Sandra Perkovic reacts during the Discus final at the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Berlin (© Getty Images)
Few events in Moscow will have such a clear favourite as the women’s Discus, with many expecting Sandra Perkovic to add the World title to the Olympic crown she took in London last year.
Perkovic boasts a flawless eight-from-eight record this season, and wins at six IAAF Diamond League meetings this year mark the Croatian out as a formidable competitor.
To further underline her tag as favourite, she also boasts the four longest throws in the world this year, with a world-leading distance of 68.96m, and her unbeaten streak stretches back to July last year.
With two European titles also under her belt and still aged only 23, the World crown remains the one major title missing from her hugely impressive CV.
Cuba’s experienced Yarelys Barrios heads the chasing pack of contenders, seeking to become the first woman in history to bank four successive World Championship medals in this event. The 30-year-old snared successive silvers in 2007 and 2009 before winning bronze at the Daegu edition two years ago.
Barrios, also the 2012 Olympic bronze medallist, knows what it takes to make the podium and with a season’s best of 67.36m, and yet to finish outside of the first two at any meeting this season, she will clearly be a factor.
Her compatriot Yaimi Perez is another thrower who should be in the mix. The 2010 World Junior champion from Cuba set an impressive personal best mark of 66.01m and has been a competitive force on the European circuit
Germany has a rich tradition in the Discus and leading their challenge in Moscow will be the 2011 World Championships silver medallist Nadine Muller. The 1.92m tall thrower boasts a season’s best of 66.69m in Castellon, Spain, back in March but has been slightly under-par more recently, placing just sixth at the Birmingham and Monaco legs of the Diamond League.
Also on the German team is 2011 European under-23 champion Julia Fischer, who set a lifetime best of 66.04m in Wiesbaden in May.
China’s Li Yanfeng, the 2011 World champion, has since retired but her countrywomen will have strong presence in Russia.
At her best 20-year-old Siyu Gu could be a contender. She threw a personal best of 67.86m in Wiesbaden in May to place her second on the 2013 world lists but she has since struggled to back up that performance.
Jian Tan, sixth at the 2011 World Championships, has a season’s best of 64.08m and could also play a part.
The USA has never won a medal in this event at a World Championships but Gia Lewis-Smallwood will hope to end that run. The 34-year-old approached her lifetime best performance with 65.13m to land her national title in June.
Other throwers to watch out for include Australia’s Dani Samuels, the 2009 World champion. Since her gold medal-winning success in Berlin, Samuels has struggled through injury. However, a season’s best effort of 64.46m in Sydney – her longest throw for three years – suggests she is in better form.
Lithuania’s Zinaida Sendruite set a personal best of 65.97m on home soil in Kaunas this season and, with top-three finishes in Rome and Lausanne, she is another who could figure. Leading the home challenge is Russian champion Ekaterina Strokova, who has thrown 63.80m, and she is supported by the World University Games gold medallist Vera Karmishina-Ganeeva, who has reached 64.30m this year.
Also entered is 41-year-old veteran Nicoleta Grasu, who is set to make her ninth World Championships appearance. The Romanian is a four-time World Championships medallist (silver 2001 and bronze 1999, 2007 and 2009) and this season has a best performance of 59.60m.
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Steve Landells for the IAAF