Lindsay Rossmiller’s story for Day six was Rudy Winkler, the winner in the men’s hammer throw, which, for the first time was hosted on the main field of Hayward Field, to the delight of the the crowd there that night!
Rudy Winkler Surprises Them All!
by Lindsay Rossmiller
EUGENE, Ore. – Cornell junior Rudy Winkler heaved the hammer deep into the infield at Hayward Field to set a new personal best and win his first senior title in the men’s hammer throw Wednesday at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
“It’s a bit surreal,” said Winkler.
He let out a yell on his fourth throw of the competition as he released the hammer. The crowd held its breath in silence except for the sound of Winkler. He stood there in his red Cornell uniform, arm raised for a moment until the hammer hit the ground where it kicked up an explosion of soil and sod. The crowd of over 4,000 erupted.
Winkler’s throw (76.76) not only put him into first place, but it was the second time in a championship in less than a month that he had raised his official PR. The first one came at the 2016 NCAA Outdoor Championships at Hayward Field.
It was good enough to hold up throughout the competition. He was joined on the podium by Kibwe Johnson (75.11) and Connor McCullough (74.16).
“The throw didn’t feel perfect and I knew it was a lot better than my other throws so I was just focused,” said Winkler. “I was just waiting to see how far it went and I didn’t realize it went that far. I thought it went just past the 75 line and I was going to be happy with 75 low, but 76.76 came up and I was ecstatic.”
Meet organizers decided to try something different with the second day of what would usually have been a rest day by creating a way to hold the hammer throw inside the stadium on the infield.
1996 Olympic silver medalist Lance Deal helped to design a special cage which allowed the throwers to throw from the west throwing ring and spectators to watch from both the West Grandstand and what is usually the homestretch on the track in small temporary bleachers.
They got a good look at Winkler who studies Information Services at Cornell. The bespectacled college junior is currently in the middle of a software engineering summer internship with Johnson & Johnson and by the end of the meet, the Clark Kent references had begun.
Winkler started throwing the hammer as a freshman in high school in selected meets which allowed a weight throw. The native of Sand Lake, New York has been a thrower since middle school when he began with the shot put and discus.
“I still feel like I have more. I think I can throw further,” said Winkler. “I was really hoping to get the Olympic standard so I don’t have to worry about getting an invitation, but I’ve come close.”
Since none of the Americans officially currently have the Olympic standard of 77 meters, none automatically qualified. As of today, only 23 men in the world have the standard and the IAAF could still fill the field up to 32 by invitation if they choose, in which case they would do it by the performance lists. (Winkler’s mark would be 19th in the world.)
“I’m going to keep competing so even if I don’t get to go this time, it’d be unfortunate, but I’m definitely going to keep competing for 2020 and possibly 2024,” said Winkler. “I’m going to be around for awhile I think.”
And even if he ultimately is not invited to Rio, fans may have gotten their first glimpse of the future of men’s hammer throw.
“Even my throws today didn’t feel like the best I could do so even this year I think I could throw far,” said Winkler. “In the future, I’d like to throw over 80 meters and make hammer a dominant thing in the United States.”