Mason Finley gives us a good shot at discus success in Rio, per long time observer Elliott Denman. Her is what Elliott Denman notes about the young thrower, who has lost 85 pounds to be a healthier human and a better discus thrower.
“SMALLER” FINLEY GIVES USA OLYMPIC HOPE IN DISCUS
Somewhere around 2 p.m. Friday, the last American male athlete to win the Olympic discus throw was asked if there was any hope of such a thing ever – ever – ever happening again.
And Mac Wilkins told you “well you never can tell, strange things can happen.
“Talk to me a little later, we may have a better answer.”
Somewhere around 4:30 p.m., we had that better answer.
He’s 6-feet-8-inches tall, he weighs 350 pounds, he ‘s 25, he hails from Buena Vista, Colorado; he started college at Kansas in 2012, he finished college at Wyoming in 2014, and his name is Mason Finley.
He checked into the USA Olympic Trials with a qualifying best of 65.63 meters (215 feet, three inches.). Five other platter-tossers had better marks.
But he checks out of the Trials as by far America’s best male discus hope for glory in Rio, and best hope for discus glory in a long, long time.
“Let’s see, 1976…let’s do the math, that was, well, 40 years ago,” said Wilkins.
“That’s hard to believe.
“Time sure does seem to fly.”
Mason Finley makes things fly, too.
When he whipped it out to 66.72 meters (218-11) in Thursday’s prelims, it put a little scare into Wilkins’s All-time Olympic Trials record of 68.68 (225-4), also set here at Hayward Field. He did it in 1980, the year America’s Team was boycotted out of the Moscow Olympics by edict of President Jimmy Carter.
And then Finley went 63.42 (208-1) Friday to win the Trials by a definitive margin.
Tavis Bailey claimed second at 61.57 (202-0) with Andrew Evans third at 61.22 (200-10.)
A most disappointed ninth-and-out-of-it was recent Penn graduate Sam Mattis, who’d gone 67.45 (221-7) back on March 19, but was unable to come close to that here.
It’s an actual wonder that anybody did as well as they did Friday.
The event was held through the rain. The ring was slippery, the implement slippier-still.
As the 2016 Trials champion put it, “It was really hard to grasp the discus with the weather. I threw much better in qualifying yesterday, but I think I threw pretty well today considering.
“It’s a huge relief, but that throw (63.42) isn’t going to do very well in Rio. We’ve got to turn on the afterburners.”
If you think Finley is a big guy now, you should have seen him two years ago.
“Man, I was huge,” he conceded.
Four hundred and thirty-seven pounds huge, actually.
But then he said enough was enough.
“I educated myself on nutrition. Now I do a lot of cardio in the morning before I lift.”
And, presto, he’s now a lean(er), mean(er) discus machine.
All three Americans have now reached the Olympic standard (here or previously) and thus constitute a full Rio team.
Second-place Bailey, out of Tennesse, told the press:
“It’s a relieving yet ecstatic feeling, and we knew the rain was coming, so you might as well get after it in the first round. I kept chasing it because I thought somebody was going to catch me.
“I think we’ve got a really good team. You hear some people talk trash about American discus throwing, but I definitely think the team we’re sending and the future of American discus is definitely coming around.
“We’ve got some talent going to Rio.”
“The weather doesn’t really change your strategy,” said third-placer Evans, out of Kentucky.
“I felt pretty sharp but the conditions obviously weren’t ideal, You get a little more tentative, so for me that’s why I didn’t really produce any big marks today. Other than that, it’s just business as usual.”
Mac Wilkins couldn’t be found for any post-event analysis.
But smart money was saying that if Mason Finley takes care of business in Rio, an American might actually have a chance of replicating Big Mac’s 40-year-old deed.
Bailey and Evans, of course, are longer shots.
Don’t count these guys completely out of it, too.
Maybe the American male discus story is headed for some all-new spin.