Sunday, 9 March 2014

Feature: IAAF World Indoors - Whiting Revealed to Live Up to the Favourite Tag


Having come into the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot with the furthest throw of the winter under his belt, Ryan Whiting felt the pressure to live up to the mantle of favourite for the men’s shot put gold medal.

The 27-year-old American had failed to capitalise on the number-one tag at the IAAF World Outdoor Championships in Moscow last summer and so he was determined to consolidate his dominant form this time around.

Arriving in Poland as the defending champion, Whiting successfully retained his title with a huge 22.05m throw but admitted to feeling nervous about what his fierce rival, Germany’s runner-up David Storl could surprise him with:

“I came in the favourite and I’m just glad I did execute as I was the favourite last summer and I didn’t so now I know I can do that, I plan to be the favourite a lot in the future so it’s a good step,” the world outdoor silver medallist explained.

“It’s just a matter of time before he (Storl) goes over 22m and he makes it more nerve-wracking that it could have been. I’m in shape to throw really far and I think you’ll see that outdoors for sure.”

The pair established their intentions for glory with impressive qualifying efforts in the morning session, with Storl unleashing a 21.24m throw ahead of Whiting’s 20.75m put.

Nine hours later in the final, Whiting – the four-time US champion – opened his campaign with 20.89m before Storl – the two-time world outdoor champion – responded with 21.35m.

The 23-year-old’s reaction was a sign of how the competition would go on to progress with the pair again swapping the lead in the second round, with Whiting hitting back with 21.47 before his younger counterpart went on to register a 21.79 season’s best. 

Whiting, an Olympic finalist in 2012, had evidently decided that he was tired of playing second-fiddle to the German and so unleashed his winning 22.05m throw which Storl could not respond to, to guarantee the world indoor crown.

“He (Storl) threw his opener and then I came out and responded and he took the lead again,” Whiting recalled.

“I’m so used to competing against him in the Olympics and in World Championships, I just expect that from him – he’s going to bring his best on the day and I think you’re just seeing the beginning of one of the greatest shot put rivalries in history.”

With subsequent distances of 21.95m and 21.11, Whiting’s consistent series – with only one foul - ensured that the 22.23m man defended his title in style.

“No-one really knew who I was two years ago but I felt like I was in really good shape this time so felt I was in great shape to throw even further than the 22-metres I threw then. There’s more there,” he revealed.

“This is my sixth time in Poland so I’m used to it, the people have always been great to me. Just to know the area – I took a tour of the stadium and I like the set-up, I was ready to go it was just a great atmosphere.”

In the bronze medal position, New Zealand’s Tomas Walsh threw a 21.26m Area record to cause a surprise and break the hearts of the expectant Polish crowd, who had grand hopes for their two-time Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski, who placed fourth with a 21.04 season’s best.

With Bulgaria’s 2004 world junior champion, Georgi Ivanov setting a 21.02m national record, this event boasts the first time in the 16-year history of the championships where five men have broken the 21m barrier.

Now with the indoor season capped off in magnificent fashion and with his confidence as high as his 6ft3 frame, Whiting spoke of continuing his winning form into the summer:

“I plan to just relax for the next two weeks and decompress from this experience,” he explained.

“I’ll rest to get reved up for outdoors and my goal this year is to win the Diamond League series again.”

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