Standing just 5-foot-6, Sarah Mitton isn't the most daunting figure in the shot put circle. But what she lacks in size, she makes up with grit and attitude.
"Give 'er hell in the circle and hope for the best," she told CBC Sport as she prepares for the national championships this week in the township of Langley, B.C.
She competes Saturday night.
Throwing free and fearlessly, Mitton is basking in the most successful stretch of her athletic career.
In February, she broke the Canadian indoor record at an event in New York with a throw of 19.16 metres. That broke the previous mark of 18.81 set by Mitton's training partner Brittany Crew in 2020.
Mitton followed that up by shattering the outdoor Canadian record in May, also held by Crew, at the Golden Horseshoe Prep Meet in Hamilton. In her final throw of the event, Mitton threw 19.58 metres — Crew's previous record was 19.28.
"Those big throws are effortless. That is the sweet spot I've found. That's why 2022 people are calling it Mitton season," the 25-year-old from Brooklyn, N.S., said, laughing.
"Athletics Canada said it was Mitton season on social media. It was indoor season so that worked really, really well. The cold weather. My last name. And my coach now has latched onto it. We're hoping despite the hot weather Mitton season continues in Langley and at worlds."
Athletics Canada head coach Glenroy Gilbert has great expectations for Mitton but says she still has to put it together at the big international meets.
"If you look at the way she performed in Tokyo and what she's doing now, she's corrected a few things. She's done good stuff in terms of where she is now but you have to get to the championships," he told CBC Sports.
"How you throw when the pressure is on, that is what we're looking for. She's done it in some of the Diamond Leagues but she has to take it to Eugene now."
Things couldn't be more different right now for Mitton compared to last summer. She went to Tokyo with hopes of advancing to the finals. Instead she somewhat unravelled on the big stage, placing 28th.
Practice makes perfect
She says she was so worried about fouling that she got in the way of herself being able to throw confidently.
"Throwing 16 metres at the Olympics was not fun. I don't want to be in that position ever again," she said.
"I had a big letdown after the Olympic Games. It wasn't my best showing. I sat in that and reflected on it. I had a really high foul rate. I fouled a lot of throws. When I would get to these major events I would try to slow down and control my throw a lot of more and save it. But I would have to slow so much that my distances would fall short of what I could produce."
Mitton and her coach Richard Parkinson spent months working on her form and more than anything working on her control without giving up on distance.
"At every training session I tried to save as many throws as possible. If it was good. If it was bad. If I was falling. The goal was to save every throw," she said.
"I'm getting really good at finding the toe board and controlling that chaos in the circle. That's not a fear anymore."
"I can get in the circle and compete instead of thinking about everything so much. It's coming so naturally." - Sarah Mitton describes her renewed confidence after working with coach Richard Parkinson.
She's out of her head and into her body now, in what she calls a flow state.
"I can get in the circle and compete instead of thinking about everything so much. It's coming so naturally. I can just get in there and go as fast and as hard as I can."
Mitton says nationals will be a stepping stone leading into the world championships in Eugene next month.
"Nationals is a big meet. I'd like to throw as far as possible," she said.
"I'd like to hit the championship record. 18.65. Anything over 19 metres these days puts a smile on my face."
The real test will come at the world championships though, and Mitton knows it. It's the biggest event since things went sideways in Tokyo.
Performance on demand. That's what it's all about now for Mitton and she feels she's ready for the big stage.
"The confidence is a big thing. I had the potential but not the confidence. Every competition I go into now I know I can compete," she said.
"I actually believe I have the potential to throw 20 metres and just haven't yet. I'll be in the mix and who knows what will happen there."