By Roy Williams
World junior and youth shot put champion Jacko Gill showed he has more than one string to an increasingly impressive bow by turning his attention to the discus yesterday – with a further sensational result.
Gill, still aged 16, smashed the New Zealand under-18 discus record by more than two metres when he threw 62.05m at a meeting at the Millennium Stadium on Auckland’s North Shore. That would have been good enough for second place at the recent world youth championships in Lille, France, where Gill won the shot put title with a world’s best performance. The previous New Zealand under 18 discus record of 59.82m was set 21 years ago by Chris Mene.
Gill has trained only once for the discus over the last 12 months and his only other competitive throw was in New Caledonia early this year when he hit 59.12m. Even more amazingly, Gill’s record throw came after two heavy weight training sessions the previous day – where he improved his bench press to 181 kg (about 400lbs).
His aims for the rest of this year are to improve his world record in the under-18 shot to more than 25 metres, to break the world junior (under-20) shot record and to consolidate his selection prospects for next year’s London Olympics.
Defending world shot put champion Christian Cantwell has described Gill’s throwing as “unreal” but believes success at the senior level is not guaranteed.
The Takapuna-based athlete has rightly been lauded as one of the world’s finest teenage athletics talents and the gifted thrower has even talked about aiming for a medal at next year’s Olympic Games. Gill was not allowed to compete at the world athletics championships currently taking place in Korea because of age restrictions in the throwing events. Cantwell, who will begin the defence of his title during qualification on Thursday, has watched Gill throw on YouTube and has been impressed.
“He is achieving results I didn’t know were possible at such a young age,” said Cantwell, the Olympic silver medallist and a three-time world indoor champion. “The kid’s good. I don’t know if he’ll ever be a senior champion. It is hard to tell because he is so young but to do what he’s done at such a precocious age is amazing to watch.
“When I first watched him throw on video, I didn’t know how the shot went anywhere. I think it’s [his technique] terrible, but what the hell – the thing goes forever and that’s all that matters.”
The 30-year-old admitted he has doubts as to Gill’s ability to win a medal at next summer’s Olympic Games and believes the step up to the senior men’s implement of 7.26kg presents a much greater challenge.
Gill’s current personal best with the senior shot stands at 20.01m – some two-and-a-half metres shy of Cantwell’s lifetime best and good enough for joint 46th in the world this year.
Of course, the fact that Gill is so high up the rankings in an event where often athletes don’t peak until their late 20s or early 30s is a further indication of his rich promise. However, the American warns that neither the talented Kiwi nor the general public should expect too much too soon when he starts competing against top international senior throwers.
“When you are young the sky is the limit and I think he can throw really far, but how does he deal with stuff?
“You face all the travel, all the injuries, the expectations on yourself, and the expectations from others. You’ll have them and they’ll only get worse as you get older.”
– Additional reporting, Steve Landers
By Roy Williams