Gold medal for Tatyana Lysenko of Russia in the women's hammer throw final (© Getty Images)
Tatyana Lysenko was 16 when she first picked up the hammer. More specifically, she was picked for the hammer.
"It was coach Nikolai Beloborodov who found me and taught me the hammer ," Lysenko said. "That was his idea, not mine, to become a hammer thrower. And now I like it and I'm very thankful to him that he started this journey."
It's been an adventure with its share of bumps in the road, but reached a high point on Sunday night when the 27-year-old Lysenko won her first gold medal and second overall at the IAAF World Championships with a throw of 77.13m.
Just as Koji Murofushi did in winning the men's gold six days ago, Lysenko uncorked consecutive season-bests on her first three throws. Any of the three (her first two were 76.80m and 77.09m) would have been enough to win the competition as newly minted world record-holder Betty Heidler never mounted a challenge and took the silver at 76.06m.
"I did not think that [77.13m] would be enough to win today," Lysenko said. "I thought 77 metros would for sure be enough for a medal, but not enough for the win."
Lysenko said she felt unease during each round, wondering how long her mark would remain on top.
"I was expecting not only from Betty Heidler, but also [bronze medalist] Zhang [Wenxiu] and Yipsi Moreno and Anita Wlodarczyk because they can throw very far," she said. "So I was not sure until the sixth round what will happen."
Lysenko, a former World record-holder, came into the competition with a best this year of 75.70m, off her career best of 77.80m that she threw in 2006 and which currently stands as third on the all-time list. She needed just one throw of 71.94m to get through the qualifying round.
"Everything went well," she said. "I was ready for a kind of battle and I was expecting good results."
Under Beloborodov's tutelage, Lysenko showed her potential by finishing fifth at both the European under-23 championships and world student games in 2003. She made it to the 2004 Athens Olympics, but failed to qualify for the final.
The next year, things took off as she won a bronze medal at the 2005 World championships in Helsinki, which she followed up with victories in 2006 at the European Cup and European championship and a second place at the World Cup.
Putting the disappointment of Berlin behind her, Lysenko won the IAAF/VTB Bank Continental Cup in 2010 and finished second to Heidler at the European championships.
Now that she has a World title, Lysenko said she would renew a quest for the World record, which Heidler set at 79.42 in Halle on 21 May.
"I will try for the World record and work on that," Lysenko said, adding, "The record is now very far."
Being back in competition has given Lysenko renewed incentive to perform well.
"It was just my desire to throw that helped to produce this," she said of her victory at Daegu Stadium. "This is the World championships and naturally I wanted to have my season best here and I managed to do it."
Ken Marantz for the IAAF