By Ian Chadband
LONDON (Reuters) – Lithuanian Andrius Gudzius, a one-time junior prodigy, finally fulfilled expectations to shock the big names in the discus and take gold at the World Athletics Championships on Saturday.
The 26-year-old, who had won the world junior title back in 2010 but had never since come close to threatening the elite in his event, prevailed with a second-round throw of 69.21 metres, the best of his life.
His winning effort came immediately after Sweden’s Daniel Stahl, the event favourite as the only man to throw over 70 metres this season, had launched a 69.19m throw.
Stahl ended up with the silver and American Mason Finley took the bronze with a personal best 68.03m.
“Every athlete must be dreaming about the world title and I managed it tonight. I still cannot believe it and I think I need some time to understand what has just happened,” a stunned Gudzius said afterwards.
Gudzius, whose previous best performance in the senior ranks was a European Under-23 triumph in 2013, showed little emotion as he became only the second Lithuanian man ever to win a world title following his great discus throwing predecessor Virgilijus Alekna.
Alekna, who won in 2003 and 2005, was also double Olympic champion and his feats had led Lithuanians to heap expectations on his potential successor, even though Gudzius had only finished 12th in last year’s Olympics.
“I was thinking about a medal but I did not expect gold. Everybody in my country was expecting a medal from me and I am happy to bring one home,” he said.
Still, it had seemed a tall order for Gudzius to emulate Alekna with a couple of the event’s greats in the field.
Yet neither Germany’s Robert Harting, who won the Olympic title in the London Stadium in 2012, nor Poland’s reigning champion Piotr Malachowski, who had captured the last four world titles between them, could find their range.
Harting ended up sixth with his first-round throw of 65.10m while Malachowski was fifth with a fifth-round effort of 65.24m.
Jamaican Fedrick Dacres, another former world junior champion, produced a fourth round throw of 65.83m to earn fourth place.
(Reporting by Ian Chadband, editing by Neil Robinson)