He is perhaps one of the most precociously talented youngsters in the world at the moment, but Mykyta Nesterenko – despite being just 16 years old – is looking beyond age group success and already has one eye on establishing himself as a star senior performer.
The stats are staggering. Standing at 202cm tall and weighing in at 97kg, Nesterenko last year threw the 1kg discus 81.22m – his first World Youth best. One year on and moving up in weight, Nesterenko set a World Youth best at the start of this season with the under-18 weight 1.5kg discus, unleashing it out to 71.95m.
Just as impressive are his results with the senior weight discus. He set a world age-15 best last year of 55.80m and improved massively this year to 62.79 to rank in the world’s top 40. Needless to say it is a World Youth best, as well as a world age-15, 16, 17 and 18 best!
Not forgetting, of course, his exploits in his secondary event, the shot. He set a Ukrainian youth record of 21.35m back in May.
Ups and downs in Ostrava
But his Shot Put throwing did not go to plan this week. His first throw in the final was huge, but landed outside the sector. His second attempt was a safety one and landed at just 17.52m, which remained his best after a further minor foul in the last round.
The discus, however, was the event that mattered more to him. He set a competition record of 70.67m with his first throw in qualifying – more than six metres further than the previous best, held by Australia’s Ronnie Buckley. Although Nestrenko could not quite match that throw in the final, his 68.54m was more than enough to see off the challenge of Croatia’s Marin Premeru.
“I’m happy about the victory but not with the distance I threw,” said Nesterenko after picking up his discus gold medal – his second global title, having won the ISF World Schools discus title last year.
“In the Shot Put I was hoping for at least a bronze, so when that didn’t happen I was determined to win gold in the discus,” he added. “I was hoping to throw a World Youth best – even if it was just by one centimetre – but that didn’t work out.”
He will put aside celebrating his victory for the time being because he has a few competitions coming up after the World Youth Championships, the first one being in Serbia. “But I’ll celebrate at the end of the season,” he is quick to add.
Background in basketball
Nesterenko’s first sporting exploits came in basketball. “I didn’t like competing in a team sport though,” he said. “I’m more of an individual, so I chose to switch to athletics.”
He tried running events for the first few months, but found that he was too tall to be successful. Instead, he decided to put his height to better use and took up the throws instead. That was four years ago and he has been coached by Viktor Oleynik ever since.
The youngster, who will still be a youth athlete next year, looks up to Olympic champion Virgilijus Alekna – “he has got a great technique and is very consistent” – and current World leader Gerd Kanter – “he has good speed and balance” – but Nesterenko wants to go where neither of those two athletes have been before.
Ambitions to break World record
“My dream is to break the World record,” he says. “But before then I just want to make sure that I progress to the senior level.”
Nesterenko is referring to the past World Youth champions, who have struggled to make an impact as a senior. The four previous gold medal-winners – Chang Ming-Huang, Khalid Habash Al Suwaidi, Ronnie Buckley and Ali Shahrokhi – all threw further than 60 metres to win their World Youth titles, but have not been able to match that distance with the senior implement.
It should be mentioned, however, that the silver and bronze medallists from the 2001 World Youths – Robert Hartins and Omar El Ghazaly – have both progressed well and have thrown PBs in excess of 66 metres this year.
Nesterenko, however, is miles ahead of all the previous World Youth medallists in terms of development and he is determined to keep it that way as he progresses towards the senior ranks – an age group he will not join until 2011!
“I’m very aware that all the previous World Youth champions have not been successful as a senior,” he said. “I’m confident that I can, though.”
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF