Shot putter Kyle Blignaut makes SA history: 'Hopefully, I can do us proud'

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South African shot putter Kyle Blignaut
South African shot putter Kyle Blignaut
Roger Sedres/Gallo Images

There was some good news at the Olympics for Team South Africa when Kyle Blignaut advanced through to the final of the men's shot put.

South Africa's track and field performance has fallen flat with medal prospects dwindling day by day as the Tokyo Olympics nears its end.

After seeing his team-mate Jason van Rooyen eliminated in the first of two men's shot put qualification sessions, there wasn't much expectation from the 21-year-old Blignaut. 

Blignaut stepped onto the ring on his Olympic debut alongside reigning Olympic champion and world record holder Ryan Crouser.

The South African, who won gold at the 2018 IAAF World U20 Championships, threw a first attempt of 20.30m.

Crouser already led from the start with a 22.05m to seal his place in the final.

Blignaut threw a distance of 20.97m, which proved to be his best of the night, as he added 20.56m in his final attempt.

Athletes who threw 21.20m automatically qualified with 12 of the best performers advancing to Thursday's final (04:05 SA time).

"It was tough but I'm super psyched to get into a final in my first major championship at a young age," Blignaut told Sport24 on Tuesday.

"I feel like this is a stepping stone for the rest of my career. I'm just going to enjoy the final and hopefully, with this experience, I can medal in the next one."

Blignaut made history by becoming only the second South African to progress to an Olympic shot put final since Janus Robberts at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.

It has been a dream come true for Blignaut, who believes he can surprise some this week.

"Even with Covid-19, it's been a great experience in the Village with all the different countries and all the different cultures," said Blignaut. 

"I've been training since I've been nine, it's 12 years we've been working towards a final and I was fortunate enough to get it in my first Olympics, which was a bit of a surprise."

Blignaut was candid when he arrived in the press zone and says it's not realistic for him to reach the podium ... but "you never know".

"We've been throwing in the distances and working towards it. I just want to fast forward the next 48 hours to get into the ring," he said.

"It's been amazing and I'm just honoured to be here and I'm taking everything in so for the next one, I can get us a gold... Anything can happen. Hopefully I can do us proud and get a big shot out there and be in contention for a medal, you never know."

It got pretty hot at the Olympic Stadium with various stars struggling to grip the ball. Blignaut admitted that it wasn't a problem as he books his first Olympic final.

"Most of the guys weren't ready for this humidity, but it killed the guys. The ball was very slippery, had to use a lot of chalk on the neck, but we're used to it in South Africa with the hot weather so that played into my hands."

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

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