Day Five - Tuesday, October 1st

Winger Takes Fifth

By James O'Brien, reporting from Doha

This evening at the Khalifa Stadium in Doha, the NYAC was represented by Conor McCullough and Rudy Winkler in the men’s hammer throw qualifying rounds, and by Kara Winger in the final of the women’s javelin throw. With Deanna Price having already claimed gold in the women’s hammer, and with Michelle Carter still to compete and a favorite in the women’s shot put, it is accurate to state that the bar for throwing events at the Club is presently extremely high.

Even so, to advance from the qualifying rounds was always going to be a challenge for Winkler and McCullough given the standard of global hammer throwing. In order to claim a spot in the medal round, the NYAC men had to do one of two things: launch the hammer at least 76.50m/251’0” or place in the top 12 throwers from the combined results of the two flights of throwers. Sad to say, McCullough didn’t make the cut, reaching 74.88m/245’8”, which left him in 14th place overall. Winkler fared better. Flirting with advancing through the first two rounds, when he hovered in 11th position, on his final attempt, he launched the hammer out to 77.06m/252’10”, an automatic qualifier that moved him into fourth place and a slot on the card for tomorrow’s final.

The true pressure today was on Winger, the Pan Am Games champion. After qualifying for the final via yesterday’s qualifying rounds, she was asked what her plans were for today: “To have fun,” she responded. Always a good strategy, but one that she would have to spice with some competitive fire given the caliber of throwers she would face.

China’s Lyu Huihui had not been beaten since April, when her compatriot Liu Shiying rose to the challenge. Since then, Lyu scored 12 straight competitive victories while logging a world-leading throw of 67.98m/223’0”. But the Chinese woman could not count her chickens; 13 other women in the field had thrown in excess of 67m/219’10”, including world record holder (72.28m/237’2”) Barbara Spotakova from the Czech Republic who came to Doha in search of her fourth world title (she previously won in Osaka in 2007, Daegu in 2011, and London in 2017). Australia’s Kelsey-Lee Barber (67.70m/222’1” this year, second in the world) was also in the field, as was Olympic champion Sara Kolak from Croatia. All of which was to say that Winger would be facing a field of seriously serious competitors.

From the outset, Lyu indicated just how serious, reaching 64.93m/213’0” on her first attempt, a mark that she improved on her second to 65.06m/213’5”. Even so, at the end of the first three throws, the Chinese woman held a single centimeter advantage over Christin Hussong, Germany’s European champion. Winger was safe, though, having reached 62.88m/206’3” on her third attempt, installing her in fifth position, one of the leading eight to earn an additional three throws.

At this stage, nothing is predetermined, and the stakes become one notch higher. On her fourth attempt, Winger fouled, and her place in the order remained unchanged. Her fifth touched ground at 63.23m/207’5”, her best thus far, but it was insufficient to move her position in the order. As was her sixth and last attempt of 62.40m/204’9”. Australia’s Kelsey-Lee Barber stole the gold medal from the two Chinese women on her last throw of the competition. Winger, let it be clearly stated, was fifth in the world. Say it twice. A wonderful result.

Let’s review:

Roberta Groner, 6th, women’s marathon
Deanna Price, 1st, women’s hammer throw
Will Claye, 2nd, men’s triple jump
Kara Winger, 5th, women’s javelin

World’s greatest athletic club? Say that twice, too. And tomorrow, among other NYAC action, we see Olympic champion, Michelle Carter, enter the fray in the women’s shot put. We may feel justified in keeping our hopes high.

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