Jon Gionet grabs the chalk and scrubs it on his hands. His vision narrows and he tunes everything else out. All of his training has come down to this one throw. He grabs the 16 pound shot put, turning it over in his hands. His rival just had a big throw before him, but he’s not intimidated. He’s focused.
He steps into the throwing circle and lifts the shot put to his shoulder, pressing it into his cheek. He drops his head and takes a deep breath. His eyes land on the Tommies ‘T’ crest on his jersey. With a jump, rotation and a loud grunt, the shot put is airborne.
It’s all up to physics now.
“I knew as soon as it left my hands it was going to be a good one,” said third year St. Thomas student Gionet.
That throw earlier in the season launched Gionet to second place in Atlantic University Sport for shot put, where he has remained. This weekend, he will be facing off against the best in the conference at the AUS championships in Moncton.
“I’m fired up,” he said. “It’s go time, baby.”
The Bathurst native started competing in track and field during middle school, originally throwing javelin for the school team.
When he got to high school, the track coach approached Gionet and asked him to throw javelin. He took a stab at it, but quickly realized it wasn’t for him.
He began throwing discus as a substitute. Then he found shot put.
Since then Gionet’s passion for the sport hasn’t stopped growing.
“It’s just so manly,” he said. “You’ve got to push a 16 pound rock as far as you can – it takes a lot of strength and a huge work ethic.”
Gionet played on the Tommies rugby team earlier this year, but since the season ended in early November, he’s invested most of his time in shot put. The team trains three times a week at CFB Base Gagetown. At practice, he throws about 25 times at varying weights to develop speed, technique and power.
A good shot put thrower needs to be strong. But Gionet also enjoys the technical aspect of the sport.
“Shot put is about a thousand little things you have to put together,” he said. “I’ve seen guys that are super strong, but they can’t throw well.”
He’s not usually superstitious, but this season is an important one. Since he threw his way into second place in the AUS earlier this season, he hasn’t shaved his face. He vowed he wouldn’t shave it until he won a medal.
Like any athlete, Gionet also enjoys his down time. Away from the track and weight room, Gionet enjoys playing video games and occasionally, he cracks an action novel.
This week though, he won’t have much time for that. The only thing on his mind is the AUS championships. If he wins a medal, he will be the first Tommie to win an individual medal in track and field.
“We’ll have to wait and see,” he said. “I’m ready, but it’s all a mental game now.”