The men’s shot put has become one of the forgotten events in South African athletics, but Jason van Rooyen and Kyle Blignaut’s rivalry could change this.
In the past few weeks, both athletes have thrown further than 21 metres. Van Rooyen won on 29 April in Potchefstroom with a distance of 21.14 metres, qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics and a week later, Blignaut also won in Potchefstroom with 21.03m throw.
It has never happened that two South African shotputters have gone past 21m in the same year. Before them, Janus Roberts (21.97m) and Orazio Cremona (21.51m) were the only two local athletes who had thrown further than 21ms. Roberts last did so in 2006 and Cremona in 2019.
Van Rooyen and Blignaut are currently third and fourth on South Africa’s shotputters’ all-time list. What makes it exciting is that they are respectively only 24 and 21.
Blignaut (Tuks) believes if nothing unforeseen happens in the next three years, there is a real chance of a South African medal in the men’s shotput at an Olympic Games or a World Championships.
He has already set his sights on qualifying for this year’s Olympic final in Tokyo. It might sound arrogant when considering that he has yet to be eligible for the Games. The qualifying standard is 21.10m.
The ’Big Man’ of TuksAthletics considers it a doable challenge. He aims to get his Olympic qualification out of the way over the weekend when he competes at the USSA Championships (South African Universities) in Johannesburg.
For the record, Blignaut is 1.95 metres tall and weighs 148kg. He played rugby for a while at school, but he realised that the tape measure is fairer when judging performances. That is why he chose to stick with athletics.
In 2018 he won gold at the World Junior Championships in Finland. During this season’s South African Senior Championships, he won his first gold medal. His winning distance was 20.82m. Van Rooyen was second with a 20.60m effort.
Blignaut loves his rivalry with Van Rooyen.
‘When we compete, there is never any mercy. I don’t like losing, neither does he, but there are never any bad feelings after a competition. I was glad for Jason when he broke through the 21 metre-marker, and he congratulated me when I did so. I must admit that I am a very competitive person. It has to do with the way I grew up. As a family, we always had some sort of competition going. I never competed to be second.
‘It has stood me in good stead. Even when I train, there are no half measures. During every training session, I warm up as if I am going to compete. When I throw, it is always an 80% plus effort. I think it is essential to do so. You got to condition your body to be ready for when you are competing, and you need to step up.’
Photo: Reg Caldercott