Rutger Smith of Netherlands competes in the Discus Throw qualifications (Bongarts/Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Osaka, Japan

Smith - Dutch double trouble

When he claimed the bronze medal in the Discus Throw on Tuesday night, Rutger Smith didn’t only win the first Dutch medal of these championships. Smith achieved another first of a more global scale: he became the first athlete to capture World Championship medals in both the Shot Put and Discus Throw.

“It is unique what I'm doing, both the Shot Put and discus,” said the 26-year-old, who two years ago took silver in the Shot Put in Helsinki. “Both have a very different technique. It is not like you run the 5000 and the 10,000, that is easier.”

Since beginning his career at 14, Smith has kept his focus wide, a decision that in the long run has reaped dividends. Since then, he’s also been coached by Gert Damkat, a training consistency that Smith said has suited him well. “In all those years I always made a progression with this coach. I couldn’t ask for more.”

Began career at 14

While taking to the throws at an early age, Smith also ran a notable 100m, and has always trained on only on his power, but speed as well. The two, Smith figures, go hand-in-hand.

His talent was evident in the junior ranks. In 1999 he took the Shot Put/Discus Throw double at the European Junior championships, and the following year took gold in the shot and bronze in the discus at the World junior championships.

In 2003, the medals were reversed at the European Under-23s, where he won the discus and took third in the shot. His improvement and consistency continued the following year, breaking through a pair of significant barriers in 2005: 65m in the discus (65.51) and 21m in the shot (21.41). Be arrived in Helsinki as a medal contender and did not disappoint, taking the silver.

While certainly pleased, he was disappointed that the Helsinki programme wasn’t a little more accommodating for a double. In the Finnish capital, the qualifying round in the discus came three hours before the Shot Put final, so he settled on the shot, and left with a medal.

He improved his Shot Put PB 21.62 last year, and doubled up at the European Championships in Gothenburg, but finished out of the medals, taking fourth in the shot and seventh in the discus.

Last winter at their training base in Papendal, he and Damkat decided to change his technique in the discus; his arm position was too low, they decided, an adjustment which led to his eventual medal showing this week. But the focus for 2007 was a stronger emphasis on the shot, while training once or twice per week for the discus.

The only athlete in both throws finals in Osaka, Smith said he was feeling good on the eve of competition. “I was in the shape of my life,” he said. Thus, finishing fourth in the shot with a 21.13 effort was disappointing.

“I only slept four hours after the event, and at first wasn’t motivated to start the discus qualifying,” he said. “But in the qualification I had a good feeling.” He reached a PB 66.60m to advance easily, before throwing nearly as far (66.42) in the final. “So then was very motivated for the final.”

Next up for Smith, is turning the trick in the same competition, and he’s planning to try again in Beijing in 12 months time.

René van Zee and Bob Ramsak for the IAAF