After cruising through yesterday morning’s qualification round at the World Youth Championships, Jacko Gill said his goal for the early evening final was not only to capture the Shot Put gold medal, but to become the first to breach the 24-metre line with a five kilogram ball. That promise kept, he’s now aiming higher. Much higher.
“I already train mainly with the 7 kilogram shot and I definitely want to make it to the (London) Olympics,” Gill said, with a seriousness belying his age. “Hopefully I’ll be throwing 21 or even 22 metres by then, so I really want to go and get a medal.”
“A medal?” a journalist asked.
“Definitely, definitely. I’ll just keep training hard and we’ll see.”
But first, some backtracking is in order.
Entering these Championships the 16-year-old New Zealander was the biggest odds-on favourite for gold, arriving in Lille as the reigning World junior champion and the World best holder in the event at 23.86m from last year. He relegated that mark to the bins of history in the second round after releasing a heave so mammoth it sent the measuring judges scurrying out of the way. When the dust settled, the scoreboard read 24.35m, adding a seemingly impossible 49 centimetres to his previous best.
That was just near the start of the Kiwi’s extraordinary series of throws, one that will likely remain unchallenged for a very long time.
Opening with a 22.89m toss – a distance only one other youth has ever managed to surpass – he followed up with history’s first-ever 24-metre effort and followed that one up with yet another in the third, when he reached 24.03m. His 23.54m in round four and 21.99m in round five merely solidified his hold on the top end of the all-time list. With a victory by exactly four (!) metres already in hand, he lined up in the circle for his final throw, with the capacity crowd on the homestraight tribune on their feet, clapping rhythmically for the event’s young Prince. His reply was yet another 24-metre effort which broke the grass at 24.02m.
“It was really great to get the record here at a big competition,” said Gill after what will likely be one of his last competitions with the five kilogram implement. “The way training was going I knew that I was going to throw in the 23 metre range. This was just amazing.”
Despite his role of overwhelming favourite, Gill admitted he felt plenty of pressure prior to the competition.
“Oh definitely,” he said. “I was at the juniors last year and learned how to deal with it a little bit there. It was really good to get that big throw out early so I was more relaxed.”
His feat of winning the World youth title after already having the World junior title is one that only Usain Bolt has been able to manage before. He is also New Zealand’s first ever boy to win the World youth title but his efforts are following those of his compatriot Valerie Adams, who followed up World youth and World junior titles with gold in the senior ranks.
“No I wasn’t in Lille to see Jacko (Gill), I came here (Paris) straight from Switzerland where I live now,” said Adams, the Olympic and two-time reigning World Shot Put champion, who’ll compete at Friday’s Samsung Diamond League meeting in Paris. “Yes, it’s pretty awesome to throw 24 metres (5kg implement), and he did it when it really counted at a major championship. That’s impressive! He’s already been beyond 20 metres with the (senior 7.26kg) shot. He’ll soon be up there with the big guys.”
Underscoring his precocious talent, Gill has already thrown 20.01m with the senior shot, the national senior record, and some reporters were already wondering if we could expect to see Gill on the senior circuit, perhaps as early as this Sunday in the Birmingham stop of the Samsung Diamond League. On this, Gill was realistic.
“Well if I could get invited, I’d love to,” he said. “But right now I’m only throwing 20 metres. Maybe when I start throwing 21 metres I’ll start getting some invitations.”
But before he packs his bags for the long trip home, he may have at least one more date to keep on the continent.
“I might do the DN Galan in Stockholm before going home,” presumably to compete in the youth or junior section of the meeeting’s popular ‘Big Shot’ competition.
Part of his planned run-up to London 2012 includes his next target, German David Storl’s 22.73m World junior record with the six-kilogram shot set in 2009. He’s already reached 21.34m with that shot, so presumably it will just be a matter of time. In the meantime, he’ll simply keep focusing on his training.
“I do lots and lots of training,” he said. “I’m not the biggest guy. I’m not so strong so I mainly go for speed. So I do lots of heavy bench press and fast, reactive things.
“I train very hard and I love what I do. That’s what I do and I give one hundred and ten percent.”
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF