New Zealand sports fans must keep faith that Jacko Gill's best is yet to come.

Gill proved one of history's most promising shot putters when he emerged as a 14-year-old in 2009 and dominated at international age-group level.

He meticulously ticked off world youth and junior championship victories and world records with the 5kg and 6kg shot, before entering the senior 7.26kg fray.

Gill finished 11th at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and ninth at the 2016 Olympics but injury and illness have always been doing press-ups around the corner.


His most serious setback struck last December, days before his 23rd birthday. Gill revealed he was suffering from myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart caused by a virus.

The condition restricts blood from getting pumped around the body. He has not competed since.

The upshot is that Gill, in consultation with Athletics New Zealand, needs to record 20.88m by March 31 to maintain his funding and support.

New Zealand athletes in Olympic sports receive annual taxable performance enhancement grants (PEGs) ranging from $60,000 for a gold medallist, to $30,000 for those ranked 9-12 in the world.

That also allows them access to coaches, sports science, sports psychology, medicine, nutrition and physiotherapy.

Gill finished ninth with 20.82m at last August's world championships in London. His PB is 21.01m.

However, his original PEG deal has been extended as part of High Performance Sport New Zealand's discretionary policy for rehabilitating athletes.

That should let him travel to some overseas competitions.

Contrast that with the performances of world champion Tom Walsh.


He competed in Gill's shadow until he rocked the shot put fraternity with bronze at the world indoor championships in March 2014. His trajectory has been inspirational since.

Somehow Gill must rediscover the joie de vivre which brought early success.

His capacity to achieve athletic feats has never been in question. This was once a boy who, even at five, would head to the local park to compete with his family. He would throw a cricket ball, boot a football or rugby ball and, with the lure of an ice-cream, heave a shot.

By the time he was eight, Gill could throw a cricket ball 56m. By 10, he'd kicked a football 70m to score a goal in an age-group competition.

By 11, he launched a 'shot put marathon', completing almost 500 throws and had his dad nip out for some band aids midway through because he'd skinned the tips of his fingers.

The seed of sporting dreams had been planted.

This writer had the pleasure of witnessing a Gill training session with 1966 Commonwealth Games decathlon champion Roy Williams next to Takapuna Rugby Club in June 2014.

He must be among the most talented and versatile sportspeople this country has produced.

Need a rugby ball drop-kicked from halfway? No problem. What about leaping 1.1m hurdles in stationary bounds? Easy peasy. Want someone to fling medicine balls like he's removing lint from a jersey? Gill's your man.

Many are aware of his physical feats from the compelling training videos he posts on social media. Any promotions agency would be proud to have commissioned them.

The key message imparted to Gill as he ventured into the elite ranks was "be patient".

"There will be hard luck stories with injuries but he's just got to keep working away, gaining centimetres over 10 years," Williams said at the time.

Les Mills, New Zealand's premier male thrower of the 1960s, endorsed that view in 2014.

"I tell him he's got to take a few years to adapt to the senior environment. Don't be too disappointed with failure.

"Just realise the transition is difficult into the top group of those throwing more than 21m. He could definitely be an Olympic champion."

Hopefully there remains some truth in those considered words.