By ELLIOTT DENMAN
The Men and Women's Shot Put were staged on the steps of the State Capital in Sacramento, California on Wednesday evening, June 25, with much fanfair. Over two thousand fans watched Michelle Carter win the women's competition with a throw of 19.45m. Joe Kovacs used the unique showcase to throw the farthest throw in the world outdoors, a fine 22.03 meter (72-3 1/2) on his fifth throw and win the competition!
Here is Elliott Denman's piece on this exciting event!
By ELLIOTT DENMAN
SACRAMENTO - For the first time in the event's history - probably - a shot put competition caused a traffic jam.
Drivers were fuming in all directions around the California State Capitol.
Capitol police were hard-pressed to keep traffic lanes moving.
Twice actually, mid-morning and late afternoon.
All for a good cause at the right price - absolutely free.
Blame it all on John Mansoor. And his fellow activists and outside-the-box thinkers of the Pacific Association of USA Track and Field and the Sacramento Sports Commission.
Yes, it was California State Senator Jim Nielsen's fault, too.
Mansoor came up with the brainchild idea of staging the men's and women's shot put events in the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships not at Sac State's Hornet Stadium - where the rest of the meet will rage on daily through - admission definitely not free there - but smack dab on the front lawn of the California State Capitol Building. And he convinced the meet organizers to invest in the $20,000-plus it took to build the circle, truck in the sand, and create this iconic venue. (Complete with a rubber-tubed retrieval device, too.)
And Sen. Nielsen - a shot putter himself, forever proud of his 54-1 career best years back in his days competing for the powerhouse Fresno State teams coached by the great Cornelius "Dutch" Warmerdam - worked the official channels needed to clear the Capitol's lawn for the room to stage the event.
It was all designed, of course, as an appetizer for the throngs expected at Hornet Stadium the rest of the week.
And as a teaser, too, for the folks who didn't know a shot put event from a hammer throw, but were curious to find out.
The plot worked out marvelously. The cast members worked out the scenario to perfection.
A crowd estimated at 5,500 turned out for the two sessions of the SP event, the men's and women's qualifying rounds in the a.m. and the finals in the p.m. For a change, state workers had some world-class entertainment delivered to them (for lunch and early dinner) by the cast of the mighty and muscular.
Urged on by announcers Rudy Novotny and Brad Upton, and by decathlon great Dan O'Brien, those fans - of both old and new varieties - really got into it.
"Tremendous and well worth it," said Mansoor.
"Great to see," said Sen. Nielsen.
And the same word - "awesome" - came from newly crowned U.S. national champions Michelle Carter and Joe Kovacs.
"Loved the crowd, loved the setting, loved the whole concept," said Kovacs, at 6-0 and 276 pounds one of the smaller throwers but still the mightiest of all in the men's field.
The alumnus of Pennsylvania's Bethlehem Catholic High School and Penn State University responded to his audience's encouragement by delivering a PR bomb of 22.03 meters / 72 feet, 3 ½ inches to claim both the gold medal and the world lead as the first man to best 22 meters this outdoor season.
(Note that Ryan Whiting had a 22.23 / 72-11 ¼ toss this indoor season, but both he and Christian Cantwell, the previous outdoor world leader, were absent for this one.)
"Great idea," lauded Carter, after taking her fifth women's U.S. outdoor title with a heave of 19.45 / 63-9 ¾.
"Track needs new fans, we all know that," she said. "Well, this is a great way of finding them. I'm pretty sure
everybody liked this show."
(Except those caught up in the vehicular traffic slowdown, which stretched in all directions.)
It was never easy for both champions.
Kovacs trailed through four rounds as Kurt Roberts seized the men's lead with a 21.47 / 70-5 ½ heave in round three, which held up for the silver medal.
It was a PR, too, for Roberts, who lamented, "who'd ever guess I'd throw 70 feet and lose?"
Always a threat, too, was veteran Reese Hoffa, who reached 20.78 / 68- 2 ¼ in round four.
Texan Carter was never totally in the clear, either.
A serious threat was posed by Indianan Felisha Johnson, who took the women's silver with a solid
19.18 / 62-11 ¼ effort. Olympian Tia Brooks reached 18.83 / 61-9 ½ but it sufficed only for third.
Kovacs' preparation was first-rate and he gave highest marks to his hosts at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., for helping him reach peak form.
"Chula Vista has everything you need, that's the best part about it," said Kovacs.
"You have medical there, great facilities, great guys in the weight room, and obviously a great coach in Art Venegas (the former head coach at UCLA.)
"Mac Wilkins (the 1976 Olympic discus champion) is there as a director, they have a geat staff and they run it so well.
"You have everything you need there."
"You see a lot of great international throwers, too. You never know who's going to show up."
Not since the 2000 Olympic final was staged in Ancient Olympia, Greece (rather than in the Athens Olympic Stadium) had a championship shot put been held at an iconic site apart from the principal venue.
"And you know what," said Kovacs, "I thnk we're going to see a lot more of this in the future. Bring the sport to the people, it makes a lot of sense."