Svetlana Krivelyova wins the shot put final (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Krivelyova and Melnyk, a dynamic throwing axis

Paris, FranceCoach and athlete, Olympic champions both, Faina Melnyk and Svetlana Krivelyova are an unstoppable alliance of unmatched competitive experience and technical knowledge, a throwing axis which has few equals in the history of throwing.

Krivelyova the 1992 Olympic Shot champion produced a mighty put of 20.63 metres in round three to seal the fate of the 2003 World title here in the Stade de France. Her series was consistently high with four of her six marks over 20 metres in a season, which prior to Paris had only produced just three 20 metre throwers – Krivelyova, her compatriot Irina Korzhanenko and Ukraine’s Vita Pavlysh.

Tonight they were joined by a fourth, Nadezhda Ostapchuk, who won the silver in a personal best of 20.12m. Pavlysh took bronze with 20.08. No other competitor was even near the 20m line which is the modern bench mark of top world class shot putting given that the current unapproachable 26 year-old World record of 22.63m (Natalya Lisovskaya, 1987) was established in a very different era.

“Everybody kept their best competition for today, and I am sure that 20 metres is once more the minimum level that will be required to take a medal at a major championships, which makes me very satisfied about the future,” said the winner, her only explanation of why the level of women’s shot putting remains at such a low ebb.

Overall standards though should not distract from what was a personal achievement of distinction for the 34 year-old Russian, who has a personal best of 21.09m which dates back to 1992 and was the winning throw at the Barcelona Olympics.

Though never headed in the competition having taken the lead with her opening throw of 19.60, she improved to 19.97m, and then 20.30, and when slightly threatened by Pavlysh’s 20.08 release later in the same round, responded immediately with her  fourth attempt of 20.63m. There was nobody who was going to argue with the 34 year-old Russian in this mood, and with a 20.03 and 20.12 to finish she took the gold.

Krivelyova’s spirited display was very much inspired by her long time coaching relationship with the 1972 Olympic women’s Discus champion Faina Melnyk, who is also a many times former World record holder in that event.

“I am very glad that my coach could be here,” said Krivelyova, “as without her presence and advice I would not be standing here today.” 

Melnyk (URS – UKR), who is now 58 years of age was one of the most dominant track and field athletes of the 1970s becoming the first woman over both 65 and 70 metres. She established 11 World records between 1971 and 1976, with record number ten being the barrier-breaking 70.20m.

Significantly, both coach and athlete are by profession teachers and the similarlity between these great champions goes further, as Melnyk was also a 20 metres shot putter, her best throw being 20.03m which she threw in 1976, the same year she established her Discus PB ( 70.05m).

So given her coaches example, had Krivelyova ever thought about throwing the Discus?

“No, I was born to throw the shot, this was my destiny.”

The same can be said of her coaching partnership with Melnyk.