I must say, I am quite proud of Lindsay Rossmiller. She was able to get me to sit down with her twice in three days during a World Championships. In discussing the shot put, which I had assigned to her on Saturday, I called it a ballet. I told her to find me something that no one else saw, and that she needed to reveal that to our readers.
I noted to Linsday, for some reason, that Martha Graham called dancers “athletes of God.” I consider shot putters the same. I love the movement, the focus, the movement that a good throw entices, and the movement that sub par throw brings out in the thrower. I love the head games throwers use on other throwers, although the women throwers have a different patois.
This is a wonderful piece from a new writer for our sport, Lindsay Rossmiller. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.
Hungary’s Anita Marton had just hurled herself to the lead in the final round of the women’s shot put at the IAAF World Indoor Championships after trailing in third for most of the competition, but New Zealand’s two-time Olympic gold medalist Valerie Adams and the U.S.A.’s nine-time national champion Michelle Carter, who had led the entire competition, were to follow.
Adams, coming off an abbreviated 2015 season due to shoulder surgery and working to maintain her position as one of the sports premiere throwers, readied herself and stepped into the ring. It came up short.
Carter stepped into the ring after a brief break while Boris Berian of the U.S. stormed to a win in the men’s 800 meters bringing the sold-out crowd in the Oregon Convention Center to a roar. Carter crouched and jumped backward, throwing the shot and immediately raising one hand in the air.
Carter had never placed higher than bronze at an international competition in spite of her senior career extending back to 2005. In head-to-head contests with Adams, she lost 39 straight. But in the last four, Carter has found a breakthrough while Adams struggles to return to her former dominance.
They are a study in contrasts. Adams is tall and comes out of the introduction tunnel with a wave, but bouncing on her toes a bit like a boxer entering the ring. Carter uses both her hands to wave while grinning and twisting from side to side acknowledging the full crowd.
On the field, both are relatively silent. Carter retreats to the track and the infield in between throws to continue practice and often stands staring off with her hands on her hips, but is relatively still. Adams, on the other hand, is usually in some form of slight motion – shifting her weight from side to side, short pacing, and rewrapping her many wraps – both knees, all the fingers of her throwing arm, her back brace, and elbow. While the rest of the field seems a little more ready to make small talk, both Adams and Carter are aloof. They may watch other throwers, but generally don’t look to see how far the throw went.
On the first round of the competition, Adams threw seventh and went straight into the lead. Carter followed with a foul that careened off the net and knocked into the markers. But while Adams’ second throw didn’t improve, Carter’s was able to take the lead. Carter was able to match every increase as she threw last in the order.
And while the rest of the infield was busy getting crowd support, the women’s shot putters were stoic. The men’s triple jumpers kept motioning to get the crowd clapping as they lined up on the runway. The men’s high jumpers would dance with each clearance, performing their versions of touchdown dances. But the women’s shot putters would simply slap their hands together or walk up to the railing to talk with their coaches, showing little emotion and biding their time.
On the third attempt, Adams would take the lead at 19.25 only to have Carter improve to 19.31 on the very next throw after which the field was cut to the top eight throwers. Adams intentionally fouled on her fourth throw and Carter fouled her fifth and they cut the field to four as meet organizers tested a new format to allow full attention for the final throws.
Carter’s last throw improved Marton’s mark (19.33 meters) by nearly a meter. Her 20.21 meters set a new American indoor record. Adams settled for bronze with 18.31 meters, unable to earn her fifth consecutive world title.
As the sold-out crowd gave Carter a standing ovation, Carter’s face finally broke into a smile and the competitors loosened up – clapping, cheering and hugging. Carter’s U.S.A. teammate Jillian Carmina-Williams, whose record Carter bettered, made a beeline for Carter while Adams managed the throng and soon started to pack up her backpack.
At the medal ceremony, the throwers entered through the crowd at Pioneer Courthouse Square, high-fiving fans on both sides. Carter accepted her first gold and the first American gold in this event. As the flags were raised and anthem played, Carter beamed. When asked afterward what it meant to have the energy of the crowd for her final throw, Carter said, “To have this sort of championship here at home, and to have everybody here with their love and support cheering for me, I really appreciate it.” And the crowd drowned out the rest.