Gong Lijiao shifts focus to Olympic gold after claiming China’s first title at world championships
Shot-putter beats off competition from reigning Olympic champion to hold onto first place in London
Shot putter Gong Lijiao’s dream for over a decade came true as she clinched the first gold medal for China, six days into the 2017 IAAF Athletics Championships in London.
On a wet and cold Wednesday evening in the Olympic Park Stadium, the 28-year-old mainlander was never under threat of losing her crown following her first throw of 19.16 metres that put her straight to the top of the leaderboard.
Gong, the only thrower that surpassed the 20-metre mark this season before the final, consolidated her lead in the fifth round with a throw of 19.94 metres, second only to her world-leading throw of 20.11 metres in July.
“I am so excited [to win the gold],” she said. “This was my dream when I first started training in the sports 17 years ago, to win the world title and the Olympic gold. And it has been a long time. Now my next target will be the Olympic Games.”
The shot putter said she was not affected by the poor weather. “My form is exceptionally good as I am well prepared for the event. The rain and cold weather could not stop me,’ she said.
Over the last 10 years, Gong took part in five world championships before London and three Olympic Games and has packed five medals into her bag, but this is the first time she claimed gold. It was also the first women’s shot put gold for China since Huang Zhihong won it in Tokyo in 1991, followed by her second gold in Stuttgart two years later.
In the absence of reigning champion Christina Schwanitz of Germany, Rio Olympic champion Michelle Carter of the United States moved to within two centimetres of Gong with her third-round effort of 19.14 metres while Jamaica’s Danniel Thomas-Dodd moved into the medal reckoning with a throw of 18.91 metres in the fifth round.
But just as she did at the Olympics last year, Anita Marton of Hungary uncorked a medal-winning effort of 19.49 metres in the sixth round – the thrid equal best mark of her career – to supplant Thomas-Dodd from the podium and bump the Olympic champion into silver as well as cement her status as a big-occasion specialist.