10 JUL 2012 General News Barcelona

Smiling and surprising Shanice brings a new Craft to Barcelona

Shanice Craft of Germany celebrates winning the women's Shot Put at the Barcelona World Juniors (Getty Images)Shanice Craft of Germany celebrates winning the women's Shot Put at the Barcelona World Juniors (Getty Images) © Copyright
German thrower Shanice Craft upset the form book to take a hugely unexpected women's shot gold medal on Tuesday, and also got a second very unofficial gold medal for the biggest smile of the day.

She arrived in Barcelona with a personal best of 16.06m, which she achieved indoors this year. The distance is certainly not shabby or modest but it meant that she started the day in ninth place on the 2012 World rankings and far from consideration as a likely medal contender.

However, by the end of the day she was on top of the world in every respect, having shown she was in great form when she threw 16.41m in the qualifying rounds, no less than 35 centimetres better than she had ever achieved before.

She then produced a massive world-leading mark of 17.15m with her very first throw in the final, throwing down a gauntlet that not even the favoured Chinese pair of Yang Gao and Ka Bian – the eventual silver and bronze medallists – could pick up.

In the end, she was more than half-a-metre ahead of the best of the rest of the world.

"I'm shocked, it was such a big surprise. Even my throw in qualifying was a surprise because I had a cold last week and could barely train," she reflected.

Hit first, hit hard

"In the final, I followed the old throwers' motto of get a big throw out with your first attempt, my coach told me to do this to get the other girls, what's the word, perhaps worried will do.

"But even I was amazed at how far it went," explained Craft in almost-perfect English, a legacy of her father being in the American army and being born and brought up in what was the garrison town of Mannheim, which she still calls home.

"I was not expecting even a medal 24 hours ago. This is my first championship as a shot putter. I had hopes that I can do something in the discus, in which I've won medals in the past but I've had so few competitions in the shot this year."

In fact, it was Craft's first outdoor outing of the year and she was selected for the German team purely on her indoor marks.

Craft's gold medal for the first field event to be contested at these Championships will hang alongside the pair she's won at what she still considers to be her primary event, the discus, at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games and 2011 European Athletics Championships.

The fact that she is to contend the discus on Friday, in which she is ranked second this year behind her team-mate Anna Rüh, means that any celebrations for her victory will be very muted and generally put on ice until she gets home as her other event's final is part of the very last session on Sunday evening.

Discus denies Craft celebrations

"I'm going to have to be a good girl and I think I'll be staying in my room a lot in the next couple of days, just staying quiet and thinking about the discus.

Craft will leave her team-mates to party on her behalf. They were massed behind the Shot Put circle at the 200m mark, cheering her on, and accompanied by Craft's mother, who delightedly rushed down to the barrier to congratulate her daughter on her latest exploit. "I saw my mother there and it's great to have her here supporting me, that's very important."

Also among the German throng was the three-time IAAF World Championships discus gold medallist Franka Dietzsch, who is a mentor to many of Germany's up-and-coming women throwers and who also took the silver medal in the blue vest of the former East Germany at the very first World Junior Championships in 1986.

The one person missing though was her compatriot and forthcoming adversary Rüh. "She wasn't there with the rest of the German team because she's arriving tomorrow (Wednesday) but I think we are now going to have a great battle in the discus."

"Of course, I am not the favourite for this, but winning the shot has given me lots of confidence."

Double trouble thrower

Craft now has a chance of making a little bit of history.

In an era of increased specialisation among the throwers with very of the top throwers spreading their talents, Craft can arguably claim to be the top two-event exponent in the world at the moment and no female thrower at the IAAF World Junior Championships has ever won medals in both the shot and discus, let alone getting a pair with a golden hue.

If a bit of luck is required on Friday or Sunday, Craft will always have her mascot Hugo for company and confidence.

Sharp-eyed observers might have noticed a small toy crow dangling from the rucksack that carries her throwing shoes and implements; that's Hugo.

"I got him when I competed at the World Youth Championships in Bressanone back in 2009; he was the mascot of those Championships and that was also my first championship. I won a bronze medal in the discus and he's been with me everywhere since," beamed Craft, brightening up the night sky above Barcelona.

Phil Minshull for the IAAF