An unforgettable shot-putting summer for Nova Scotia’s Sarah Mitton culminated in a community-wide celebration this week near her hometown of Brooklyn, N.S.
Mitton, who captured Commonwealth Games gold earlier this month, then came in third just days later at a Diamond League event in Poland, added another title just days ago.
The 5-foot-6 shot putter won the NACAC Track and Field Championship title in Freeport, Grand Bahamas last week.
“I’m from Brooklyn but it was in Liverpool. It was celebrating all the Olympic potential we have in the county,” Mitton told CBC Sports.
“It was really cool. Pretty much the entire town came out. I saw everyone I knew.”
WATCH | Sarah Mitton wins Commonwealth Games gold in shot put:
A larger-than-life banner of Mitton now hangs in the Queens Place community centre in Liverpool. As humble as it gets, Mitton can barely wrap her head around how the community and province has recognized her.
“They’re just so proud. Beaming with pride. And inspired. Some of the kids came up to me and talked to me about watching my throws,” Mitton said.
“To be able to hear all their stories about them watching me was so great.”
In so many ways this season couldn’t be more different compared to last year. Mitton believes she was prepared for the Tokyo Games — as prepared as she could be for an Olympics in the midst of a pandemic.
Unfortunately she wasn’t able to compete at the level she’s capable of and was unable to advance to the finals. Mitton placed 28th on the biggest athletic stage.
But her coach, Richard Parkinson, says he knew Mitton was close to having everything click. He says the World Indoor championships were a turning point last year and Mitton hasn’t looked back.
Ahead of nationals in Langley in late June, Mitton told CBC Sports she believed that throwing 20 metres might be a possibility.
In May, at the Golden Horseshoe Prep Meet in Hamilton, Mitton threw 19.58 metres. She was inching closer to that 20-metre barrier.
And then it happened. On her final throw of the competition in B.C., Mitton fired a throw of 20.33 metres.
She was brimming with confidence.
“Sarah over the last year has figured out a lot of things. Mentally. The confidence level. It’s all there now,” said Parkinson.
“It’s a different intensity level. It’s more relaxed and confident without being obnoxious. There are some athletes who have too much confidence. Sarah is quietly confident. She’s from Nova Scotia.”
WATCH | Mitton earns place on podium at Diamond League in Stockholm:
Weeks after her 20-metre throw at nationals, Mitton just missed the podium at the world championships in Eugene, Ore.
She finished fourth in the women’s final, even though she tied the third-place distance of 19.77 metres with her final throw. However, the tiebreaker goes to the second-best throw — the Netherlands Jessica Schilder’s next best throw was 19.53m, while Mitton’s was 19.18.
Despite just missing the podium, it was Canada’s best-ever women’s shot put performance at a world championship.
Gold in Birmingham
Mitton then went to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and was able to capture gold. And she did it in dramatic fashion. On her final throw of the event, Mitton registered a throw of 19.03m to claim her first international title.
“After the 20-metre throw at nationals my confidence went through the roof. I didn’t think I was going to come out this year and crush every meet, but I’ll take it,” Mitton said.
“My worst meet was Commonwealth in terms of consistency and I still ended up winning.”
From Canadian teen swimming sensation Summer McIntosh, soccer star Christine Sinclair, hockey and golf standouts Marie-Philip Poulin and Brooke Henderson and many more including teammates, Mitton says seeing Canadian women lead the way motivates her.
“That is a real thing. A lot of these women I look up to and I follow them for inspiration so it’s a little weird to be among them,” Mitton said.
“You see one woman do it, and it makes me go damn, I want to do that.”
Mitton has one more event left on the calendar this season. She’ll compete in the Diamond League final in Zurich early next month.
But both Mitton and Parkinson are already talking about the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.
“I’ve been training with Rich now since 2017 and jokes aside, he’s always overestimating how far I thought I could throw,” Mitton said.
“I’ve gotten to a level [where] I believe him. And then I believe I can throw that far. 21 metres is not that far off now.”
And the coach knows that’s what it’ll take to get on the podium in Paris.
“It’s what we’re going to need for Paris,” Parkinson said.
“And she can do it.”