Series21 Jun 2021

100 ones to watch in Tokyo: short throws


100 ones to watch in Tokyo - shot put and discus (© Getty Images)

As the countdown to the Tokyo Olympics continues, we add to our series highlighting 100 ones to watch in the lead-up to the Games.

Some are known athletics stars, some are gold medal favourites, others will be outsiders. But they all have fascinating stories that will be worth following as the Games draw ever closer.

Every 10 days we’re profiling 10 new athletes, each time focusing on a different area of the sport. So far we have looked at the sprintsmiddle-distancelong distance, hurdles and steeplechase, vertical jumps and horizontal jumps.

Now it’s the turn of the shot put and discus.



Valerie Adams

Valerie Adams

New Zealand

 shot put

The shot put legend from New Zealand has featured on the podium at the past three Olympic Games, but much has changed since Adams took silver in Rio in 2016.

She gave birth to her first child, a daughter named Kimoana, in October 2017. Adams returned to action in 2018 and earned silver at the Commonwealth Games, but then sat out the 2019 season after giving birth to her second child, a son named Kepalili, in March that year.

The postponement of the Olympic Games may have worked in Adams’ favour as it has given her extra time to regain her best form. Earlier this year the four-time world champion threw 19.65m – her best throw since August 2016 – and will surely be a contender once she steps into the circle in Tokyo.


Valarie Allman



Producing a big mark at a small meet is one thing. Replicating those same performances on a bigger stage is another.

With her recent 70.01m performance at the US Trials in Eugene, dancer-turned-discus-thrower Valarie Allman has proved that her national record throw of 70.15m set last year was no fluke.

Since finishing seventh at the 2019 World Championships, the 2014 world U20 silver medallist has stepped up a notch. She has consistently thrown beyond 65 metres this year and has been competitive on the international stage, producing the top mark at the recent Wanda Diamond League meeting in Doha where she faced world champion Yaime Perez and Olympic champion Sandra Perkovic.

The consistency of her recent performances in Eugene – where she threw 70.01m in the qualifying round, followed by 69.45m, 69.92m plus two more 68m throws in the final – suggests she’s capable of producing big marks anywhere, whatever the stage.


Kristjan Ceh



Despite the pandemic, the 22-year-old Slovenian was still able to enjoy a full season in 2020 with competitions spanning from March to September.

His victory at the 2019 European U23 Championships had put him on the radar as a future star of the event, but it took him less than a year to start to live up to that promise, throwing a national record of 68.75m at the age of 21.

He soon earned invitations to compete at top-level meetings and was unfazed by the opposition, often placing in the top three. Although he hasn’t yet managed to beat world champion Daniel Stahl, he has come close – including at the ISTAF meeting in Berlin last year where just one centimetre separated the pair.

Already this year, Ceh has improved his national record to 69.52m and, at the time of publication, is undefeated.


Ryan Crouser


shot put

When he arrives in Tokyo for the Olympic Games, US shot putter Ryan Crouser will be the biggest gold medal favourite of any athletics discipline.

He has been undefeated since the 2019 World Championships – where he missed the gold medal by one centimetre – and has broken the world record indoors and outdoors with marks of 22.82m and 23.37m.

He has continued racking up a record number of 22-metre throws – which, at last count, now stands at 134 – and his record-breaking throw at the US Trials saw him win the competition by more than a metre from world champion Joe Kovacs.

Given that Crouser has a habit for producing his best when it matters, as was the case when winning Olympic gold in Rio and world silver in Doha, fans are now eager to see how much farther he will throw at the Tokyo Games.


Auriol Dongmo


shot put

Balancing motherhood and training has clearly brought the best out of Auriol Dongmo, who gave birth to her son in June 2018.

Born and raised in Cameroon, Dongmo was a keen handball and basketball player before taking up the shot put in her teens. She burst on to the scene in 2011 when winning the African Games title, then went on to reach the Commonwealth final in 2014 and Olympic final in 2016.

After a stint in Morocco in 2016, she moved to Portugal in 2017 and was finally able to benefit from having access to good facilities and training conditions. Not long after her maternity break, Dongmo sought Portuguese citizenship and her career has continued to progress.

Earlier this year she won the European indoor title, while more recently she improved her lifetime best to 19.75m, marking her out as a medal contender ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.


Jacko Gill

New Zealand

shot put

More than a decade has passed since Jacko Gill exploded on to the shot putting scene, but the New Zealander – still only 26 years old – continues to improve as a senior.

He was an age-group star during his teens, winning the 2010 world U20 title as a 15-year-old, competing against athletes three years his senior. He went on to win the 2011 world U18 title and successfully defended his world U20 title in 2012 before progressing to the senior ranks in 2014.

Gill may not have yet featured on a major championships podium as a senior, but he is always in the mix, quietly but steadily improving each time.

He threw 20.11m to finish eighth at the 2015 World Championships, then threw 20.50m in the 2016 Olympic final, 20.82m at the 2017 World Championships final, and 21.45m at the 2019 edition in Doha.

This year he has set a PB of 21.52m and has beaten 2017 world champion Tom Walsh on three occasions.


Gong Lijiao


shot put

For a long time it seemed as though Gong Lijiao was the Merlene Ottey of the women’s shot put – highly consistent on the international circuit, but often ending up with silver or bronze at the major championships.

Gong earned medals at six successive outdoor global championships between 2008 and 2015, but that streak ended at the 2016 Olympic Games where she finished fourth. It provided just the motivation she needed for future championships, though.

The Chinese thrower struck gold at the 2017 World Championships and then retained her title in Doha two years later. Having finished fourth, third and second in her three previous Olympic appearances, the 32-year-old is now desperate to complete her CV with the one medal she is missing.


Lawrence Okoye



Great Britain & NI


The British discus thrower enjoyed a couple of whirlwind seasons when he made his senior breakthrough.

In 2011, while still a teenager, he threw a world age-19 best of 67.63m and won the European U23 title. One year later, he improved his PB to 68.24m and reached the finals at the European Championships and Olympic Games.

But just a few months later, he hung up his throwing shoes and instead pursued a career in the NFL. Standing at 1.98m tall (6ft 6in) and weighing 141kg (310lb), he attracted a lot of attention at the 2013 NFL combine and was later signed by the San Francisco 49ers.

He went on to sign with a handful of other teams, and even had a brief stint in the Canadian Football League, but in 2019 he returned to athletics and threw beyond 60 metres in his first competition back.

Now fully back in the swing of the event, he won the European Team Championships earlier this year and recently set a season’s best of 67.13m.


Melina Robert-Michon



More than two decades since she made her Olympic debut, French discus thrower Melina Robert-Michon will this year compete at her sixth Games. Only two athletes – sprinter Merlene Ottey and race walker Jesus Angel Garcia – have made more Olympic appearances.

Despite her longevity, it wasn’t until Robert-Michon was 34 that she won her first global medal, taking silver at the 2013 World Championships. Three years later, she earned Olympic silver in Rio, throwing a French record of 66.73m. She picked up another medal in 2017, taking bronze at the World Championships in London.

She missed the 2018 season to give birth to her second child, but returned in 2019 and reached the World Championships final. A recent season’s best and Olympic qualifier of 65.30m – just 1.43 metres shy of her lifetime best – means her place in Tokyo is now a certainty.


Armin Sinancevic


shot put

A relatively new name in the shot putting world, the Serbian thrower produced a huge PB of 21.51m in the qualifying round of the 2019 World Championships to book his place in the final. But in what was his first major championships, Sinancevic failed to record a valid throw in the final.

He set a national indoor record of 21.13m in 2020 but then, as with many athletes, skipped the entire outdoor season due to the Covid-19 pandemic. His progress continued in 2021, though, with a national indoor record of 21.25m and a sixth-place finish at the European Indoor Championships.

Already this year he has improved his outdoor best to 21.88m, breaking the Serbian record that had stood since 1998. With that mark, he placed third at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Doha and went on to finish second in Florence two weeks later with 21.60m.

He may still be a new name, but he has shown he is capable of mixing it with the best in the world.



Pages related to this article