Helsinki, FinlandNadezhda Ostapchuk of Belarus was the prohibitive favourite to take the women’s Shot Put title at the 10th IAAF World Championships in Athletics, and she duly confirmed that status today with a dominant series of four puts over 20 metres, topped by a 20.51m on her final effort.
Burying the past
But a year ago it had all been so different. The 24-year-old had led the qualifiers for the final in Olympia, a venue where after 16 centuries the Olympic Games had returned. Her performance on that occasion was 19.65m, while yesterday, Thursday 12 August in Helsinki, she had been the second furthest qualifier with 19.65m. The outcome of the two finals could not have been much different, for in the sacred olive groves of Olympia she failed to medal, producing a lowly best of 19.01m.
Tonight Ostapchuk came to bury that ‘non-event’ and duly did in spectacular style. She opened with 20.30, followed with 20.13, and then two fouls, before launching the Shot to 20.23 and then finally 20.51. A consistent series to which no one had a credible answer, her nearest opponent could reach only 19.62m!
“This was my revenge for Olympia,” said the IAAF World Ranked number one.
“I was ready to do 21m here today (her national record is 21.09 – 21 July) but my muscles got cold. I had warmed up but it was humid and hot out there early on and my clothes became wet (with the sweat) and didn’t dry off, and so my muscles went cold again before the final began. I know I could have performed better if I had been warmer.”
First round clincher
“I aimed to win with the first throw and that’s what I have done. It was a very simple competition. As soon as I threw the 20.30m I knew that was it. It was the mental punch which I needed to deliver (to the other competitors).”
Counting qualification rounds, she has had an immaculate nine competition season which had begun with her first place at the European Indoor championships in Madrid (18.59 + 19.37), a European Clubs Cup win then marked her opening outdoor performance (19.57), then she broke through 20.00m in Ulm on 12 June (20.09), and then followed a fast ascent with world season leads in three competitions in Belarus - 20.60, 20.93 and 21.09, of which the latter two wins were nationals records.
The 21.09 was the longest legitimate put in the world by a woman since 2000, and marked her last competition before she came to Finland. Given that the next two women on the world list had bests this summer of 20.24 and 20.06, Ostapchuk was very much the firm favourite. Yet given that one of these opponents was reigning World champion Svetlana Krivelyova, nothing could be taken for certain at the World Championships.
Ostapchuk had words for only one of her opponents, the New Zealander Valerie Vili, the 20-year-old who under her maiden name had won World Youth and Junior titles. “She is novice still in this event but I know that she has the talent to one day do really very well in a major championship.” Vili took the bronze tonight (two puts of 19.62m).
Change of training regime
But what about Ostapchuk’s own dominance this season, the two national record and now today’s gold medal, what had changed in her life of the former World and European Junior champion since 2004?
“My training programme has changed completely. Most importantly I have learnt how to relax, mentally and physically. So I came here confident, believing in my strength. If there has been a problem it has been that there are so few Shot Put competitions on the Grand Prix circuit, and I hope that more can be arranged. I would hope that some event could even stage a Shot this summer, as I am sure I could show that I can throw much further than today.”
Chris Turner for the IAAF