Olympic champion Valerie Vili of New Zealand defended her shot put World Championship title on Sunday.
Vili’s best effort of 20.44 meters gave her the gold medal ahead of Nadine Kleinert of Germany, who took silver at 20.20. Gong Lijiao of China won the bronze at 19.89.
“She pushed me hard,” Vili said of Kleinert, who had the crowd at the Olympic Stadium behind her.
Vili trailed in fourth after the first two rounds but then produced the effort that put her into the lead, a throw of 20.25. She improved in the fifth, throwing 20.44 meters to secure the gold medal and her 22nd consecutive victory. She is undefeated for nearly two years.
“I started slowly but she pushed me hard and I am glad she did, it was a good showdown,” the 24-year-old New Zealander said.
Kleinert took the lead in the first round with a heave of 20.06, a personal best. She then improved it to 20.20 in her third effort.
“Maybe I pushed her as well,” Vili said. The 33-year-old Kleinert said she hardly expected such a good result this late in her career. She was the bronze medallist in 2007 and took silver in 1999 and 2001. She was also the Olympic silver medallist in Athens in 2004.
“I didn’t feel that great in the morning and I was also concerned that the concentration would be gone once the sprinters enter the stadium,” Kleinert said. “So I tried to give my best in the first three efforts.”
While the crowd cheered Kleinert, it also supported Vili - and she acknowledged it.
“It’s a very knowledgeable crowd in Germany. They were for Nadine but they also applauded me,” Vili said. “I felt pressure from Nadine, not from the crowd. Maybe it wasn’t such a great result, but I got the gold.”
She embraced her coach, Kirsten Hellier, in the stands before running a shortened victory lap wrapped in a New Zealand flag.