Vanilla was the ice cream flavour Maddi Wesche savoured to celebrate her shot put victory at the under-20 world championships. Her career narrative has been anything but.

Wesche (pronounced "wishy") recorded a personal best 17.09m with her final attempt on Thursday in Tampere, Finland. The 19-year-old became the third New Zealander after Valerie Adams (2002) and Jacko Gill (2010 and 2012) to win a world age-group shot put title. Two years ago, she finished 20th.

"I didn't put any pressure on myself, and neither did my coach [and biomechanist Mike Schofield] who got me in the zone."

Schofield has worked with Wesche since May last year. He combines the coaching role with Walter Gill, Jacko's father, who does not fly.


"I wanted to have fun, do my best and be happy with the result. When it came to my last throw, I thought 'you've trained hard for this, you've done everything you could to prepare' and it worked out well."

Wesche overcame bacterial pneumonia in 2014. Fluid filled her lungs and, because of an allergy to penicillin, her recovery was slow.

Her mum Renee told Athletics New Zealand's website it was "touch and go" whether Maddi would live.

"Maddi has a very high pain threshold. When in pain, rather than complaining, she just goes quiet. We visited the doctors and she was rushed to Starship Hospital.

"Because of the allergy to the antibiotics, she had to take an alternative. From that point, it was a little bit like taking the long road. We had to play the waiting game and the recovery process took about three times longer than it would have [with the penicillin]."

Wesche emerged a stronger force. A product of Lynfield College, the alma mater of 1997 discus world champion Beatrice Faumuina, she could not participate in sport for months as her lungs repaired.

Gill had guided her in the shot putting world since she was 12, after stints as a netballer and sprinter.

Maddi Wesche won the shot put at the under-20 world championships. Photo / Getty Images
Maddi Wesche won the shot put at the under-20 world championships. Photo / Getty Images

He was vital in her rehabilitation by steadily introducing gym work to build muscle and power.

She is the middle of three sisters, and her parents and youngest sibling were in Finland as supporters.

"I could hear my mum screaming from where she was standing in the crowd, which was pretty cool.

"It's still sinking in. I've celebrated with one of my coaches [Schofield] and family and we went out for ice cream. It's still pretty surreal."

Wesche rang Gill at 1.30am NZ time so he could share in her triumph.

"He was super happy and couldn't contain his excitement. I'm pretty sure he had some ice cream, too."

Double Olympic gold medallist Dame Valerie Adams also saluted Wesche's effort. On Twitter, she referred to "NZ producing the goods. Congrats to your team girl. Future looking good for yah".

At this year's national championships, Wesche finished second with 16.94m behind Adams on 17.83m.

"I've followed Val since I first saw her at the Olympics," Wesche said.

"It's pretty amazing for her to congratulate me, considering she's an Olympic, world and Commonwealth champion."

Wesche left school last year and hopes to study psychology at university next year. Until then, she has been training five days a week.

"This [result] gives me a bit more hope and excitement to continue with my career. I'm pretty excited with what's ahead."