Germany's Christina Schwanitz secured her first global gold on the opening night of the Beijing World Championships. A little over a week later she added the 2015 Diamond Race trophy to her collection. We chart the 29-year-old's journey to the most successful fortnight of her life.

Gene pool

Christina Schwanitz was born in Dresden and raised in a sporting family. She says that both her parents have contributed something to her ability. “I get my shot put technique from my mother and my power from my father,” she says.

Her mother is a former regional standard military horse rider. Her father also rode and competed as a long distance runner. Schwantiz’s aunt and uncle were heavily involved in sport, the former as a platform diver and the latter as a road cyclist.

Drop shot to shot put

Schwanitz was aged 15 when she discovered the shot put, and did so quite by accident. Told to throw in a school PE lesson, she caught her teacher’s attention by hurling a 3kg shot 13m to beat all the boys. She was stunned.

“I had played tennis for two years before [she finished third in the regional championships in Dresden], but I could not figure out [why I was good at shot]. I had no idea. I think it was other people who discovered I had a talent before I did,” she adds. 

A week later she entered her first ever competition and won. Her shot put journey had begun.

Christina Schwanitz ()

Schwanitz as a 19-year-old at the 2005 Helsinki World Championships, where she finished seventh

Love the craft

Schwanitz’s career quickly took off. Within three years of taking up the sport she won bronze at the 2004 World Junior Championships, finishing behind American Michelle Carter, who won bronze behind the German in the Bird’s Nest last week. The following year she landed silver at the European U23 Championships before a series of five foot operations stalled her career. But her passion never waned, and it only took a single spark to push her along the path to senior glory.

“It was always fun for me,” she explains. “It was only in 2008 [when she threw a PB of 19.31m and finished 11th at the Beijing Olympics] when I first thought I could make a career out of shot put.”

Coaching clear

In 2010 Schwanitz joined a new coach, Germany's national throws chief Sven Lang – it proved a pivotal moment in her career development. 

“Sven’s a very straight forward person,” explains Schwanitz. “He has a very clear mind on technique and he makes his point very clearly.”

However, she stresses, she never trains with two-time former world champion David Storl (who won men’s shot put silver in Beijing), who is also coached by Lang.

“The way a coach has to train a man and a woman is totally different,” she adds.

Christina Schwanitz ()

Competing at the 2014 Anniversary Games in London

Thinking clear

Between 2008 and 2012, every global championships Schwanitz entered ended frustratingly the same way. She would throw far in qualification, only to fall short in the final. She sought help, and started working with sport psychologist Grit Reimann. It proved a masterstroke.

“I received several tips and overcame my problems,” she says. “I would always call her up and get good advice. She changed my mindset and helped turn the stress into fun.”

With the pieces of the jigsaw falling into place, she landed her first major senior title at the 2013 European Indoor Championships in Gothenburg. Another breakthrough followed later that year when she breached the 20 metre barrier for the first time, setting a PB 20.41m to win silver behind Valerie Adams at the Moscow World Championships. Her career had stepped up a notch.

Out of adversity

The road to athletic success rarely runs smooth, and after winning the 2014 European and Continental Cup titles, as well as that world indoor silver, she went in for knee surgery last September to fix a patella problem. The surgery was declared a success, but an infection lengthened the road to full recovery. The Chemnitz-based athlete only returned to full training in late March.

“I wouldn’t have believed then what I have gone on to achieve this year,” explains Schwanitz.

Christina Schwanitz ()

Winning the 2014 European Championships in Zurich's Letzigrund stadium – the scene of her victory in the Diamond League on Thursday

Pressure makes diamonds

Making a few technical adjustments, notably being much quicker in the circle, Schwanitz added 36 centimetres to her PB with a world leading 20.77m effort at the Beijing World Challenge meet in the Bird’s Nest back in May. It was far from stress-free build up. She had finished second in the Shanghai Diamond League on the Sunday and was due to fly into Beijing the next day. Her flight was delayed by 24 hours, meaning she only arrived in the Chinese capital on Tuesday – the day before competition. It made no difference to her form.

In fact, Schwanitz’s agent, Sylvia Abmayr, jokes: “We say now we need this pressure point for her to perform to her best.”

Domestic bliss

Her husband, Thomas, is a rock of support, and allows Schwanitz to follow her dreams. The IT worker has no direct involvement with the sport, but has played a key role behind the scenes. When she won gold by seven centimetres from China’s home favourite Lijiao Gong, the first person the freshly minted world champion rang was Thomas.

“He was so happy he was almost crying,” Schwanitz says of the emotional moment. “It would not have been possible without him. He has been a huge support.”

Her journey to gold was complete.

Diamond coronation

The following week, in the Weltklasse Zurich Diamond League meet, Schwanitz won the night with a second round 19.91m throw, which secured her this year's Diamond Race title after a total of five wins on the circuit. It was a glittering fortnight; the just rewards for the woman who has stamped her authority on the event throughout the season.