Two years ago, David Storl shocked the Shot Put hierarchy in Daegu when he won the competition on the very last throw to become the youngest World champion in his discipline.
Two years later, the German successfully defended that title at the ripe old age of 23.
In many ways, Friday’s victory was another surprise, just like in 2011.
Like last time, he didn’t have the really big throws that his rivals had registered earlier in the season but a mark of 21.04m at the German championships in Ulm in early July was perhaps a hint of things to come.
So when he unleashed a fourth round effort of 21.73m to go in front, he stunned the US 2013 world leader Ryan Whiting, who had been the most consistently long thrower of 2013 until Friday.
“My coach prepared me for this special day,” said Storl later. “We concentrated on this day. The usual meetings I do while I am training, I don’t focus on those. Everything is oriented towards the World Championships.
“That’s why sometimes at other meetings I can’t throw as far as I can in training, because it’s a training process and I am tired then, but everything is focused on the World Championships.”
“Anything less than a medal would have been a disappointment and gold was the target. Getting the silver medal in London was important, It lifted the pressure oin me for this year, it showed there that I was not just a one-hit wonder with my performance in Daegu.”
In an extraordinary situation, the winning mark was initially ruled a foul but the German argued his case enlisting a nearby photographer to back him up.
“A photographer gave his camera to the official and this picture proved that the throw was not a foul,” he admitted. “They saw several pictures and video and it was obvious it was a valid attempt.”
US thrower Reese Hoffa, who would have been bumped up to a place on the podium if the foul stood, sportingly concurred: “They can look at all the videos they want to, it was a good throw. He’s got nothing to worry about. I mean..... I wish!”
Whiting, having lead after three rounds with 21.57m, had the final throw of the competition but when he could muster just 21.22m, leaving Storl to raise his arms in triumph.
He then jogged over to the crowd whereupon he was bestowed with a German flag and a hat decked out in the German colours. After posing for pictures, he returned to the infield to hug his fellow athletes and then shook hands with all the on field officials and judges.
Storl’s ascent has been very natural, if relentless. He won the 2007 IAAF World youth title and the 2008 IAAF World Junior Championships gold medal before that stunning performance in Daegu, which made him one of the few people – just 11 now – to go through the ranks.
Last year, he added the European title to his curriculum vitae.
Credit, he said, must go to those in the German national program who helped him deal with the usual aches and pains, and worse, that elite athletes endure in their bid to excel.
“My success would not have been possible without the help of all the physiotherapists and doctors,” he declared. “I wanted badly to win. I am very happy that I was successful with the attempts that I had. The only thing I could have wanted more would have been to go over 22 metres (Storl’s best is 21.88m indoors), I’ve done that in training.”
Friday’s competition was interrupted several times by medal ceremonies and by the crowd’s understandably loud ovations for the Russian athletes on the track and the dais.
Such occurrences are absent at one day meetings, whether a local affair or the IAAF Diamond League, and might partially explain why some athletes struggle to find their best rhythm in championships.
However, Storl seemed unaffected, indeed thrived, in this situation.
“We are used to it, there are many interruptions,” he conceded. The crowd was supporting the Russian athletes participating in the races and we like the atmosphere. So it is important to have this atmosphere.”
Paul Gains for the IAAF