Teen shot put sensation Kayle Blignaut produced a mammoth 22.07-metre heave at the IAAF World U20 Championships in Tampere, Finland on Tuesday to claim gold on the first day of the biennial showpiece.
Blignaut showed nerves of steel as he momentarily lost his lead when American Adrian Piperi produced a 22.06m effort in the fifth round before wrestling the lead back.
The South African refused to allow Piperi’s massive effort to intimidate him, and he responded by going one centimetre better with a new national record, becoming the first African athlete to win a world junior shot put title.
“I am speechless winning this. I was feeling a bit sick before the competition but the crowd made me do my best,” Blignaut said.
“They gave me a huge applause and support. That was really important.
“I’ve been working so hard for this and now it’s coming together and today was the prize.”
Blignaut improved on his previous national mark by 42 centimetres to get South Africa onto the medal table in emphatic fashion.
Embracing the favourite tag, he launched himself into the lead with an opening heave of 20.89m.
He extended his advantage with a second-round throw of 21.12m before Piperi’s sixth-round effort.
Other South African athletes produced a mixed bag of results, with SA junior 100m record holder Thando Dlodlo – one of the favourites – getting knocked out in the heats.
He finished sixth in his race in a time 10.70 seconds but compatriot Thembo Monareng managed to qualify for Wednesday’s semi-final, finishing third in his heat in 10.52.
Middle-distance runner Liza Kellerman missed out on a semifinal spot after finishing sixth in her heat in 2:10.05.