Werner Visser at the IAAF World Youth Championships, Cali 2015 (© Getty Images)
With a crouch, a spin and a truly explosive release, Werner Visser produced a huge 64.24m throw in the third round of the boys’ discus at the IAAF World Youth Championships, Cali 2015 on Saturday night (18).
The effort was more than good enough to secure the title, which was South Africa’s first gold medal in this event in the history of the championships.
Coming into the championships, the discus appeared destined to boil down to a head-to-head clash between Visser and Sweden’s Wictor Petersson, who were a cut above the rest based on the world list.
After Friday’s qualification round – in which Petersson threw a personal best of 64.83m and Visser 61.93m on his first attempt – things certainly seemed to be following the script.
However, pressure can do strange things. In the final, Petersson endured one of his worst days in the throwing circle, his only recorded mark an extremely modest 53.02m, which saw him eliminated after three throws.
At that point, Visser had already launched his 64.24m throw, which put him almost four metres clear of second-placed Wang Yuhan of China.
All of a sudden, the event as a contest was essentially over.
“When Petersson fell out I thought I had the gold medal,” said Visser. “I expected to get at least a silver, so I’m happy with the gold. It means a lot to me.”
Visser fouled his final three attempts, but wasn’t unduly worried, safe in the knowledge that a 64-metre throw would be good enough for the title. In truth, though, he expected more.
“I hoped for a better distance,” he said. “In training the last few weeks I threw over 65 metres easily. The first few throws I was really nervous, but once I threw 64 I was okay.”
Wang’s first-round throw of 60.33m was a personal best and proved enough to secure him the silver medal.
The bronze went to Great Britain’s George Evans, his only valid throw of 60.22m coming in the second round.
The Scottish thrower was delighted with the bronze medal, even if he had to endure a few nervous moments during the competition to get it.
“I only got one throw out in the second round, which I thought would be enough but then people started increasing their distances so I got more nervous,” he said.
“One of the best competitors here got knocked out. I came out in the end with a bronze medal so I’m very happy. It’s been the best experience of my life.”
Evans admitted that in Visser, he had come up against an athlete of the very highest calibre. “It was a fantastic performance from him,” he said. “I’ve seen him in training and he was hitting very, very big throws. He’s put all the work in and thrown that far, so it was well deserved.”
Visser’s ambitions in the sport are suitably lofty for a newly crowned world youth champion. “My long-term goal is to get the gold medal at the Olympics,” he said.
And one final question, given it’s a little over a year away: might we even see the 17-year-old pit his talents against the seniors at the Olympic Games in Rio next year?
“No, no, definitely not,” he replied with a laugh. “Maybe Tokyo.”
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF