Japan’s Haruka Kitaguchi earned her first global women’s javelin title with a dramatic final flourish to match that of Yulimar Rojas in the earlier women’s triple jump at the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23.
The 25-year-old from Asahikawa, a world bronze medallist last year, moved up from fourth to top place with a last-round throw of 66.73m that was soon confirmed as a winning effort, sending her into a world of delight.
Until that supremely competitive response from the woman who leads this season’s world list with 67.04m, it seemed gold was destined for Colombia’s 32-year-old Flor Denis Ruiz Hurtado, who – just as Ukraine’s Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk had in the triple jump – produced a dominant opening effort of 65.47m, a South American record.
Having failed to reach the javelin final at her three previously contested World Championships in 2013, 2015 and 2017, Ruiz Hurtado finally got things very right in 2023. But the ultimate reward, still the best of her career, was silver.
Final-round drama also attended the winning of the bronze medal, as Australia’s Mackenzie Little earned that position with an effort of 63.38m, effectively displacing Latvia’s Anete Kocina to fourth place with a season’s best of 63.18m.
For Little’s compatriot Kelsey-Lee Barber, who had kept her chances of earning a third consecutive world title alive by claiming the 12th and last qualifying place, the required spark never came and she finished a resigned seventh with a best of 61.19m.
The final had begun in dramatic – and distressing – circumstances as Kathryn Mitchell, Australia’s 41-year-old 2018 Commonwealth champion, failed to start after reportedly pulling an adductor muscle in warm-up. A water bottle flung to the floor said something of her frustration as the reality sunk in.
Barber made no ripples with her opening effort of 55.82, but Kitaguchi warmed things up with the first throw over 60 metres, reaching 61.99m.
By the end of the first round, however, she was displaced at the top by Ruiz Hurtado’s area record, and despite improving to 61.99m in the second round she went one place further down as Austria’s Victoria Hudson recorded 62.14m.
A 63.00m effort in the third round moved her back into silver medal position, but she was still nearly two and a half metres adrift of the Colombian. And soon she was back down to bronze as Kocina perked up with her season’s best in the fourth round.
By this point, Kocina’s team-mate Lina Muze-Sirma, who had been top qualifier with 63.50m, had missed the cut, joining Mitchell in the clubhouse after managing only 54.25m, accompanied by South Africa’s Jo-Ane van Dyk and Ruiz Hurtado’s compatriot Maria Murillo, who had been overjoyed with a personal best of 62.72m in qualifying.
A very topsy-turvy final it was turning out to be, and there was more to come.
The defending champion’s resignation was swiftly followed by jubilation on the part of her compatriot, Little, who suddenly found her form and energy to reach the silver medal position.
Could Kitaguchi, now one place off the medals, force her way back on to the podium? Oh yes – she certainly could.
Ruiz Hurtado encouraged the crowd to applaud as she prepared for the final throw of the competition – but her effort fell at 60.97m and gold was Japan’s.
|WOMEN’S JAVELIN MEDALLISTS|
|🥇||Haruka Kitaguchi 🇯🇵 JPN||66.73m|
|🥈||Flor Denis Ruiz Hurtado 🇨🇴 COL||65.47m AR|
|🥉||Mackenzie Little 🇦🇺 AUS||63.38m|
Credit: World Athletics