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If your only experience with the hammer throw is visions of Miss Trunchbull tossing fictional school children in the popular children's book and movie "Matilda," it can be surprising to see just how wild and impressive this spectacular event is in action.
Combining strength, balance, incredible core strength, and flawless timing, the raw centrifugal power of this 500-year-old event is enough to make a physicist's head spin and an absolute treat for those of us who were too busy running laps to see it in person during our high-school track days.
For best effect, watch a throw in slow motion. Hammer throwers tend to carry a "farmer strong" kind of physique—jacked but looking like they could help you move out of a fourth-story apartment and make a few beers disappear afterward. They also tend to roar dramatically after a throw. The combo makes for good watching, as this training throw from Norway's competitor Eivind Henriksen shows.
On the men's side, USA's Rudy Winkler earned his spot in the finals just before Poland's Wojciech Nowicki threw just shy of the 80-meter mark to jump to the head of the pack. You can watch the video here.
Nowicki's teammate Paweł Fajdek was the favorite coming into the qualifying rounds, but it was Nowicki who captured the gold with a personal best 82.52-meter toss, followed by Norway's Henriksen, who threw 81.58 meters for the silver. Fajdek took bronze with a final throw of 81.53 meters.
The ladies were equally impressive. Two-time defending Olympic champ Anita Wlodarczyk rules the roost in this sport and held the women's world record going into the qualifiers, a whopping 82.98 meters and nearly 10 meters farther than the automatic-qualifying distance of 73 meters. Wlodarczyk easily secured her spot in the final round.
USA's DeAnna Price and Gwen Berry made it to the finals as potential challengers, but in the end, Wlodarczyk earned her third consecutive gold medal—the first time a woman has taken gold in an event in three consecutive Olympics—with a toss of 78.48 meters. She told reporters she had dreamt of "becoming the queen of the hammer throw" after coming back from a recent injury. At age 35, she has earned her crown.