Athletics: Jacko's massive throw an absolute thriller

By Roy Williams

Jacko Gill. Photo / Paul Estcourt
Jacko Gill. Photo / Paul Estcourt

Sixteen-year-old Jacko Gill is going to the London Olympics - where he will quite possibly be the youngest person ever to compete in the shot put, thanks to an enormous effort of over 20 metres yesterday.

No one is quite sure of the record in terms of youth at an Olympic shot put, but it is hard to believe that anyone younger has ever qualified in an event that normally requires bulk, experience and power - all things that the comparatively lightweight Gill does not appear to possess.

However, that wasn't the only landmark Gill reached yesterday at a special shot put event at North Shore's Millennium Centre where he heaved the 7.26kg senior weight shot - the one they'll be using at the 2012 London Olympics - 20.01m. That smashed the New Zealand senior shot put record set by four-time Olympian Les Mills 44 years ago.

It bettered both the International Athletic Federation's B qualifying standard of 20m for this year's world championships in South Korea as well as that for the Olympics.

No athlete in the world aged under 18 has thrown the senior weight shot 20m before. Gill is just 16 years 4 months.

At 95kg, he is by far the lightest to have bettered 20m. No athlete of any age weighing under 100kg has thrown that far before. It calls to mind a picture of the comparatively slightly built Gill battling some of the event's physical giants.

"Unbelievable," Gill said after the competition. "It's something I've been dreaming about, breaking through the 20m, but to actually do it is amazing."

Gill's coach Didier Poppe said: "I thought Jacko would certainly go over 19m today, maybe around 19.30m, but 20m at his age is just phenomenal; unbelievable."

Gill is now world class as a senior competitor and is bringing to life the praise of him by the man whose record he broke, Les Mills.

In an interview late last year, Mills said: "Jacko is phenomenal. He is in a totally different league to where I was. He could be to New Zealand what Peter Snell was in the early 1960s. He is the complete package. He is explosive, is extremely well co-ordinated, has excellent technique, and an amazing attitude for someone so young.

"All going well, this should translate into Jacko becoming the world's greatest shot putter - barring accidents and other possible unforeseen circumstances, of course.

"The world record and an Olympic gold medal or two, after London 2012, should not be beyond him."

Dave Wolman, one of the United States' most experienced track and field coaches, said he had never seen anything remotely like Gill in his 35 years of coaching.

He believed Gill could do to shot putting what Bob Beamon did to long jumping when he won the gold medal at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. Beamon jumped 29 feet 2 inches in the old measure (8.90m) - amazing, in that no one had ever before jumped over 28 feet, let alone 29.

Gill's ascent to world-class senior shot putter at such a tender age has come maybe a week later than planned.

He was to have competed in last weekend's Australian Championships in Melbourne but decided against this as the competition was held on a wooden circle, a surface that Gill had never thrown off.

He was concerned that the surface would have been far too slippery for his spin technique and he could have injured himself. Gill is now off to New Caledonia for a further competition in Noumea in 10 days then back into solid training for the world youth (under-18) championships in Lille, France, in June.

There he aims to break his own world youth record of 23.86m with the much lighter 5kg shot and maybe send the record over 25m. He is hot favourite to add the world youth title to the world junior (under-20) gold medal he won in Canada last year.

- Herald on Sunday

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