By Christian Radnedge
LONDON (Reuters) - Poland's Anita Wlodarczyk destroyed the opposition to win a third hammer throw world title despite suffering from a broken finger and cramps at the World Championships on Monday.
The 31-year-old had been the one to beat going into the competition. With two Olympic titles to her name, the world record holder has not been beaten since early 2014.
After a slow start, she took the lead on her fourth throw at the London Stadium, with a 77.39 meters effort, and wrapped up the gold with 77.90.
After the event Wlodarczyk revealed that she had broken her finger in training, proving her credentials even more as one of the greatest hammer competitors ever.
"This was not the performance I expected tonight but come on, I am the world champion and that is the most important thing now... I expected to throw 80 meters or even a world record attack. But now I am happy for gold," she said.
"There were a couple of serious technical problems in the final. First of all, I injured my finger during the first training session in London and it was quite painful.
"And I started to have cramps tonight. So it was not easy and I am very angry about myself."
Wlodarczyk had numerous supporters draped in Polish flags watching from the stands. But she also had support of a different kind, as she was throwing with the hammer glove used by her mentor and great friend Kamila Skolimowska.
Skolimowska, the Sydney 2000 Olympic champion, died of a pulmonary embolism in 2009 at the age of 26.
Even with Wlodarczyk's problems, the closest challenge to her crown was from China’s Zheng Wang, who won her first world medal by throwing 75.98 to claim silver.
Wlodarczyk may have shown that she can still dominate for years to come. But if she does decide to hang up her glove, the future of Polish hammer throwing looks promising as compatriot Malwina Kopron claimed the bronze medal.
Despite three no-throws in the final, the 22-year-old's first attempt of 74.76 was enough to secure a medal, a best senior finish which almost moved the Pole to tears.
"After the first attempt, I could not believe that it would secure me a medal. I was like: 'Come on, send it even further in the second and third.' In training, I was throwing very far, much further than here," she said.
"But in the end, I was lucky and I will leave London with my first big medal. I felt like crying at the end of the competition."
(Story refiles to fix typo in byline.)
(Reporting by Christian Radnedge; Editing by Ossian Shine and Ken Ferris)