Sixteen-year-old Kiwi shot put sensation Jacko Gill has taken his most significant stride yet towards an historic appearance at the London Olympic Games.
The Kiwi athletics prodigy tonight shattered his own New Zealand senior record and surpassed the Olympic selection qualifying standard at a special shot put challenge held at North Shore ‘s Sovereign Stadium, at the Millennium Institute of Sport & Health.
With the competition held specifically to further Gill’s cause, the Auckland youngster responded magnificently with his first throw of the evening.
In just his third serious competition with the senior shot put (7.26kg), the world under-18 and 20 world champion made his most emphatic statement yet that he is ready to step into the brightest arena in London next year.
With his first throw of the evening Gill nailed a stunning 20.38m, surpassing both the New Zealand Olympic qualifying distance of 20.30m and his own senior national record of 20.01m, set in April.
He also extended the world-best marks for the senior shots he holds for both the 16 and 17 years brackets.
He failed to go near to his big first throw with his next five attempts, but showed he was far from done for the evening when he returned, after a short break, to smash his own New Zealand junior (under-20) record twice in a separate competition.
He threw 22.10 and then 22.31m to easily beat his previous mark of 21.34m.
The Olympic qualifying distance doesn’t guarantee Gill selection for London, but as veteran track and field coach and administrator Dave Norris noted, it puts one foot on the plane.
“It almost guarantees his nomination – the final decision will be up to the selectors,” said Norris, who marvels at the youngster’s record-breaking progress. “It simply means he’s eligible for selection at this stage.
“But he’s just 16 years old. I’ve never seen anything quite like this in all my years. He is an absolute phenomenon.”
If Gill does, as expected, get the nod for London, it’s thought he would be the youngest athlete to have competed in the Olympic shot put. He beats the minimum age requirement for the Games by just 10 days.
Gill’s coach Didier Poppe said his young athlete was just scratching the surface as he takes his tentative early steps in the senior arena.
“Jacko really trained hard for this competition and we expected a big throw. We expect even bigger throws in competitions to come.”
Poppe said his charge felt the tension of the occasion after warming up with throws close to the 21m mark.
“He did not throw as fluidly as he normally does after a very good warmup. I think he tried a bit too hard, and it was not great technique. That’s good, because it means there is room for improvement.
“He is going to throw further.”
Poppe felt Gill’s selection for London should now “not be a problem”, with the youngster tracking to make the final which would be a remarkable achievement at his age.”
Gill said last night he wanted to throw further but was happy to have gone past the Olympic selection standard. “I’ll take it. I’ve still got six months [training] through to the Olympics and I think I can do well there.”
Gill will have a crack at two more special marks over the next two Mondays at the Millennium venue, with world records in his sights for the under-20 (6kg) and under-18 (5kg) shot. In this form they look well within his reach.
Source: MARC HINTON