Olympic hammer bronze medalist Sophie Hitchon began the season with a bang on Sunday.
The 25-year-old threw 73.97m at the Golden Grand Prix IAAF World Challenge Meeting in Kawasaki, Japan to claim second place behind the USA’s Gwen Berry, who won with 74.13m.
And that means Hitchon has secured qualification for the World Athletics Championships at the Olympic Stadium - now the London Stadium – in August.
With the qualifying standard of 71m to hit by July 23rd, Hitchon can now move forward with her planning, as she looks to add to her fourth place in Moscow at the last Worlds in 2015 in Beijing, when she finished with 73.86m.
After a foul in the first round in Japan, she threw a consistent series, getting on the board with 70.48m, before improving to 72.50.
She matched that effort in the third round, before going out to 73.04m and then 73.97m, before a foul in the final round.
Afterwards, she tweeted: “Pleased with my 2017 season opener. 73.97m, 2nd place and world champs qualification #hammerthrow”
She is now looking forward to competing at the European Team Championships in Lille on June 24th and 25th, and the British Championships and World Championships Team Trials at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham on July 1st and 2nd.
Hitchon will be fancied for a podium place again in London, especially given that one of her biggest rivals, Germany’s Betty Heidler - the 2007 World champion and former world record holder - retired after the Olympics.
Olympic gold medalist Anita W odarczyk of Poland, who won in Rio with a new world record, remains the one to beat, and Hitchon said earlier this year: “Betty has retired, and some of the other girls have been in the sport a long time. But you never know who will come up through the ranks, there is always one.
“I can only really do what I can do, and focus on that really. It’s about being the best I can be.
“We’ll see what Anita does this year, she’s 31, and you get to a point where you can’t train as much as you could when you were younger.
“For me, it’s a case of taking it year by year, and keep going.
“I think I’ve got a while yet -hopefully I’ve got a good few years in me.
“We didn’t change a lot from last year in terms of training, things are starting to come together.
“I would like a little more consistency, and it is about trying to get that rhythm.
“If I can get close to last year, that will be great.”