Chase Ealey, winner of the shot put at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 (© Getty Images)
On her sixth and final throw of the night, US shot putter Chase Ealey spun in the ring and, a little off balance, released the shot. It fouled.
But it didn’t matter. Ealey, already crying happy tears, knew she had made history.
On Saturday night at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 in Eugene, Ealey became the first US world champion in the women’s shot put. Her winning throw was her first throw – she threw 20.49m, a distance that could not be matched over the following five rounds.
China’s Gong Lijiao, the defending champion, threw 20.39m, and the Netherlands’ Jessica Schilder took bronze with 19.77m to set a national record.
Gong made her best throw on her second-to-last attempt. For a moment, the crowd at Hayward Field watched in anticipation of whether Gong could summon the extra 11 centimetres she needed to beat Ealey. But on her last throw, she only managed 19.89m.
It became clear then – as Gong walked away from the ring and Ealey approached – that Ealey was the champion. With her win, Ealey, who earned silver medal at the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade earlier this year, finished a standout outdoor season undefeated.
“I felt like I could not control my last throw with these emotions,” Ealey said.
Gong, the 2021 Olympic champion, tied Germany’s Nadine Kleinert-Schmitt for most appearances in the event after competing at eight straight World Championships.
Despite producing the third-best throw of her career, Gong said she was disappointed with her performance. Her ultimate goal is no longer another gold medal, but a distance closer to 21 metres.
“I knew that I took huge responsibility as defending champion. Chinese people always expect a lot from me,” said Gong, who had competed just once this year ahead of the World Championships. “I'm not so satisfied with this silver medal. I fulfilled all the work we planned before, and expected more.”
Schilder accomplished her best throw and personal best on her third attempt. Canada’s Sarah Mitton finished in fourth with 19.77m.
Mitton, who competed in the 2019 World Championships in Doha but fell short of making the final, said she was proud of her improvement.
“It’s more than I can dream of,” she said. “It’s really taught me a lot about believing what I can do.”
Ealey had a difficult season last year after getting sick with covid in the winter. She finished fifth at the USA Olympic trials and missed the team.
But in 2022, Ealey finally showed the world what she was capable of.
“Since the moment I walked out, I felt this day was so important. The cheering and the support of the fans was unforgettable,” Ealey said. “It will stay deep in my heart.”
Madeline Ryan for World Athletics
|WOMEN'S SHOT PUT MEDALLISTS
|Chase Ealey 🇺🇸 USA
|Gong Lijiao 🇨🇳 CHN
|Jessica Schilder 🇳🇱 NED