AFTER DOMINATING THE early season with 4 of the world’s top 8 meet performances for the year, Haruka Kitaguchi entered the competition favored to win. The 25-year-old Japanese had set her sights early: “This year, coming to Hungary my goal was a medal and even higher — I wanted the gold.” She achieved it with a final-round 218-11 (66.73).
The qualifying round two days earlier saw 4 of the top-10 charted athletes fall by the wayside, including #3 Tori Peeters of New Zealand, the first non-qualifier, with a best of 195-6 (59.59). Both Americans, Maggie Malone and Ariana Ince, also fell short, Malone 18th at 189-9 (57.85) and Ince 27th at 179-1 (54.60).
The final, contested with temperatures in the mid-80s, cooler than most of the week’s evening events, was held without any semblance of breeze in the enclosed stadium.
Austria’s Victoria Hudson led off the first round with a 193-10 (59.08), supplanted as the leading mark two throwers later when Australian Mackenzie Little reached 196-8 (59.95). Kitaguchi, throwing seventh, became the first thrower over 60m, reaching 202-8 (61.78) for the early lead. But it didn’t last long as Colombian left-hander Flor Dennis Ruiz followed with a South American Record 214-9 (65.47). Shiying Liu then reached 202-3 (61.66), and was 3rd after round 1, with #2 rated Little now in 4th.
Hudson started round 2, lofting the spear 203-10 (62.14) to stake her medal claim and moving into 2nd. Kitaguchi, now 3rd, improved to 203-4 (61.99), but remained 3rd. Ruiz backed up her leading mark with a 204-10 (62.45).
Little reached 60m for the first time in round 3, her 201-5 (61.41) moving her into 5th. Kitaguchi, throwing a perfect arc just slightly to the right of the sector’s middle, reached 206-8 (63.00) to move up a spot into 2nd. Ruiz remained consistent, her javelin landing at 206-4 (62.89).
With the order shuffled for round 4, Kelsey-Lee Barber led off. The Australian 2-time defending world champion, in 8th at 195-0 (59.44), was still off track and did not improve. Latvia’s Anete Kociņa did, however, reaching a season-best 207-3 (63.18), leapfrogging from 7th to 2nd. Hudson, now 4th, improved her mark but not her place, throwing 206-5 (62.92).
In round 5, Barber finally passed the 60-meter line, hitting 200-9 (61.19). Little improved to 202-3 (61.66), equaling Liu’s best…