News & Updates

4 July 2019 • General

Maddie Wesche’s Journey Since Gold

World U20 shot put champion Maddi Wesche is hoping for a prominent showing at the World University Games in Naples which start today (note, the athletics programme runs from July 8-13). Steve Landells chats to the Aucklander about life since her stunning gold medal success last year and her aspirations for the rest of 2019.

With her World U20 gold medal proudly hanging just beyond her bedroom door – it is hard for Maddi Wesche to ignore the stellar performance last July which propelled New Zealand’s latest shot put find to global glory.

Her achievements in Tampere, Finland should not be downplayed. In striking gold she became just the third Kiwi – alongside fellow shot putters Dame Valerie Adams and Jacko Gill – in the history of the biennial event to sit top of the podium.

Meanwhile, her achievements also earned her the honour of following in the footsteps of Jacko and Eliza McCartney as a winner of the Emerging Talent Award at the annual Halberg Awards.

Yet the sport never sleeps; new goals are set and plans put in place to accomplish such feats. And if 2018 was huge for the career of the articulate Aucklander, then 2019 – with the forthcoming World University Games followed by the IAAF World Championships in Doha looming on the horizon – could prove even bigger.

But before moving forward it is worth taking a step back in time to the 2018 World U20 Championships in Tampere. Sitting in bronze with a best of 16.47m after five rounds, it would have been easy for the Kiwi to rest on her laurels and settle for the minor medal, particularly as she trailed the top two – China’s Zhang Linru and Dutch thrower Jorinde van Klinken – by more than half-a-metre with best efforts of 17.05m each.

Yet digging into her mental reserves and competing with a composure and calmness which bodes well for the future, Maddi refused to be overawed.

“As soon as I picked up the shot I knew what I needed to do,” recalls Maddi, who lives with her parents in the West Auckland suburb of Glen Eden. “I thought it would be close (to gold) but I didn’t think it would beat 17.05m. When they said it was 17.09m (a new PB by 9cm), I was shocked.

“I did surprise myself and was definitely very proud,” she adds of her mighty 17.09m, which secured gold after Zhang and Van Klinken failed to surpass the mark with their final effort.

“That day I came up against a group of strong, confident women and to be able to beat them gave me a lot of confidence.”

There was also little danger of complacency creeping in. Post the World U20 Championships in Finland, Maddi took a family holiday to Greece and Italy during which she was itching to return to the shot circle.

“I was really excited to get back to training and I even wanted to throw when I was on holiday,” she explains with a smile. “I’d had the glory of winning gold and, for me, I just wanted to move on the next big thing.”

Sitting down at the end of the 2018 international season with her coaching combination of Walter Gill, father of former World U20 champion, Jacko, and Mike Schofield the trio all agreed that qualification for the World Championships in Doha – which requires an entry standard of 18.00m would be the main priority for 2019.

Training five days a week on Auckland’s North Shore at either the AUT Millennium or Takapuna Harriers, last year the coaching unit learned a wealth of information from how Maddi’s body reacted from heavy to light training and have subsequently adjusted her training programme.

The dynamic coaching duo have also sharpened Maddi’s technique around the centre of the circle and after she tossed the senior 4kg implement out to a new PB 17.10m effort in her first competition of the year in Hastings in January, it clear she was on the right track.

“It was really exciting,” she recalls of the competition “I hadn’t competed since the World U20s, so I didn’t know how I would throw.”

A victory in Hamilton – with a best effort of 17.01m – followed but the athletics road is rarely smooth.

At the Lincoln University Street Atheltics meet in Christchurch in March she struggled to find her rhythm and no-marked. Three days later at the Jennian Homes New Zealand Track & Field Championships in the Garden City she secured the New Zealand title with a best effort of 16.30m but once again struggled technically, achieving just two valid throws.

Nonetheless, there was a simply solution to her technical gremlins as a simple shift of her right foot placement ensured she ended her domestic campaign on a huge high thanks to a mighty lifetime best of 18.32m to finish second at the Sir Graeme Douglas International Track Challenge in Auckland behind Chase Ealey of the US, the current world number two.

“It felt really good,” she explains of her huge lifetime best – which was 17.10m going into that competition. “I thought it was a high 17m and I didn’t expect it to be 18m.

“We had planned our whole international season around getting the World Championship standard, so to achieve it to so early in the season was a big weight off my shoulders.”

Since the end of the domestic campaign, the Massey University psychology student has returned to heavy training and in her words been “pretty sore” during certain weeks.

After making her return to competition with a gold medal at the Oceania Championships Maddi will take her place at the World University Games in Naples.

At the last edition of the biennial event, the competition was won with a throw of 18.34m – a mark just 2cm further than her lifetime best – so the 20-year-old enters the multisport event optimistic of a good showing.

“The World Unis are a big competition and I am focused on getting the technique right. if that works, it should be reflected in the distance,” explains the proud “Westie” who loves to spend her downtime walking her two dogs on Cornwallis Beach and paddle boarding in the Manukau Harbour.

“Any competition you go into you want to win gold but I really just want to throw as far as I can, if I do that but I do not win the gold, it is not the end of the world.”

Beyond the World University Games, however, her primary aim remains the Doha World Championships. Post-Naples, Maddi and Mike (one half of her coaching team) plan a short trip to the Qatar capital to scope out the city and help the acclimatisation process for the very intense heat she will face inside the Khalifa International Stadium later this year.

With a preference to throw in cooler conditions, Doha might not be viewed as the ideal environment for Maddi to flourish. However, the former Lynfield College student already employs a canny tactic to beat the heat.

“Every competition I take an ice pack with me which I put on between throws,” she says. “I haven’t seen many other athletes use one, but for me it makes a huge difference.”

Believing she is a stronger athlete mentally and with rising confidence since her success in Tampere she is looking forward to competing against the world elite in Doha and has set herself a clear target.

“It’s by biggest competition to date but hopefully I can achieve a top eight – that is the goal,” she says.