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B.C.’s Ethan Katzberg wins gold in hammer throw at world championships

Nanaimo athlete the first Canadian man to reach podium in hammer at worlds
Ethan Katzberg, of Canada,reacts after an attempt in the Men’s hammer throw final during the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Canada’s Ethan Katzberg smashed his own record and exceeded all expectations, claiming the gold medal in the men’s hammer throw at the World Athletics Championships on Sunday in Budapest.

The 21-year-old from Nanaimo set a Canadian record with a throw of 81.25 metres on his fifth attempt, breaking his own national mark of 81.18 metres set during Saturday’s qualifiers.

“I knew it was going to be good … I didn’t know it was going to be 81.25, but obviously I was very excited that it was,” Katzberg said of his gold-medal throw. “It felt good leaving my hands.”

It was Canada’s first medal in Budapest, and Katzberg became the first Canadian man to reach the podium in this event at a world championship.

Poland’s Wojciech Nowicki won silver with a throw of 81.02, while Hungary’s Bence Halasz, the clear favourite of the Budapest crowd, claimed bronze with a heave of 80.82.

Five-time champion Pawel Fajdek of Poland finished fourth.

“It feels amazing. With it being my first world championships I didn’t know exactly what to expect but I came in with a good mentality,” the Canadian said.

The gold puts a cap on what’s been a breakout year for Katzberg.

He had won six of his 12 competitions this year entering worlds, including nationals, and never placed lower than third in an event.

Before worlds, Katzberg, a silver medallist at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, had also never thrown 79 metres. His 78.73-metre throw at nationals that won him his first Canadian title had been his season best.

He set a then-personal best and national record of 81.18 metres in Saturday’s qualification to be the leader by a stretch. The next closest throw was 78.47 from Ukraine’s Mykhaylo Kokhan.

Katzberg closed out the competition Sunday by eclipsing the 80-metre mark on four of his six attempts with his final two throws sailing more than 81 metres.

“My coach Dylan Armstrong told me to just go for it out of the gate and I was really happy with my 80-metre throw to start,” said Katzberg. “I think that boosted my confidence. I was able to get a personal best, national record and become a world champion.”

READ MORE: Vancouver Island hammer thrower breaks Canadian youth record

Katzberg credits Armstrong, who won shot-put bronze for Canada at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, and veteran throws coach Dr. Anatoliy Bondarchuk, a hammer-throw gold medallist for Ukraine at the 1972 Munich Games, for sculpting him into a world champion.

“He’s been my coach but he’s also been my mentor,” he said. “He and Dr. Bondarchuk have been amazing mentors to me. They have so much knowledge shared between them. They have definitely mentored me and physically prepared me for this competition — and it worked out.”

Victoria’s Adam Keenan, 29, finished 11th with a top throw of 74.49.

Meanwhile on the track, Canadian runner Mohammed Ahmed placed sixth in the men’s 10,000-metre final in a season-best time of 27 minutes 56.43 seconds.

Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda won gold in 27:51.42, while Kenya’s Daniel Ebenyo won silver in 27:52.60 and Ethiopia’s Selemon Barega claimed bronze in 27:52.72.

The 32-year-old Ahmed was a silver medallist in the 5,000 at the Tokyo Olympics.

The Canadian Press