DOHA (Reuters) - American Joe Kovacs produced the third best shot put of all-time, 22.91 meters, to snatch the world championship gold medal from New Zealand’s Tomas Walsh with his final throw on Saturday.
Holder Walsh had looked poised for a successful defense of his crown when he opened the competition with 22.90 but he was forced to settle for bronze when he was beaten by a second American at the death.
Olympic champion Ryan Crouser also saved his best for last, matching Walsh’s effort of 22.90 but getting the silver ahead of the New Zealander who had only one legal throw in the competition.
“There is something that I knew before and that’s that shot put is crazy,” said Walsh. “I am not angry.
“I still a little bit disbelieve it, these two guys, these huge PBs (personal bests), I cannot believe it.”
The final round capped a thrilling night of putting as Crouser, Kovacs and Walsh, the gold, silver and bronze medalists at the 2016 Rio Olympics, attacked the record book.
Just four of the 16 previous world shot put titles had been won with throws in excess of 22 meters and on Saturday four athletes exceeded the distance.
“It’s time to celebrate,” said Kovacs. “I saw Ryan throwing far, the others throwing far, I just cannot be happier to get the gold medal. The everyday hard work it just paid off.
“This is definitely the final that made history.”
Walsh wasted no time opening the defense of his title, heaving the shot 22.90 on his first attempt. Confident that he had done enough, he stepped out of the circle after each of his next four attempts.
When Kovacs unleashed a huge, gold-medal winning throw on his final attempt, Walsh knew he needed to respond and he let go a mighty effort that sailed over the 22m line but again the New Zealander overstepped.
That proved to be a fatal error, with Crouser grabbing the silver on the basis of more legal throws.
“It was an unbelievable competition with a lot of fireworks in round six,” said Crouser. “This final was crazy and I am just so happy to be part of it.
“I wanted gold but to see Joe throw a personal best in his last throw I can’t complain.”
Editing by Ed Osmond and Clare Fallon