Selina Dantzler in the girls' shot put at the IAAF World U18 Championships Nairobi 2017 (© Getty Images)
It was her first international championship, but Selina Dantzler showed no signs of nerves as she entered the shot put circle in the pouring rain on the first afternoon of the IAAF World U18 Championships Nairobi 2017.
The 17-year-old German entered the final as the favourite, having reached 18.19m earlier this year, farther than any of the other entrants in the competition, and she duly started with 17.49m, great throwing under such conditions, to take the lead immediately.
"I wanted to do my best in the first round, so that I didn't have to worry before the next throws," Dantzler explained calmly. Evidently she had it all planned out.
That first-round put held on for the lead until the fifth round, but then the German suddenly found herself relegated from first to third after Yu Tianxiao and Sun Yue of China both surpassed her mark with 17.62m and 17.59m, respectively.
Did that make her nervous? “A little bit, sure, but not too much,” she said. “I wanted to be the world champion, so I had to focus.”
The approach worked again. Going last in the throwing order in round five, Dantzler responded to the Chinese challenge with a 17.64m.
She was in control again, but in her words: “I was not confident that I would win. Anything can happen in the last round, but I knew if someone throws farther than me, I would just have to do my best again.”
It is possible she would have done just that, but thankfully, she did not need to. None of her main rivals improved in round six, so when Dantzler entered the circle for the final time, she already knew she was the world U18 shot put champion, the third German to win that title. Even so, she finished off with another creditable attempt, measured at 17.41m.
As confident as she looked during the final in Nairobi, Dantzler says she did not go into the competition with the expectation of taking gold.
“I was hoping for it, but not expecting it,” she said. “I did have the best mark, but I wasn't sure if I could do it again here.”
Away from the competition arena, Dantzler has enjoyed her experience in Kenya.
“I was not stressed about competing so far away from home,” she said. “I love it here. The Kenyans are great people. It is very different from competing at home, but it's a great experience."
A native of Munich, Dantzler started out as a thrower at the age of 10 and she has always enjoyed the explosiveness of the shot put. "When I started, I knew right away that this was my event."
The IAAF World U20 Championships Tampere 2018 will be her next target. The shot she will have to use to get there is a full kilogram heavier than the three-kilogram ball used in U18 competition, but that should not be too much of an issue. She has already taken part in multiple competitions using the senior implement, with her best mark to date being 15.71m.
The shot is not the only weapon in her arsenal. Dantzler is also an excellent discus thrower. Her best of 50.30m in that event puts her just outside the top 10 on the world U18 list this year.
“I'm not sure yet if I'll still be throwing the discus next year or which event I will specialise in,” she says. “But for now, I am doing both.”
Whichever event she does, keep an eye on Dantzler next year in Tampere.
Pawel Jackowski for the IAAF