Shot putter Sarah Mitton recalls the power of an Olympic experience

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Her Olympic experience may not have gone the way she dreamed it would be, but Olympic shot putter Sarah Mitton of Brooklyn, Queens County, is chalking it up to experience.

The 25-year-old competed at the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games in July and managed to get in a first of three of throws, hurling the ball 16.62 metres, enough for 28th place.

“I fell short this year, but knowing that it was there brings me a lot of hope for the future,” she said from the Brooklyn home of her mother, Bonnie, where she’s been resting up and visiting before another busy training and competitive season. Next season will include the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Serbia in March 2022 and the World Athletics Outdoor Championships in Oregon, USA in July 2022.

She’s learned a number of valuable lessons from the Olympic experience, she says.

“I guess I learned the experience and technical consistency needed to be the best shot putter in the world is a lot more than where I’m at right now, and these experiences really help shape how you’re going to react in these situations,” she said.

“To be able to go out there with everyone representing their country and put your best out there on the day is a big lesson that I know I’m starting to learn. You have to be mentally tough and be able to pick yourself up if you fall.”

The event

As she woke up and started the day of the competition, July 31, Mitton was ready to compete, but as the time drew near to enter the stadium she was a little less certain.

“I didn’t feel 100 per cent on. I didn’t connect with the ball as much as I would have liked before going into such a high level of competition,” she admitted. The competitors began doing warm-ups outside of the stadium before they were allowed in. Once inside, they were allowed a few warm-up throws.

“A lot of the girls seemed to be struggling to get a feel for the environment and everything. My warm-up didn’t end up going much better than what I did outside, which was hard,” she said. “Mentally, I was like, ‘It’s okay. The warm-up,’ I tell myself, ‘is not a reflection of how it’s going to go and I can make adjustments in between throws.’”

The first throw went according to plan. Mitton advised one needs to make sure the first throw is good to get on the board.

Her second throw was “actually really big.”

“It’s probably the throw that will haunt me for the next three years. We seemingly think it was enough for me to get into the final, but a quick slip of the foot and I fouled out the front.”

“I was proud I was able to go from a really kind of weaker first throw and go to almost my best at the snap of my fingers,” she explained.

Her third row also ended up in disqualification with another foot foul.

Mitton recalled how in 2019 she competed at the World Athletics Championships after a 10-month gruelling season and was able to only come up with a best throw of 17.24m. She had opened up poorly and her “brain took over,” with doubts filling her mind. The meet didn’t go so well from there.

That didn’t happen in July.

“In 2019, when I was finished, I was completely gutted. I couldn’t even fathom that just happened,” she said. “This year I’m disappointed because I know that I’m capable of being in the mix with the girls that made it to the final, the top 12.” However, ultimately, she’s “proud of how far I’ve come.”

Mitton suggested the Olympic shot put competitions are about who can handle the pressure on the day, as well as who is going to throw well. The key is to learn how to perform on any given day in the time you are given, she said. Acknowledging that top throwers at the Olympics have been through these experiences numerous times, she’s happy to walk away from the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo with lessons learned.

Following the Olympics

Mitton left Japan a day after her Olympic debut and competed and trained in Europe for a month with a couple of team-mates. During that time she competed in her first Diamond League competitions in Bern, Switzerland and Hungary, where she did well, throwing 16.98m and 18.82m to finish fifth in Hungary.

“It was tough to get out there following the Olympics, probably the biggest and most important competition of our career and falling short of where you wanted to be,” she said. “Motivation was hard. But I knew I was in really good shape and I had wanted to catch a better throw for myself. So it was nice to be able to go and throw more for fun and soak up as many experiences as I can …I was definitely on a bit of a redemption mission when I was there,” she admitted.

Mitton returned home August 25 and will head back to Toronto September 25 to get some much-needed time off.

She says she will be training in Toronto until the early part of next year, then training will ramp up for the World Indoor and Outdoor championships as she starts a new journey to the Summer Olympics in France in 2024.

Feeling the love

Meanwhile, Mitton says the love she felt from home was something special.

“The community has supported me no matter what. The love I got from here during the Olympics was insane,” she said. “Every day there was a whole slew of photos showing love and support from here. It meant a lot. You know they are in your corner no matter what. This community is pretty awesome.”

Mom’s journey

Although it wasn’t ideal for her daughter to be home for just six months last year, it was definitely good for her to see her daughter for that length of time, said Bonnie. All in all it meant getting to know her daughter in a different way.

“I got to see how tenacious she was because she made the best of her situation. She was practising in her father’s garage, she was doing her workouts in the yard, and so she learned that she could do that on her own which was good to see,” she said. “In all honesty, she is one of the strongest, [most] fearless people I know, and I have told her that,” said the mother.

Kevin McBain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin

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