Above: Julia Ratcliffe taking out the gold medal in the women's hammer. Photo by Alan McDonald MacSpeedfoto.
Julia Ratcliffe turned silver into gold. winning the hammer throw Commonwealth title on the Gold Coast four years after taking the silver medal in Glasgow.
The four times New Zealand champion and record holder with 70.75m led throughout the competition after her opening throw of 66.19m.
Ratcliffe consolidated her lead in the next round with 68.60m. Australian Alexandra Hulley threatened in round two with a throw of 68.20m. The top seeds, Jillian Weir of Canada and Sophie Hitchon both struck trouble on release sending the hammer into the cage. They both fouled their three attempts and were out of the competition.
The 24 year old from Hamilton cemented her claim for the gold with a fifth round throw of 69.94m. Hulley did not improve and had to settle for the silver with her compatriot Lara Nielsen taking the bronze with 65.03m.
“It’s just out of this world,” was her reaction coming off the field.
“In the warm ups I was really freaking out, because - I don’t know what I was doing, I’ve been doing a heel turn all season because that was something new, but for some reason in the warm ups I decided to try toe turns and I didn’t realise till two throws in, so I fixed that,” said Ratcliffe.
“I had a good first one just to get it out of the cage and I then got my grove back and got into it a bit more.
“It was pretty shocking to see Jillian Weir and Sophie Hitchon foul out, both awesome throwers so that was a big shock, after Sophie threw it in the cage for the third time I was sitting there thinking oh my goodness I could win a gold medal, very high chance of the gold medal. I knew Alex Hulley was in good form because she threw out close to a PB and I was just hoping that I could push it out and she wouldn’t catch me so I managed to get a good one out in the fifth round which was actually two centimetres less than I threw in Glasgow for the silver, but it’s on the day and we got a bit of rain in the middle so managed to miss that thankfully in my throws.”
It has been an uphill battle for Ratcliffe over the last three months overcoming a shoulder injury.
“Up until three months ago I hadn’t touched my competition weight which I usually throw eleven months of the year, but I have had a huge support crowd helping me rehabilitate.”
“It was so special to have my Dad (Dave her coach) in the crowd just so special to have him and my family here.”
The Kiwi support was also a big help in motivating her.
“It’s so good to see so many flags out there, you just don’t get that overseas.”
“I had the perfect lead up to the silver in Glasgow but this one I’ve just fought tooth and nail, just pulling through from that injury and taking it slowly and everyone supporting me every step of the way.”
Long term after a break Ratcliffe has further international representation to consider.
“There’s a bit of planning to be done, for the world champs in Doha next year and the Tokyo Olympics,” she said.
Her father and coach Dave said that he has guided Julia since she was 12 in various athletic events.
“She started off as a hurdler, and was the Colgate champion over the hurdles. I taught her to hurdle from a young age. We then tried everything from the high jump to the shot put and finally the hammer and the hammer works really well,” he said.
“It’s fantastic, a couple of months ago we weren’t even sure we were going to make it over here, so to come over the gulf is absolutely unbelievable. Over the last couple of years she’s had quite a lot of pain where the clavicle and sternum met in the joint and High Performance New Zealand physios have been working on it. She is relatively pain free now and that has enabled her to train hard.
“In the build-up we’ve been throwing the 2kg hammer and then the 3kg, moved up to the 4kg and then gradually the 5kg and the distances have been increasing and two days ago she threw over 69 metres so we knew that she was hitting form,” he added.
Athletics New Zealand Correspondent