As one of the world’s shortest elite shot putters, World University Games champion Sarah Mitton certainly does not cut an intimidating physical presence.
Yet what the 1.69m (5ft 6in) tall Canadian thrower lacks in pure height she more than makes it for in speed, technical ability and heart – a fact exemplified in Auckland earlier this year when she defeated two-time Olympic champion Valerie Adams – a women who stands at a towering 1.93m.
On that occasion, Mitton produced the performance of her career so far to secure victory with a PB of 18.84m – but given her lack of height compared to many of her rivals, how does she explain an ability to consistently compete with much taller opponents?
“I would definitely say my speed (is a big asset),” she explains. “Back in high school I did heptathlon for six months, so I’m familiar with sprinting and the power events. Being shorter than many of my rivals may look like it is harder for me, but I don’t see it as a disadvantage. I definitely think there are other areas I can maximise in the future.”
RAPID LOCAL SUCCESS
Raised in Brooklyn, Nova Scotia – a place Mitton describes as “more of a village than a town” – she played a range of sports in her youth including soccer, basketball, badminton and volleyball. At school she has also tried her hand at long jump and the sprints before a perceptive teacher persuaded her to try the shot. Within two days of first picking up a shot she set a district record in a local competition – and so began her throwing journey at the age of 14.
Guided by coach Tammy Gaudet – whom she describes as ”like a second mum to me” – during the early years of her career in 2011 she won her first national medal with a bronze at the Canadian Youth Championships.
Frustratingly, Mitton just missed out on qualifying for the 2013 World U18 and 2014 World U20 Championships by a matter of centimetres but in 2015 she finally made her international debut at the Pan American Junior Championships in Edmonton.
There she hurled the metal orb to a lifetime best of 14.57m for fourth – in what proved a confidence boosting assignment.
“It felt good to not only participate but to genuinely compete,” she adds of her Pan American junior experience.
More gains were made in 2016 but it was the switch to a new coach in 2017 which was to accelerate her improvement.
Richard Parkinson was already guiding Canadian shot record-holder Brittany Crew when Mitton joined his Toronto-based group in April 2017.
Describing Parkinson as one of most “determined goal-orientated people” she has met the pair instantly gelled and in their first season together he improved by the best part of a metre, recording a PB of 16.32m to secure tenth at the World University Games in Taiwan.
Source: Steve Landells for World Athletics