Reese Hoffa led the qualifying round of the men's shot at the IAAF World Indoor Championships (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Hoffa's 21.49m sets the stage for Shot Put Showdown

Defending Shot Put champion Reese Hoffa means business. As he did in Moscow two years ago, the 30-year-old American led all qualifiers in the opening round, and he did so here with class, reaching a season’s best 21.49m.  

His lone toss of the morning, adding 9cm to his 2008 best, before an enthusiastic morning crowd would have sufficed to secure the gold in all but three of the previous 11 editions of the World Indoor Championships. If Hoffa, the world champion outdoors as well, succeeds in his title defence tonight, he’d become only the second to ever do so, equalling the feat of East German Ulf Timmerman 19 years ago.

Behind him, no major casualties were recorded. His teammate Christian Cantwell, the 2004 World indoor champion, reached 20.91 with his second throw, ahead of Australian Scott Martin, whose 20.83 effort was an Area indoor record. Dorian Scott, fourth to qualify with a 20.62 toss, set a Jamaican national record.

Also moving on were Andrei Mikhnevich of Belarus (20.58), Dutchman Rutger Smith (20.30), Germany’s Peter Sack (20.27) and Tomasz Majewski (20.23) of Poland.

Failing to advance were Spaniard Manuel Martinez, the 2003 champion, whose best effort was measured at 19.75 (season’s best), and Ukraine’s Yuriy Bilonoh, the reigning Olympic champion, who was a distant 17th after a 19.02 best. Both had impressive records at the World indoors; Martinez had seven finals appearances to his credit, Bilonoh five, including gold in 1997.

For Martinez, it was his eighth appearance at a World Indoor Championships, equalling Cuban high jump legend Javier Sotomayor for most appearances. In addition to his Birmingham gold, the Spaniard was sixth in 2006, fifth in 1997 and 2004, fourth in 1999, and third in 2001.

Bob Ramsak for the IAAF