Hot Shot

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Athlete Ryan Ballantyne is top of the table when it comes to shot put in New Zealand. He is also one of an elite group of 45 Waikato pre-high performance athletes recently selected into the Pathway to Podium programme.

The hot shot 17-year-old has his eyes set on future Olympic representation and is currently ranked number one in New Zealand (NZ secondary school boys) and fifth in the world in the under 18 age group.
Fitness Journal quizzed Ryan on his present standings and his aspirations for the future.

shotput2School and future career path:
St. Paul’s Collegiate School, Hamilton, Year 13.  I’d like to head into the building trade industry, but my main goal is to become a professional athlete.

Current NZ Ranking:
I am ranked #1 in NZ Secondary Schools Senior Boys (5kg), #1 in Under 20 men’s (6kg) and 3rd in the NZ Open Men’s (7.26kg).

World ranking:
The IAAF currently ranks me fifth in the world, Under 18 men (5kg)

Short term/immediate goals:
My short term goal is to retain my National Under 20 title (6kg). I am also working hard to qualify for the 2018 World Juniors Championships.

Long term goals:
I will count it a great honour to represent NZ at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo and I aim to stay at the top of my game for a long career as a professional athlete.

What is required to reach your goals?
It takes a great deal of dedication, perseverance and hard work, especially as it is an individual sport. My support team has a major impact on my performance levels to enable me to reach my goals. They work just as hard as me, if not harder, to make sure I am on track. They regularly test me, giving me that little bit extra to do the last rep or the last throw.

What prompted you to first try shot put?
I have always been keen on athletics but didn’t fancy the running events. I gave shot a go and loved it from the beginning.

Biggest game changer for your involvement in the sport:
A changing point in my career came when I failed to perform as well as I had hoped at the World Youth Games in Colombia last year. This made me realise how much I actually wanted to excel in the sport. The feeling of not achieving what I wanted broke me. I felt terrible for weeks. I immediately jumped into the gym to use it as an escape. After a few weeks we had a debrief and set out a new plan for me to come back faster and stronger. It has changed my perspective on how I look at the training. I now know it’s not all about being the strongest in the gym or the fastest on the track, but how I deal with everything that’s going on around me, even in general life.

Regional/national titles you have won:
–  Waikato/BOP Under 18, Under 20 and Open Men’s
–  North Island Under 18 record holder
–  NZ Under 18 and Under 20

What’s the highlight of your time in the sport to date?
Definitely first was when I qualified for the 2015 World Youth Games in Colombia. But coming a close second was when I got to compete on the NZ stage with my idols Tom Walsh and Jacko Gill – and to stand on the podium with them. That is the best bronze medal I will ever win.

Greatest challenge for you in the sport?
Being an individual sport, the challenge is always to stay focused and on track, as you don’t have any teammates to encourage you. I am able to achieve this because of my support team. They motivate me when times get tough. They believe in me just as much as I do.

What are people’s greatest misconceptions about shot put?
Many people think it is not a very technical sport, but if you break it down it is very complicated in nature and requires a great deal of skill and time.

What does your training involve?
Training consists of around 3-4 throwing sessions per week and then depending on the strength phase I am in. I will generally be in the gym 3-4 times as well. During the off season I am involved in gymnastics to help with mobility.

Previous sporting involvement:
I played soccer from Year 1-6, then switched to rugby from Years 6-11. I was selected as a Waikato U14 rep but when I turned 16 decided to put all my energy into shot put.

What motivates you most about this sport?
Watching my inspiration, Tom Walsh compete and succeed at the highest level. My love and passion for the sport also motivates me.

What does it mean to be part of the Pathway to Podium programme?
Pathway to Podium is a great initiative that provides a lot of support, training and expertise. As an athlete, I really benefit greatly from all the sport specific workshops they provide. I have received some 1:1 support around technique in Olympic lifting to prevent injury, and will be working closely with the programme manager this year to put resource around the areas I require to develop for performance. The workshops on nutrition, psychology and athlete life have been most valuable and I am privileged and honoured to be part of this programme.

Your support team:
I would like to thank Michael Badenhorst (coach), Dale Stevenson (coach), the Adastra Foundation (sponsor), Pathway to Podium and my parents for giving me the opportunities that I wouldn’t have had. With their help I will be pursuing all my dreams and aiming for the top.

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