A quick look at performances by South Africa’s leading shot putters so far this season suggests that good things might just happen in twos.
Jaco Engelbrecht (University of Johannesburg) and Orazio Cremona (University of Pretoria) have been responsible for two of the main highlights of the 2013 South African athletics season up to now.
Engelbrecht was the first to cause a stir when, on the last day of the SuperSport Varsity Cup meetings (29 April) at the Tukkies LC de Villiers stadium, he let rip with a throw of 20.31m in the shot put.
Then, at last weekend’s South African athletics meeting in Potchefstroom, Cremona won the shot with a throw of 20.30m.
Astute athletics fans might wonder why one should become excited about these performances, especially considering that Ryan Whiting (USA) already boasts with the best distance of 22.28m for the season and five other international shot putters have managed to throw farther than 21 metres.
The answer is simple. During the last decade shot put has become one of the ‘dying’ sports of South African athletics. Since 2003 the only other South Africans who were able to throw further than 20m were Janus Robberts (21.06m) and Burger Lambrecht (20.64m).
In the history of South African athletics only six athletes have been able to pass 20 metres. Karel Potgieter (20.29m) and Jan Pienaar (20.60m) are the other two who managed to do so.
Robberts’ South African record of 21.97m was set as far back as 2001 so in lieu of these statistics, its’ exciting that there are suddenly, in one season, two South Africans are able to exceed 20m.
Both athletes performed better than the B-qualification (20.10m) for the IAAF World Championship in Moscow and, with a little bit of luck, they might even improve on the A-standard of 20.60m.
Cremona left for Europe this week where he plans to do just that. There are four meetings lined up for him. The first is on Saturday in Belgium. Thereafter he will compete in Slovenia (4 June), Dakar (12 June) and Bilboa, Spain (21 June).
He hopes to perform well enough to ensure that he will receive more invitations to European meetings and the 23-year-old Tukkie is quietly confident that his throw of 20.30m in Potchefstroom was not a one-off performance.
He sees this big throw of his as the proverbial crossing of the ‘Rubicon’.
ÔÇ£Twenty metres was this mental barrier that I had to pass. Having done that, I am hopeful that I will be able to throw regularly farther than 20m. In fact, I had a throw of 20.55m in Potchefstroom recently. Unfortunately I had just stepped out, making it a foul.ÔÇØ
When Cremona was still a junior, great things were expected of him.┬á Unfortunately, his career seemed to have fizzled out into obscurity.┬á But now, with one big throw, he has managed to put his athletics career back on track. Answering a question of whether he ever was despondent enough to consider quitting the sport, he said: ÔÇ£No, quitting will never be an option for me. I have set definite goals for myself and I still have three years in which to achieve them.
ÔÇ£You should remember that a shot putter’s best years only really begin when he is 25 and older.┬á My main problem when I switched from the junior ranks to seniors was to become used to mastering the heavier shot. I had to make many changes to my technique in order to be competitive again.
ÔÇ£In this respect it was very helpful to have a coach who never, not even for one moment, doubted my abilities, as well as family and friends who continued to support me, no matter what.ÔÇØ
Dup du Preez, Cremona’s coach, is confident that his athlete will qualify to compete at the World Championship. ÔÇ£I have coached many athletes over the years. What sets Orazio apart from the others is his hunger to succeed. He really wants to be one of the best shot putters in the world and I firmly believe that he has the ability to achieve his ideal.ÔÇØ