Kelsey-Lee Barber in the javelin at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 (© Getty Images)
In a year when Sally Pearson announced her retirement, Australia may have found its new golden girl in Kelsey-Lee Barber.
Following silver medals from Joanna Stone in 1997 and Kim Mickle in 2013, Barber finally won Australia’s first world javelin title, going from fourth to first with her final throw of the competition.
The Commonwealth silver medallist had only just made the final after finishing 10th in the qualifying round, but in the final she produced her best when it mattered most.
China’s world leader Lyu Huihui opened with 64.93m to take the lead. Teammate Liu Shiying – the only woman to beat Lyu this year – followed with 64.81m while Barber went into third with her opening effort of 62.95m.
Lyu extended her leading throw to 65.06m in the second round. With the very next effort, Germany’s European champion Christin Hussong sent her spear out to what looked to be an identical distance, but it came up just one centimetre short – 65.05m. Olympic champion Sara Kolak, meanwhile, moved into fifth place with her second-round effort of 62.22m.
Lyu consolidated her series in the third round with 65.00m, while Liu added a centimetre to her best with 64.82m. USA’s Kara Winger crept closer to a medal position with 62.88m and 2016 European champion Tatsiana Khaladovich managed to escape the mid-way cut with a 62.54m heave.
Double Olympic champion and three-time world champion Barbora Spotakova wasn’t so lucky, however. The 38-year-old was one of three Czech athletes to miss out on the final three rounds as she finished ninth with a best of 59.87m. Compatriots Nikola Ogrodnikova and Irena Sediva were 10th and 12th respectively.
No significant changes happened in round four, but in the following round Liu sent her spear out to 65.88m to dislodge compatriot Lyu as the leader. Lyu responded with her best throw of the night, 65.49m, but it wasn’t enough to regain the lead.
Earlier that round, Barber and Winger had extended their best marks of the night so far to 63.65m and 63.23m respectively but still trailed the medal positions.
In the final round, though, Barber unleashed the best mark of the night with 66.56m. As the measurement came up on the score board, the 28-year-old jumped in the air in celebration but quickly regained her composure as three more women had yet to take their final throw.
Hussong sent her javelin beyond the 65-metre line again, but only just. Her 65.21m effort was her best of the night, but just not quite enough for a medal. Lyu and Liu were unable to improve on their positions, ending their series with respective marks of 62.61m and 65.75m.
Barber could breathe a sigh of relief and set off on a lap of honour.
“I was nervous yesterday as I waited for the second qualifying group to see if I got through,” said Barber. “But today is a new day and a clean slate and you have to throw big if you want to be the best. These girls brought the best out of me.”
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF