Sophie Hitchon strikes bronze to claim Britain’s first Olympic hammer medal

• Final throw sets GB record of 74.54m and puts 25-year-old on podium
• Poland’s Anita Wlodarczyk takes gold and extends her world mark

Sophie Hitchon was looking for people to celebrate with after she took bronze and became Britain’s first ever Olympic medallist in the hammer throw. “I don’t actually have any family here,” said Hitchon, who hurled herself on to the podium with her very final throw of 74.54m. “They’re all at home because they’ve got work and other commitments.”

It was a hammer final that will have pleased even the Norse gods. Anita Wlodarczyk, the undisputed Thor of the throwing world, has been unbeaten since 2014. She is a two-times world champion who has reset the world record six times and needed only the Olympic gold to complete her trophy cabinet after finishing with silver in 2012.

When Wlodarczyk passed the 80m mark in her second round, setting an Olympic record, she punched the air. On her very next throw, with the hammer still to reach its apex, she was jumping up and down, the first to realise that she had unleashed the kind of effort that inspires epic poetry. Her 82.29m beat her previous world record, set last year, by more than a metre.

Wlodarczyk competes wearing the glove used by Poland’s previous Olympic hammer champion, Kamila Skolimowska. It was given to her by Skolimowska’s father after the 2000 gold medallist died suddenly aged 26. She said afterwards she believed the record would remain for the next 20 years, “maybe more”. Certainly no other competitor could get within a car length of her here.

Britain, meanwhile, has not had an Olympic medal in a women’s throwing event since Fatima Whitbread took silver in the javelin in Seoul in 1988. But Hitchon has proved herself something special – a 25-year-old prodigy in a field where athletes normally do not mature until their 30s. She was disappointed with her fourth places in the world and European championships and was in fifth place here going into the final round after her 73.29 had been overtaken by Germany’s Betty Heidler and Moldova’s Zalina Marghieva.

Sophie Hitchon wins Olympic bronze in women’s hammer

“My fourth and fifth rounds were a little bit shaky,” said Hitchon. “I knew I wasn’t quite putting it together. I knew when I put it together it was going to go far and I kept believing that.” But as soon as the final throw left her hand, she was celebrating. “I turned around and my coach was like ‘Yeah!’ – and I know if he likes it, then it’s going far. But when it landed I was like, hmm, is it, is it? Because I thought I don’t want to look stupid now I’ve been cheering.”

There might have been another world record set in the women’s steeplechase, if Bahrain’s Ruth Jebet had thought to look at her time as she ran down the final straight. In tough conditions – the temperature was over 30C – the 19-year-old Jebet won her country’s first ever gold medal nearly 100m clear of Kenya’s Hyvin Jepkemoi in second. But a slight hitch as she took the final hurdle cost her the tenth of a second by which she missed Gulnara Galkina’s 2008 Olympic time. “This is the second time I missed the world record,” Jebet said afterwards. “I admit that it was too easy for me but nobody told me about the record. I wanted the gold medal.”

Earlier in the morning there had been good news for Britain’s sprinters as Dina Asher-Smith and Jodie Williams qualified for the women’s 200m semi-finals and Jack Green and Seb Rodgers made it through the heats of the men’s 400m hurdles – in Rodgers’s case, extremely fortuitously. He received a last-minute reprieve after finishing sixth in his heat, when a late disqualification enabled him to squeak through as the fastest loser. Thomas Barr, who qualified just ahead of Green in 10th place, became the first Irishman to make the semi-finals of the event since 1932 when Bob Tisdall won gold in Los Angeles.

Williams, third in her heat, finished with the faster time because Asher-Smith, the current European champion, took her foot off the gas in the final 100m of her heat. Blessing Okagbare passed her on the line but Asher-Smith – who in combining her athletics career with a history degree at King’s College London has shown she is a great time manager – said: she had run the race she had wanted.

“I was really, really happy,” said the 20-year-old. “When I came off the bend I wanted to be able to come out strong and put myself in a good position and then conserve my energy for the next round.”

The Cote d’Ivoire sprinter Marie Josée set the fastest time in qualifying after pipping the new 100m Olympic champion Elaine Thompson in her heat and setting a personal best of 22.31 in the process. The Dutch favourite Dafne Schippers, meanwhile, who had been disappointed with fifth place in the 100m, managed to make a time of 22.52 look leisurely in the first heat of the day. “I feel better than before,” said the reigning 200m world champion. “After the 100m it was not so good. But my body’s very good and I know I can run the 200m well.”


Emma John at the Olympic Stadium

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