There has been a recent development.
Just last week, China’s Lijiao Gong…
…cracked the 20-meter barrier for the first time this season. Her 20.11m put in Bohmenkirch, Germany vaulted her into the world lead by a substantial margin over Raven Saunders, whose 19.76m blast at the USA Championships in June announced her as a serious gold medal candidate.
After finishing a disappointing fourth in Rio with a 19.39m toss (she had thrown 20.22m to take silver at the London Games) Gong appears to be in excellent trim as she seeks a fourth outdoor World Championships medal.
Standing in her way is a formidable female foursome.
The aforementioned Saunders has been something of a riddle during this long collegiate indoor into collegiate outdoor into World Championships season.
She won the NCAA Indoor meet with a massive 19.56m effort, then sank to 4th at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Buried in fifth place as she stepped in for her final throw at the USA Championships, she detonated that 19.76m bomb. (You can read more about that incendiary moment here: http://mcthrows.com/?p=1820)
The question is, which Raven will show up in London? The confident butt-whipper who PR’d in Rio and came up big in Sacramento, or the foul prone, sulking Raven who could not find her bearings in Eugene?
And how about Dani Bunch?
She is exhibit A for those who argue the superiority of the rotational technique. Certainly, her switch to the spin (detailed here: http://mcthrows.com/?p=1829 ) has paid off. She went from a really good Big 10 shot putter as a glider to one of the top throwers in the world as a spinner.
The question is, will her technique hold up under the pressure of her first really, really, I mean really big meet?
And what of the most decorated female rotational thrower of the past few years, the Hungarian Anita Marton?
She was fourth in the Beijing Worlds. Second at last year’s Indoor Worlds in Portland. Third in Rio with a 19.87m PR.
With that track record in major competitions, there is no question about Anita keeping her stuff together in London.
Her best throw this year is 19.63m, but it came on April 30th. Has she slipped a bit since last year, or has she simply been biding her time all summer, waiting to shine on the big stage as she did in Rio?
And let’s not forget the defending Olympic and Indoor World champion Michelle Carter.
Her best this year is the 19.34m that got her third in Sacramento. That’s more than a meter less than her gold-medal-winning toss in Rio, but considering that she won her World Indoor and Olympic titles with titanic sixth round chucks, there will be no such thing as a safe lead in London until she’s had her say.
Aside from these five, I see no one who has a reasonable chance at getting on the podium. So, it is time for some predictions.
Reason: Even after Gong’s recent twenty-meter toss, Trofimuk has not lost faith in Carter’s ability to rise to any occasion. She is, according to him, “Much in the clutch.”
Reason: Trofimuk’s gut tells him that Marton is ready to go big, and he suspects that Raven’s loooong season will make it tough for her to rise to the occasion.
Reason: If the women’s shot consisted only of Gong versus Saunders, it would still be enough to set this man’s heart aflutter. The world’s best glider against the world’s best spinner. China against the United States. Monolithic communism against Coach John Smith.
Forget NBC Gold, this match-up should be available only on pay-per-view.
And if I were NBC, I’d arrange a bunch of Mayweather v. McGregor style press conferences with lots of posturing and Mandarin cuss words.
Anyway, as much as I love the pure, sometimes malevolent energy that Raven has brought to the sport, I’m giving the nod to Gong based on her extensive international experience.
Either way, don’t miss it.
Reason: From a fan’s point of view, the great thing about Raven is that every time she enters the ring, it is possible that something amazing might happen. She might foul a huge throw then go headbutt Coach Smith, then get back in the ring and throw 20 meters. It’s like watching Nascar. You don’t want to see somebody get into a huge wreck, but the fact that it might happen really keeps your attention.
I’m guessing that Raven will avoid a ten-car pileup in London, but if Gong is as fit as she appears, it will be hard to match her consistency.
Reason: God knows I love and respect Michelle Carter. She has personally made the United States a dominant force in women’s shot putting. But it might take 19.70m to medal in London, and based on the year she’s had, I just don’t see her getting there.
Same for Dani. She has had an amazing year, and on a given day she can outgun Marton (as she did at the Shanghai DL meeting) but when it comes to the Olympics and World Championships, experience can make a big difference.