Reigning champion Christina Schwanitz was absent from this championships having recently given birth to twins but Germany can still nonetheless claim a small part of Gong Lijiao’s gold medal in the women’s shot put.
Gong has been based in Neubrandenburg since 2013 where she has been training with veteran coach Dieter Kollark, the man who guided Astrid Kumbernuss to three world shot put titles and an Olympic title between 1995 and 1999.
Heading into tonight’s final, Gong was the only thrower to surpass the 20-metre line this season and the 28-year-old’s chances of securing her first global title were undoubtedly heightened with Schwanitz and Valerie Adams both absent and Michelle Carter not in the form which brought her world indoor and Olympic titles last season.
On a wet and bitterly cold evening in the London Stadium, Gong’s standard of throwing in a slippery circle was impressive, surpassing the 19-metre line with her five valid throws. Her opening round throw of 19.16m moved her straight to the top of the leaderboard – and she remained ensconced in gold medal position for the duration of the competition.
Despite the inclement conditions which affected the distances, Gong’s lead was still within the capacity of some of the throwers in the final – most notably Carter and Hungary’s Anita Marton – but the Chinese thrower consolidated her lead in the fifth round with 19.94m, second only to her world-leading throw of 20.11m set at the end of July.
Gong’s sixth-round effort fell just five centimetres short of her winning mark and after stepping out of the throwing circle for the last time, Gong shed some tears of happiness before celebrating with the Chinese contingent congregated around the top bend. Not since Huang Zhihong at the 1993 World Championships had a Chinese thrower claimed this title.
“It is 24 years since China won a shot put gold medal, so it's a very special moment for me,” said Gong, who has been an ever-present in global finals since the 2007 World Championships in Osaka when she was only 18. “Of course, the rain affected the competition and that is the reason we didn't go past 20 metres tonight.”
Until the fifth round, Carter was only 21 centimetres behind Gong with her third-round effort of 19.14m while Jamaica’s Danniel Thomas-Dodd moved into medal reckoning with 18.91m in the fifth round, shunting Marton down a place.
But just as she did at the Olympics last year, Marton uncorked a medal-winning effort in the sixth round with 19.49m – the equal third best mark of her career – to supplant Thomas-Dodd from the podium, overtake the Olympic champion into silver as well as cement her status as a big-time performer.
Since finishing fourth at the World Championships in Beijing, Marton has claimed five medals from as many championships, including the European indoor title in Belgrade this March and a bronze medal at the Olympic Games in Rio.
Steven Mills for the IAAF