Tokyo Olympics: Julia Ratcliffe qualifies for hammer throw final, but Lauren Bruce misses out

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Julia Ratcliffe qualified for the women's hammer throw final at the Tokyo Olympics with an excellent first-up throw.

Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Julia Ratcliffe qualified for the women’s hammer throw final at the Tokyo Olympics with an excellent first-up throw.

A cool, calm and collected Julia Ratcliffe has qualified for the final of the women’s hammer throw at the Tokyo Olympics – but Kiwi compatriot Lauren Bruce failed to make the cut for Tuesday’s medal event.

Ratcliffe produced in the big moment after an outstanding first throw of 72.30 metres that was just 30cm shy of the automatic mark. It was enough to see her progress as the sixth best qualifier overall, with only five throwers hitting the automatic mark over the two qualifying groups.

The 28-year-old Hamilton athlete, competing at her first Olympics but with Commonwealth Games gold and silver to her name, was unable to improve on that first-up effort in Group A of qualifying on Sunday in Tokyo, but finished in fourth in her group and made the cut after only two athletes in Bruce’s Group B made the automatic qualifying mark.

Bruce, the 24-year-old Cantab and national record-holder. could only finish 12th in her group. Her best was a 67.71m throw at her first attempt. She hit 66.01m in the second round and 66.15m with her third and final attempt.

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Just three athletes in Ratcliffe’s group nailed the automatic mark (73.50m).

Ratcliffe began beautifully with her outstanding speed in the circle sending her first attempt out to that 73.20m mark, just 35cm shy of her personal best and former national record set earlier this year.

The Waikato athlete followed that with throws of 68.89m and 70.87m to sit comfortably placed at the halfway point of qualifying.

New Zealand's Julia Ratcliffe threw 73.20m to open the hammer qualifying competition in style.

Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

New Zealand’s Julia Ratcliffe threw 73.20m to open the hammer qualifying competition in style.

“It was so good,” she said of her first throw. “It’s always such a relief to get that first throw out, especially one really close to that automatic qualifier. Two and three throws I was going for it, and might have gone too hard. That’s a really good lesson for the final.

“Getting to call yourself an Olympian is pretty epic now.”

Ratcliffe, who is coached by her father Dave who was in the stands in Tokyo, said she was rapt to start so well and hinted at perhaps better to come.

“To get a fair throw out and close to the qualifier early on definitely sets a tone for how you’re going to compete and takes the pressure off,” she said.

“None of them felt like I rally hooked one. I’m looking forward to taking the lessons from today technically and applying them for the final. I’m excited to get out there.

“It was so much fun. I haven’t been competing internationally since 2019, so it’s just so awesome to be in a massive stadium even if there’s no people there. It was really cool, the big stand gives that atmosphere, they had the music pumping, and it was a bit of a party in there.”

Lauren Bruce couldn't hide her disappointment after failing to qualify for the hammer throw final in Tokyo.

Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Lauren Bruce couldn’t hide her disappointment after failing to qualify for the hammer throw final in Tokyo.

Bruce, competing in her first senior championship event in her country’s colours, cut a disconsolate figure afterwards as she reflected on a competition where she just couldn’t find her best stuff.

“It was a little frustrating after the season I’ve had, to come out and throw 67m when you know you’re more than capable of being in the final,” said the woman who threw a national record of 74.61m in Arizona to open preparation for the Games.

”As one of the girls out there said, I’ve got the world championships next year, then the Commonwealth Games and another Olympics in three years’ time.”

Bruce said she had been nervous and failed to ”own” the circle as she had previously this year. But she also felt it would be a valuable learning experience.

“I’ve been away for 2-3 months and been able to compete against the best girls in the world and hold my ground there. I couldn’t have done anything more in terms of preparing so I’ll go back home, take a break and then get ready to go again.”

Poland’s Anita Włodarczyk, the 2012 and 2016 Olympic champion, and first woman in history to throw the hammer over 80 metres, breezed past the qualifying mark and into the final with her first throw of 76.99m to top the first qualifying group.

American Brooke Anderson (74.00m) and France’s Alexandra Tavernier (73.51) joined her in the second round as they nudged past the all-important 73.50m mark.

In Bruce’s group China’s Wang Zhen (74.29m) and Canada’s Camryn Rogers (73.97m) were the only throwers to post automatic qualifiers.