26 Olympics in which the U.S. has competed. Reese Hoffa
, 2008 Olympic silver medalist Christian Cantwell and 2012 World Indoor champ Ryan Whiting all hope to take a step up and become the first American men’s shot put gold medalist since Randy Barnes won in 1996. Hoffa has been the world leader for most of the season, topping out with a toss of 22 meters (72 feet, 2 inches) to win the U.S. Trials. But Cantwell grabbed the world lead on July 7, with a throw measuring 22.31/73-2, and may be peaking at the right time. Other contenders include defending champion Tomasz Majewski of Poland, 2011 World champion David Storl of Germany, Daegu silver medalist Dylan Armstrong from Canada and Russia’s Maksim Sidorov.
Men's Discus Throw:
Robert Harting of Germany has been the world’s premier discus thrower during the past three years, and this season is no exception. The 2009 and 2011 World champion owns four of the year’s top eight throws, including a world-leading 70.66/231-9. He’ll also be motivated to improve on his fourth-place finish from Beijing in 2008. His key challengers should include 2008 Olympic gold medalist Gerd Kanter of Estonia, Beijing runner-up Piotr Malachowski from Poland, two-time Olympic champion Virgilijus Alekna of Lithuania – who’s enjoying his best season in four years – and Lawrence Okoye of Great Britain.
Men's Hammer Throw:
Hungary’s Krisztian Pars, the 2011 World Championship runner-up, has been the year’s most consistent hammer thrower, with four of the season’s top seven tosses. But Ivan Tsikhan of Belarus owns the world-leading throw of 82.81/271-8. The three-time World champion also has Olympic silver and bronze medals in his trophy case, the latter being reinstated in an arbitration hearing after he’d apparently failed a 2008 drug test. The two veterans should be challenged by Russia’s Kirill Ikonnikov and promising young Pole Pawel Fajkek.
Men's Javelin Throw:
Norway’s Andreas Thorkildsen
isn’t high on this year’s javelin charts – at least not by his standards – with a season’s best of 84.72/277-11. But he remains the two-time defending Olympic champion until someone can knock him off his pedestal. Among those with a chance to do so is Vitezslav Vesely of the Czech Republic, who threw a world-leading 88.11/289-1 in June. Other top challengers include Vadims Vasilevskis of Latvia, Stuart Farquhar of New Zealand, Ukraine’s Oleksandr Pyantnytsya, Faith Avan of Turkey and Ivan Zaytsev from Uzbekistan.
Women's Shot Put:
The two women who’ve dominated the shot put in recent years still remain the favorites entering the 2012 Olympics. Defending champion Valerie Adams – who still went by Valerie Vili when she triumphed in Beijing – is also the reigning outdoor and indoor World champion. She owns five of the season’s top 10 throws, including a 21.11/69-3 effort on July 17. The remainder of the top 10 throws belong to Nadzeya Ostapchuk of Belarus, including the year’s best three. Indeed, the day after Vili threw her season’s best, Ostapchuk unleashed a world-leading toss of 21.58/70-9. Ostapchuk, who earned a bronze in Beijing, hasn’t beaten Vili often in championship meets, but she has done it, including victories at the 2005 outdoor and 2010 indoor World Championships.
The rest of the shot put field is led by Russia’s Evgeniia Kolodko, Gong Liljao of China, American Jillian Camarena-Williams, Natallia Mikhnevich of Belarus and Nadine Kleinert of Germany.
Women's Discus Throw:
American champion Stephanie Brown Trafton
took the world by surprise when she earned the gold medal at the 2008 Olympics. She won’t be sneaking up on anyone this year as tries to defend her title in London, after throwing a personal best 67.74/222-2 in May. But she’ll have to overcome this year’s world leader, Russia’s Darya Pishchalnikova, who threw 70.69/231-11 on July 5 and owns three of the year’s top five throws. Other contenders include 2011 World Championship silver medalist Nadine Muller of Germany, Beijing runner-up Yarelios Barrios of Cuba, Croatia’s Sandra Perkovic and China’s Li Yanfeng.
Women's Hammer Throw:
As in the other three women’s throwing events, the 2008 Olympic hammer gold medalist is back to defend her title. Unlike the other three, however, Aksana Miankova of Belarus enters the Games as the 2012 world leader. Miankova threw 78.69/258-2 on July 18 and boasts three of the season’s top four efforts. Her key competitors include 2011 World champion Tatyana Lysenko, along with fellow Russians Gulfiya Khanafeyeva and Mariya Bespalova, Daegu runner-up Betty Heidler of Germany, World Championship bronze medalist Zhang Wenxiu of China, world record-holder Anita Wlodarcyzk of Poland, plus Alena Matoshka of Belarus and Cuban veteran Yipsi Moreno, a two-time Olympic silver medalist.
Women's Javelin Throw:
All of the Beijing javelin medalists will compete in London this year, but the slight favorite is the recently-improved Sunette Viljoen from South Africa, who began her ascent by taking a bronze medal in Daegu. Viljoen has enjoyed two memorable duels with defending Olympic champion and world record-holder Barbora Spotakova of the Czech Republic this season. Viljoen threw a world-leading 69.35/227-6 to beat Spotakova in New York in June, but Spotakova edged the South African in Rome in May. Other names to watch for include 2011 World champion and Beijing runner-up Maria Abakumova of Russia, 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Christina Obergfoll of Germany, plus Vira Rebryk from Ukraine, Slovenia’s Martina Ratej and Goldie Sayers of Great Britain.
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