Tokyo Olympics

Shot put star Kyle Blignaut after Olympics debut: 'I'm happy to be placed 6th in the world'

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South African shot putter Kyle Blignaut
South African shot putter Kyle Blignaut
Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

South African shot put star Kyle Blignaut was delighted with his sixth-place finish at his first Olympic Games in Tokyo on Thursday.

Blignaut became only the second South African athlete to make an Olympic shot put final - joining Janus Robberts who achieved the feat at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.

The 21-year-old Blignaut qualified for the final with a distance of 20.97m in Tuesday's qualifying rounds.

And while there wasn't much expectation from Blignaut to reach the podium on Thursday, the South African had nothing to lose.

Lining up in a star-studded field, Blignaut and his competitors endured the sweltering heat in the morning final as temperatures hit over 33 degrees Celsius.

"My first was a 20 and then my second throw was a no throw and I had to do it the hard way," Blignaut told reporters after his sixth-place finish.

"I knew it was in me so I just needed to keep that composure and do what we've done in training. 

"The sweating and the humidity really played a role and I think with some of the big names struggling in the qualifiers, it's all about the conditions and I think people weren't ready for it. I'm just happy to be placed sixth in the world in my first Olympics."

Blignaut has no regrets over his performance as his best throw of 21.00m came in his third of six attempts.

"I don't feel too bad about my performance, I lost a bit on the hand that could've been mid 21. But now I'll go home and work and improve for next year," he said.

Blignaut admitted to feeling inspired by world record holder Ryan Crouser of America, who broke his own Olympic record with 23.30m to win gold.

"It didn't distract me, it's actually motivating to be in the same conversation as these guys and you know more or less where you are in the world. You kind of just try and push to do the best for yourself on the day," said the South African.

"I like [the fact that] my [best] years are still ahead of me, I have 12/13 years left in this sport and I'm really glad over what I've achieved so far at this age."

Blignaut, who will have a deserved two-week break, hopes his performance will also inspire more shot putters back home.

"Hopefully, I can grow from this and also a few young guys from South Africa. We need to build a good culture back home and get some attention on the shot putters in South Africa because I believe we have so much talent."

On his first Olympic experience, Blignaut was grateful to get to be in Tokyo and says he is "100%" a medal contender for Paris 2024.

"My overall Olympic experience has been great, I know the sprinters fairly well since we've been travelling together in Europe, it's pretty fun... It's been absolutely amazing from the food, cardboard beds to the people," said Blignaut.

"For Paris, I'm really inspired. I feel like a medal is 100 percent realistic goal for me, it just depends on the colour.

"If I can get close to 22 next year already and then I can just get stronger and mature and I'll be in contention for a medal at the next Olympics."

*Lynn Butler is in Tokyo covering the Olympic Games for Sport24

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