Gong Lijiao, Continental Cup shot put champion (© Getty Images)
Gong Lijiao added a Continental Cup win to her World Championships title as she came through for victory in the shot put in Ostrava. Gong only had the third best mark of the day overall at 19.63m, but she delivered when it mattered, defeating the American Raven Saunders in the final round.
The Chinese athlete earned the victory in her third Continental Cup appearance, having previously finished second and third.
The top three favourites were tightly matched in the three preliminary rounds. Gong started the best with 19.17m and improved to 19.58m on her next attempt, but that was topped immediately afterward by the former world champion Christina Schwanitz from Germany who reached 19.73m. Then in round three, Saunders went even better with 19.74m, while Gong and Schwanitz also reached solid distances with 19.44m and 19.21m, respectively.
The European champion Paulina Guba was no match for Schwanitz this time, with a best of 18.94m insufficient to qualify her for the next round. Ischke Senekal of South Africa became the fourth semifinalist with 17.10m.
Saunders got round four to a good start with 19.27m, but Gong followed with her best attempt yet of 19.63m. Schwanitz, throwing last, knew exactly what she had to do to reach the final, but that knowledge did not do her much good as she could only reach 19.07m to finish in third place.
In the final, the American could not match her best as she sent the shot to 18.39m. Aware that she only needed a solid attempt, the Chinese responded with 19.25m.
“I am highly satisfied with my place, but a bit upset with my result. I was ready to surpass 20 metres in Ostrava,” the winner said.
Gong also praised the innovative field event format used in Ostrava. “The new rules are absolutely great for such a competition as we had here. It's very spectacular and unpredictable for both athletes and fans.”
Pawel Jackowski for the IAAF