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American Shot Putter In World Of His Own

 

 August 5th, 2021

Top-performing athletes are always searching for ways to cultivate inspiration. It's all about setting goals: identifying a targeted outcome; creating a plan; solidifying the commitment by sharing your goal with others, and then pursuing that dream. For world-class track & field athletes performing at the highest level, the inspirational targeted achievement would be the progressive steps of Olympic Games performance: making the team; getting to the final; earning a medal; perhaps even a gold medal - the zenith of track & field performance. Or is it? For only a very few in any generation, there is a greater calling: to rise even higher, to go beyond the gold medal, to not only be the greatest performer of the generation but to assemble an entire body of work that undeniably establishes the athlete as the best ever.. In the men's Olympic shot put final, USA's Ryan Crouser further strengthened his case as the Greatest Of All Time.

 

8 5 21 Ryan Crouser 2

Ryan Crouser - RunBlogRun

Crouser came to Tokyo as the overwhelming favorite. This past winter, Crouser opened his Olympic year in January with a first-round indoor throw of 74'10"/22.82m - an indoor mark which took down Randy Barnes's world record of 74'4¼'/22.66m set way back in 1989. The Nike athlete's global best heave was a not-so-subtle signal that this year could indeed be something very special. Earlier this summer, Crouser - always well prepared - put on quite a show at the USA Olympic Trials. In the Day One preliminary round, the Olympic champion delivered an opening round bomb of 75'2½"/22.92m, setting a new best-ever qualifying mark. In the final, later that afternoon, the former University of Texas star, who had been flirting with the world record, set a new world best when he uncorked a mammoth 4th round put of 76'8¼/23.37m to run away from the field. Crouser was ready for the Olympic Games.

After easily qualifying for the shot put final in Tokyo, the world record holder looked relaxed, but nonetheless focused, as the men's shot put final commenced. Always one to jump out to an early lead, Crouser carefully swayed in the ring before spinning to release an explosive first-round flight. Bingo! Crouser's attempt reached 74'11" [22.83m], eclipsing his own Olympic record of 73'10¾" [22.52] set 5 years ago in Rio. The new record lasted about 10 minutes before Crouser's second round put measured 75'2¾" [22.93m] and thus became the new Olympic best.

Meanwhile, Crouser's closest competitors were his fellow countryman Joe Kovacs, the reigning world champion who edged out Crouser by 1 centimeter for the gold in Doha's 2019 world championships, and New Zealand's Tomas Walsh, both quickly joining Crouser and comprising a top tier trio which would go on to win the medals. A season's best mark [73'8¾"/22.47m] earned the Kiwi the bronze while Kovacs captured the silver with a 4th round put of 74'3¾" [22.65m]. Brazil's Darlan Romani finished 4th with a season's best mark of 71'9½"/21.88m.

But performing at a distinctly different level than the rest of the finalists was Crouser. How dominating was the world record holder? In the always tension-filled Olympic final, Crouser, along with Kovacs, were the only two finalists to avoid fouling. In Crouser's series, 5 of his 6 throws would have been good enough to win the competition. As the last competitor to throw in the final round, and with his second Olympic shot put gold medal secured, the winner's 6th and final throw capped a glorious performance: 76'5½"/23.30m, his third Olympic record of the day and the #2 best put on the all-time world list. At the conclusion of the championship final, Crouser's box score, a series for the ages, read 74'11"/22.83m [Olympic Record], 75'2¾"/22.93m [Olympic Record] 75'0"/22.86m, 74'7¼"/22.74m, 73'11 ½"/22.54m, and 76'5 ½"/23.30m [Olympic Record].

Afterward, while speaking to the media, the silver medalist reflected on competing with Crouser. "Ryan brings it every time," offered Kovacs, "There's not going to be an easy day, which pushes me to be better. I know I have to be ready."

The Olympic champion emphasized to the press how important pre-event preparation is for these global championships. "My mindset was really good going in, practice went really well, so today it was a lot about heat management," explained the winner. "We knew it would be a long competition and we knew it would be hot. The key was getting a big one (throw) early which I managed to do. I had solidified the win by the end so I got a little more aggressive and chased that bigger throw and finally connected with it (his 3rd Olympic record of the morning, 23.30m).

Before departing, Ryan Crouser emphasized how important thorough training is to championship success. "By the time you get here, the work is already done," said the champions without reservation. "I'm training hard because I know Joe (Kovacs) is training hard. We left some great throwers at home. Everyone knows how dedicated everyone is - it definitely leads to some far throws."

Clearly, Ryan Crouser is the greatest shot-put performer of his generation. But more than that, here is why he is the greatest shot-put athlete of all time. Crouser has now accomplished a sort of track & field trifecta as the world recorder holder in the indoor shot put, the outdoor shot put, and the Olympic shot put. In the 125 years of the modern-day Olympics, he is only the third man to successfully defend his Olympic shot put title [Ralph Rose '04 & '08; and the great Parry O'Brien '52 & '56]. And a glance at the world list of best performances in the men's shot put reveals that currently Crouser has 6 of the top 11 throws of all time. (numbers #1 [the '21 Trials], #2 [the current Games], 6, 7, 8, and 11). And here is the good news for our sport: There is every reason to believe that this two-time Olympic champion, at age 28, is likely to continue to be an elite performer for many years to come. / Dave Hunter /

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Dunaway AwardAt the 2019 annual meeting of the Track and Field Writers of America, Dave was presented with the James Dunaway Memorial Award “for track & field journalism excellence.”

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Dave Hunter

Dave HunterDave Hunter is a track & field journalist, announcer, and broadcaster.  Dave reports on the premier track & field gatherings around the globe, frequently serves as an arena or stadium announcer for championship events, and has undertaken foreign and domestic broadcast assignments in the sport.

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