Orazio Cremona won his sixth national title in the shot put on Saturday when he heaved a 21.12m throw. Photo: Roger Sedres/BackpagePix
JOHANNESBURG - Bouncing back from the brink of retirement, shot put ace Orazio Cremona earned his sixth national title at the South African Track and Field Championships in Potchefstroom, with his dreams of Olympic glory getting a shot in the arm.

Cremona smashed his personal best by almost half-a-metre with his final heave of 21.12 metres, edging him slightly closer to the Janus Robberts’ South African record of 21.97m.

His final throw was a thing of beauty, with the steel projectile earning Cremona the biggest heave by a South African on home soil. The towering figure that was floating on air on Saturday was a far cry from the one that was contemplating retirement after a spate of injuries.

“I had to build it back down from my foundation, I got rocked after my injury at the end of 2015 and it brought my confidence down low,” Cremona said. “I just had to rediscover myself in the shot put, (on Saturday) I was really relaxed, not as amped as I used to be, I just wanted to come and enjoy myself. I really wasn’t expecting to throw 21m, to be honest.”

Cremona competed with a fractured femur for the majority of 2015, while he was also nursing a niggling groin injury. Last year Cremona reclaimed his African title but he missed out on his maiden Olympic Games, which forced him to do some introspection.

Said Cremona: “After last year’s disappointment of not going to the Olympic Games, I took six weeks off and just said to myself: ‘Do you want to carry on, or do you just want to stop because the next four years will be crucial?' ”

“My heart said I want to go to the Olympics and become a great Olympian and go for a medal, I just felt it too strong in my heart to say let me turn away from the shot put. I said I’ve got to do it and I’ve got to do it right, I was tired of just going through the motions.”

Last year Cremona only managed to land two heaves over 20m, finishing with a lowly season’s best of 20.05m.

His performance on Saturday confirmed that he is now in the form of his life as, all of his attempts went further than 20m. Cremona launched a new personal best on his second last heave of 20.98m, which officially made him the second best shot putter behind Robberts.

“I’m 27 and my best shot put years should be coming now, so I feel I should be peaked well for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics,” Cremona said. “That is all that is on my mind, that is all that I am hungering for, all I want is a gold medal at the Olympics. It might be far away but my hunger is very strong.”

Cremona believed the throw would hold him in good stead for the world championships where he hopes to feature in the final.

The IAAF World Championships in London later this year will be Cremona’s third appearance at the global showpiece. “That is a huge breakthrough, that makes me world class, that has been my dream to be with the top guys and challenge for a medal, so I am on that road,” he said.

“The goal for the world championships is to make it into the final and finish in the top eight. Realistically, if I throw like I did (on Saturday), I think I can make the top eight. What I’ve done now is already a huge bonus, I have exceeded my expectations for the year, this was supposed to be two years down the line, so hopefully the 22m throws are in the future.”

The Star

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