Saturday, 15 August 2009

In epic battle, Cantwell takes first World outdoor gold

USA's Christian Cantwell wins his first world outdoor title in a thrilling Shot Put competition  (Getty Images)

USA's Christian Cantwell wins his first world outdoor title in a thrilling Shot Put competition (Getty Images)

Berlin, Germany - Christian Cantwell edged 'the battle of the giants' in an epic shot put duel with Tomasz Majewski as the pair traded places from their Olympic finishing positions in Beijing last year.

The American produced a monster World leading 22.03m to finally deliver his first outdoor global championship with the perfect counter-punch to Majewski's 21.91m in a thrilling round five.

There was also ecstasy for the home crowd as Germany's popular European champion Ralf Bartels claimed an unexpected bronze with a new personal best of 21.37m.

In a high class competition dethroned champion Reese Hoffa had to settle for fourth with 21.28m with his US team-mate and good friend Adam Nelson, the 2005 World champion, fifth with 21.11m. It was the first time since the 1987 edition of the championship that five men exceeded 21m in the event.

For so long Cantwell has played the bridesmaid at major international competitions. True, he is a two-time World Indoor champion but the 28-year-old, who weighs a mighty 145kg and stands a formidable 1.96m, had not, before today at least, delivered on the biggest stage.

"I have won medals in the past but not that one," said an elated Cantwell. "To win it in that fashion is even more exciting. I hope the crowd enjoyed it as much as we did. The level of the competition was very high with six athletes (they was actually five) at 21 (meters), so to win a competition like this, that makes me feel better."

A magnanimous Majewski added: "Christian showed his cards in the end and was the strongest one. My performance was just a few centimetres behind my PB but even I am upset because I could not reach the title."

The competition exploded into life from the first throw. Cantwell, the youngest of five sisters and three brothers, laying down a significant marker with an impressive 21.54m. Majewski also meant business and responded with a 21.36m effort to move into second. Nelson (21.11m) and Hoffa (21.02) also hurled the shot out beyond the 21m line in a high-class first round.

A low key second round saw no further improvements among the leaders, although Pavel Lyzhyn of Belarus catapulted up to fifth in the overall standings as he equalled his personal best with a 20.98m performance.

Many of the lead contenders continued to pepper the 21m line with their third throws. Nelson produced a big foul in the 21.50m range but it was Bartels who, unquestionably, stole the round. The 31-year-old German provided a real bolt out of the blue to throw 21.37m - 0.01 ahead of his lifetime best.

The crowd roared their approval and the 31-year-old moved 0.01 ahead of Majewski into the silver medal position.

As the bottom four exited the competition at halfway the real fireworks began in round four. Hoffa, desperate to hang on to his title, nudged up to fourth overall with a 21.14m effort. Meanwhile, Majewski, bidding to become the first man in history to simultaneously hold the World and Olympic men's Shot Put titles, made his move and launched the 16lb ball to 21.68m to leapfrog from bronze into gold medal position.

Cantwell responded with a 21.21m effort but after four rounds it was Majewski, Cantwell, Bartels, Hoffa and Nelson with Lyzhyn back in sixth.

It was to be round five, though, which proved pivotal. Majewski throwing third last in the round further cemented his dominance with a mighty 21.91m effort - just 0.04 short of his World leading mark and personal best - and he punched the air in delight.

But just as Majewski, 27, who stands at 2.04m tall, appeared to have edged one step closer to gold, Cantwell respond magnificently with his 22.03m golden shot. He broke into an excited trot and raised his arms aloft, perhaps knowing the huge psychological blow he had dealt his opponent.

The drama in the final round came in the battle for the minor medal. The pugnacious Hoffa looked close to the bronze but the crowd let out a collective sigh and then exploded into rapturous cheering when 21.28m came up on the scoreboard. Bartels had clung on to bronze and the host nation celebrated precious metal on the first day of the championships.

Bartels produced an impressive last throw of 21.20m and Majewski 21.18m but the medals had been decided. Cantwell passed his final throw and celebrated gold, at last!

Steve Landells for the IAAF