Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Olympics: Sad to miss the Olympics, but Jacko's powder is dry

Jacko Gill successfully defended his world title in Barcelona. Picture / Getty Images.
Jacko Gill successfully defended his world title in Barcelona. Picture / Getty Images.

Jacko Gill, New Zealand's teenage shot put sensation, created more junior athletics history by defending his world title in Barcelona. Having pipped Usain Bolt as the youngest male champion in 2010, he became the first to retain a title last week.

Gill should have been heading to the London Olympics but opted out after being mucked around by selection shenanigans. The 17-year-old returns to New Zealand early next month after a break in Ostersund, a lakeside Swedish city which is the home of his athlete girlfriend Lovisa.

Gill chats about this month's junior triumphs, dodgy icecream, Lovisa, the Olympics and even his magical cut-price shoes.

Congratulations, Jacko - you have made history defending a world junior title ...

I think a few girls have done it but I'm the first guy. To win three in a row - the world juniors, youth, juniors - feels special.

It may not mean so much to other people compared to the Olympics but means a lot to me, to do something that no one in history has done.

The Polish lad you beat is a seriously large unit ...

He's maybe 150kg, very strong, yells a lot and isn't afraid to show his emotions. He's great to compete against. It was quite a tough competition, coming from New Zealand to compete in 33 degrees and I didn't quite have the punch at the end of my throws. I'd never beaten him before and he beat my first throw so I was quite nervous - a new experience. I had the next throw after that and just tried to replicate my training.

You broke the championship record but David Storl's world junior mark is proving elusive ...

I will try for that in New Zealand between October and December - I definitely want it in my next competition. I've done it in warm-ups and training before.

We hear that all has not been well since the world championships ...

I've had an infection, probably salmonella, which hit me as soon as I got to Sweden. I've lost six or seven kilos in four days which is a lot. I've had blood tests and it could be 10 days before it goes. I went to the hospital and it's not nice, sitting on the toilet 24/7. I ate €20 worth of icecream after the competition and may have got ill from that.

Tell us about Lovisa and Sweden...

Lovisa is 15 - she's an athlete, shot put and discus. She competes in the Swedish championships and it's nice to come here and help support her. We met at a meeting in Stockholm in 2010. It is beautiful here where I am in Sweden. There are a lot of trees.

Are you still happy with your decision to withdraw from Olympic consideration?

Really happy. I'll never have the opportunity in the juniors again and three [golds] in succession is really cool. I stuck to a decision which I think is best for me in the long run, not pushing myself with the 7kg [senior] shot. I threw the 7kg last year and broke the knuckle in a finger. It is a lot of pressure - to spin and chuck that sort of weight off the tips of your fingers. A lot of countries don't let someone as young as me compete with that.

People in the know say you are not one to change your mind ...

Yeah, I am quite stubborn. If I make a decision, it's final. I don't do anything by halves.

Are you still determined to remain based in New Zealand?

Definitely. I have a perfect set-up at home with wonderful support from my parents, a home gym, the Millennium Institute nearby, the climate - New Zealand is perfect and I'll be based there for the whole of my career.

What about money - are sponsorships starting to come in?

A lot of money has been going on the Olympics. Sponsors wonder if you will drop out of the sport or not. I don't have any co-sponsors at the moment but I'll go for the junior record and see what happens. I think the big names would want me to wear their shoes ...

There's a shoe issue?

I've always used a shoe I got from a website in America called VS Athletics. I've tried other shoes and they don't work for me. The shoe I use is a cheapie. I like the way they are grippy, which suits my technique. There are no stickers or labels - they are plain and only cost about 30 bucks. They've brought them out in a light blue which is quite goofy - that's what I wore in Barcelona. I've been wearing them since I was 13 and having the right shoes is vital.

Your plans. Aims?

Plenty. The world champs next year in Russia, the Commonwealth Games in Scotland mean a lot for me, the 2013 world champs, Rio after that. I'll start training with the 7kg shot and see if I'm ready or not. I really want that junior world record.

Will you be glued to the Olympics?

Definitely. I'm looking forward to seeing the New Zealanders competing and I hope there are PBs and a few gold medals. I'll be most interested in the men's shot put but also Valerie [Adams]. Her Belarusian competitor [Nadzeya Ostapchuk] does quite well but mainly in her home country or nearby. Valerie won't be too worried - I don't want to put the pressure on but I really think she's got it in the bag.

Not to put the pressure on ... but are you genuinely happy in deciding not to go to London?

Well, obviously it is quite sad not to be at the Olympics. It would have been a dream come true. But there will be a time and a place.

- NZ Herald

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