Julia Ratcliffe wins silver in hammer throw

MARK GEENTY IN GLASGOW
Last updated 09:09 29/07/2014
Richard Patterson
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Richard Patterson reacts after winning the gold medal at the Clyde Auditorium in Glasgow.

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Just a fortnight past her 21st birthday, Julia Ratcliffe was feeling like a decent celebration in Glasgow.

The little-known thrower from Hamilton formally announced herself to the New Zealand sporting public this morning with a silver medal in the women's hammer at the Commonwealth Games.

Her best effort of 69.96m was just 32cm short of her personal best set this year, and was 2.01m short of Canada's gold medallist Sultana Frizell who was expected to dominate. Ratcliffe was 1.24m clear of third-placed Sophie Hitchon of England, and more than happy with her night's toil.

"I'm just over the moon. I was thinking I was going to have to fight for third, so to get silver, it's unreal," Ratcliffe said.

"I just felt ready. I sat around all day in my room and Sarah Cowley my room-mate was very patient and gave me some space to have a nap. I was just waiting to get out there and do my thing."

From the moment the 21-year-old Princeton University student strode into the circle for the first time, she looked calm and composed and her early marker of 68.35m set the tone for a top evening of throwing at Hampden Park.

She was second after the first round and she remained second throughout the final. She never looked like dropping that position; the only question was whether she could eek out an extra metre to challenge for gold.

That would be asking too much, as the No 1 ranked thrower in the Commonwealth, Frizell, stamped her mark on the final with two early throws over 70m. Ratcliffe's best was her third.

Both broke the previous Games record, which she set in qualifying yesterday, and then her fifth throw of 71.97m was more than enough for the 29-year-old to seal her second successive Commonwealth Games title.

"When she was on 70.50 I was thinking maybe I could get the gold. Then I got a bit big for my britches and she smashed it again.

"I was pretty calm, surprisingly. I don't like it when they show me throwing on the big screen and I can see myself and look myself in the eye. For five of my throws it was other things so that was a good distraction."

Ratcliffe was ranked third in the Commonwealth this season coming into the event but she had too much firepower for Hitchon, who was well short of her season's best with her last throw of 68.72m.

The Kiwi was a model of consistency; her first five distances read 68.35m, 68.68m, 69.96m, 69.33m, 69.47m, all within striking distance of her season and personal best of 70.28m.

Ratcliffe, a business studies student and the NCAA women's hammer throw champion in the US this season, is not an imposing figure; by throwing standards she is rather small.

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But she's got incredible speed and technique through the circle, a credit to her coach and father, Dave, who has been coaching the former Waikato Diocesan student since she took up the hammer when she was 12.

"It was kind of nice, I'd go across if I was a bit antsy and say 'hi dad, how's it going'. He didn't give me too much, he knew I had it in me and he just let me do my thing," she said.

- Stuff

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