Auriol Dongmo, winner of the women's shot put at the World Athletics Indoor Championships Belgrade 22 (© Getty Images)
Portugal’s Auriol Dongmo won shot put gold with a stupendous personal best of 20.43m in a final she had first dominated and then appeared to have lost at the World Athletics Indoor Championships Belgrade 22.
It was an event rivalling in its drama and intensity the men’s shot put final at the Doha 2019 World Championships, won by USA's Joe Kovacs in a championship record of 22.91m from his teammate Ryan Crouser, who threw a personal best of 22.90m to beat the defending champion, New Zealand’s Tom Walsh, to silver on countback.
Dongmo, fourth in the Tokyo Olympics, had arrived as favourite to win on the back of her Portuguese record of 19.90m, the best women’s indoor throw since 2016. But she would need far, far more than that to live up to her billing.
Everything appeared to be going to script as the 31-year-old took the initiative with her first effort, sending the shot out to 19.32m, with Jessica Schilder of Netherlands also clearing 19 metres with her opening throw, by one centimetre, a mark she replicated with admirable consistency in the second round.
Bizarrely, Dongmo also exactly replicated her first-round mark with her second throw. But nobody else in the field was making any seriously challenging moves until Chase Ealey of the United States began to give chase – moving up to silver medal position with her second attempt of 19.11m.
The third round saw another major player take their cue as Fanny Roos of Sweden moved into second place with 19.22m. But the competition was just warming up
With her fourth-round effort, Schilder managed 19.46m – 20cm up on the personal best she set in Apeldoorn last month and enough to take her into the gold medal position.
The bar was rising swiftly – and in round five it went up again as Ealey took over at the top with a North American indoor record of 20.21m, dwarfing her outdoor and outright personal best of 19.68m, set in finishing second at the 2019 Diamond League final, and also bettering Dongmo’s best mark by 31cm.
It was a stupendous effort – and next up to throw was Dongmo. How would she respond?
Astonishingly the Portuguese athlete resumed gold medal position with – 20.43m.
And while no one else could get near the gold and silver medallists on the night, there was a final flourish from Schilder, who added two centimetres to her best in the final round, finishing on 19.48m.
At the end, Dongmo, overcome by the convoluted emotions of the foregoing hour, fell to her knees with arms raised in celebration.
With Roos fourth on 19.22m, Maggie Ewen of the United States fifth on 19.15m, Jamaica’s Danniel Thomas-Dodd sixth on 19.12m and Canada’s Sarah Mitton seventh on 19.02m – seven women throwing over 19 metres – it constituted the best-ever depth in a women’s world indoor final.
Mike Rowbottom for World Athletics
|WOMEN'S SHOT PUT MEDALLISTS
|Auriol Dongmo 🇵🇹 POR
|Chase Ealey 🇺🇸 USA
|Jessica Schilder 🇳🇱 NED