Having come to the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot with the best distance of the winter under his belt, Ryan Whiting felt the pressure to live up to the mantle of being the favourite for the men’s shot put gold medal.
The 27-year-old US thrower had failed to capitalise on his No.1 tag at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow last summer and the defending champion from two years ago in Istanbul was determined to consolidate on his dominant form this time around, a feat he achieved with a huge 22.05m effort in the fourth round on Friday (7).
However, he admitted to feeling constantly nervous about what his fierce rival, Germany’s runner-up David Storl, could surprise him with.
“I came in the favourite and I’m just glad I did execute as I was the favourite last summer and I didn’t, so now I know I can do that, I plan to be the favourite a lot in the future so it’s a good step,” said Whiting.
“It’s just a matter of time before he (Storl) goes over 22 metres, and he makes it more nerve-wracking than it could have been. I’m in shape to throw really far and I think you’ll see that outdoors for sure.”
The pair established their intentions for glory with impressive qualifying efforts in the morning session, with Storl reaching 21.24m ahead of Whiting’s quick automatic qualifying put of 20.75m.
Nine hours later in the final, Whiting – the four-time US champion – opened his campaign with 20.89m before two-time world champion Storl responded with 21.35m.
The 23-year-old’s reaction was a sign of how the competition would go on to progress with the pair again swapping the lead in the second round, Whiting hitting back with 21.47m before his younger counterpart went on to register a 21.79m season’s best.
Whiting, the Moscow silver medallist behind Storl, clearly decided that he was tired of playing second-fiddle to the German and unleashed a winning 22.05m effort in the fourth round, which Storl could not respond to.
“He (Storl) threw his opener and then I came out and responded and he took the lead again,” Whiting recalled.
“I’m so used to competing against him in the Olympics and in World Championships, I just expect that from him; he’s going to bring his best on the day and I think you’re just seeing the beginning of one of the greatest shot put rivalries in history.”
With subsequent distances of 21.95m and 21.11m in the final two rounds, Whiting’s consistent series – with only one foul – ensured that he finally retained his title in some style.
“No-one really knew who I was two years ago but I felt like I was in really good shape this time so felt I was in great shape to throw even further than the 22 metres I threw then. There’s more there,” he revealed.
“This is my sixth time in Poland so I’m used to it. The people have always been great to me. Just to know the area, I took a tour of the stadium and I like the set-up, I was ready to go and it was just a great atmosphere.”
Now, with the indoor season capped off in magnificent fashion and with his confidence as high as his 1.90m frame, Whiting spoke of continuing his winning form into the summer.
“I plan to just relax for the next two weeks and decompress from this experience,” he explained.
“I’ll rest and then get revved up for outdoors. My goal this year is to win the Diamond League series again,” said the 2013 Diamond Race winner, who won four of his five IAAF Diamond League outings last summer.
Nicola Bamford for the IAAF