Jacko Gill Follows Shotput Into Orbit

Posted by on Jul 23, 2010 | Leave a Comment

Jacko Gill - Devonport Uber-Athlete

The incredible Jacko Gill. NASA are considering utilising Jacko as an alternative means to deliver satellites into orbit

From the NZ Herald, by DAVID LEGATT.

For a time yesterday, Devonport’s Jacko Gill’s hopes of even making the world junior shot put final hung by a single heave of the stone ball.

Two no-throws meant he was staring at an early exit. A few hours later the 15-year-old from Takapuna Grammar was crowned the youngest winner of a world junior title, his whopping throw of 20.76m cleaning out a field of considerably larger and older opponents.

It was also the ninth best performance by a shot putter at under-20 level, made even more remarkable by the fact that had he been 10 days younger, Gill would have been ineligible to compete in the worlds this week.

It is a substantial leap forward for a teenager who has shown immense promise since taking up the sport five years ago.

Back then, father Walter Gill, a former senior national discus and shot put champion, built a practice pit in the back yard of their home in Devonport.

The boy’s first impact came from prodigious throws which easily cleared the pit and knocked holes in the fence behind it. The holes steadily got higher up the wall and Gill hasn’t looked back.

Yesterday in Moncton, Canada, Gill eclipsed the world’s most famous athlete, Usain Bolt, as the youngest under-20 gold medallist with the second of his sixth throws in the final.

An 18-year-old Serb, Bozidar Antunovic, was second with 20.20m and China’s 19-year-old Yongheng Ding won bronze with 20.14m. As it transpired, Gill’s first throw in the final, 20.24m, would have won the gold.

He was sweating earlier when the first two of his three qualifying throws was ruled out. He had to clear 19.20m with his last attempt to stay alive and made 19.28 to qualify fifth.

“I had to make it count,” Gill told the Herald last night. “And I only made it by 8cm so I was really lucky to even get into the final. Big pressure, eh.”

Of the 12 finalists – four were eliminated after a further three throws – Gill had the third best throw of the season, and fourth best on personal bests so he knew he was in the frame provided he was on his game.

By the time of his final throw the gold was in his pocket and he admitted to a little celebration before his last hiff of the stone ball.

“There were guys so much bigger and older but I wasn’t concentrating on them because if you look at them you get kind of intimidated. I decided just to focus on my own performance and do what I could.”

When he threw out his winning effort, the opposition turned and gave him a collective “what the heck” look.

And his first emotion on knowing gold was his?

“It was probably more shock than anything. I didn’t really believe it. It was more of a dream than a goal, and to achieve the dream was really good.”

Gill paid tribute to coach Didier Poppe, the Frenchman now guiding Olympic champion Valerie Vili. In their 18 months together, Gill singled out the rhythm Poppe had brought to his routine in the throwing circle as a key element.

“My technique was really bad, like one of the worst out there.

“He’s taught me this rhythm where you just throw the same anywhere, at training or on a big occasion. I couldn’t have done it without him.”

Walter Gill was chuffed last night too, and disbelieving. Yet he distinctly remembered the single-mindedness of his son. “He’s been so focused. He’s been unbending,” he said.

Gill stands 1.87m and weighs about 87kg, so he’s no giant, but his heart and power are more than adequate compensation for that.

The Youth Olympics in Singapore are on the horizon next month for a teenager of uncommon talent.


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