Chinese shot putter Gong Lijiao struck gold at the IAAF World Championships London 2017, almost exactly one year after the lowest point in her life as a professional thrower.
The most difficult moment of my career came in 2016.
I really wanted to win gold at the Olympic Games in Rio, but I didn’t feel well from the moment I arrived there and it wasn’t just because of the muggy weather.
Dieter Kollark was my coach at that time. I was 33 pounds lighter than I am now and I wasn’t any weaker, but for some reason I wasn’t throwing well. I had set a PB of 20.43m in May that year, but in Rio I felt as though my legs were full of lead. I lacked vigour and I wasn’t even shouting when I threw.
At the time I felt that I had used all my strength but I managed just 19.39m and finished fourth. After the first throw, I just wanted to get away from the stadium. I didn’t want to spend one more minute there.
When I reviewed the video footage of the competition, I was shocked. I felt that it was not me. When it was time to leave Rio and return to China, I cried all the way to the airport.
Later, I was depressed for a while. Fortunately my teammates and friends gave me plenty of warmth and support. It took me a long time to recover; it was a very hard time. I often talked to myself. I’d say, ‘it’s nothing, why are you afraid? You are powerful.’
Bit by bit, my self-confidence returned. I now feel that I am much more mature.
The best moment of my career was when I won the gold medal at the 2017 IAAF World Championships. I had won several major championship medals in the past, but this was my first gold so it is extra meaningful to me.
Missing out on a medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics was a big blow to me. When I resumed training later that year, I told myself that I had to win gold at the 2017 World Championships. I have always trained hard, but I worked even harder than before.
The weather wasn’t great on the day of the World Championships final in London as it was raining. Everyone was finding it difficult to throw 19 metres in the first three rounds. But in the fifth round it was like I’d suddenly had an electric shock and I told myself that I had to get a good result right now.
Sure enough, my shot went out to 19.94m and thankfully it was enough to win.
It’s just the beginning for me, though.
Tony Dou and Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF