Adam Nelson is one of the athletes I respect the most. I am, and you should be, humbled to be in such an athletes’ presence. For twelve years, someone else got the credit for the gold medal in the shotput that should have been Mr. Nelsons. Can you even consider how such an action would affect you?
The truth is this: Adam Nelson is an Olympian and one of the finest and most colorful competitors in an event known for color and characters. If you do not enjoy the shot put, then, you have not seen a great competition with big men throwing sixteen pound metal balls as far as they can will them.
Adam Nelson is an Olympian. He is a gold and silver medalist. And he is a total class act, giving honor to his country, his sport and his family. Here is Lindsay Rossmiller’s fine piece on Adam Nelson. This is the first of ten this Olympic Trials from Ms. Rossmiller who is developing quite a group of fans of her writing, I among them.
By: Lindsay Rossmiller
EUGENE, Ore. – Right before the national anthem to open the USATF 2016 Olympic Trials, Adam Nelson received an award ceremony to honor him for his 2004 Olympic gold medal in the shot put that had been upgraded in 2013. His black sunglasses covered his eyes as they placed a wreath on his head, but his mouth betrayed emotion.
“My medal ceremony up to this point was an exchange outside the Burger King at the Atlanta Airport,” said Nelson. “I’m a pretty emotional person in general, and you know, there’s something about the national anthem and it’s a big reason why we do this.”
Nelson, who owns the 2000 Olympic silver medal as well, is a three-time Olympian and four-time medalist at the World Championships. In 2004 in Athens, he finished second to Ukranian Yuriy Bilonog whose medal was later revoked for doping.
“The 2004 Olympics to me was about an anthem that was never played and a reality that no one actually knew the truth about until eight years later and I didn’t receive the medal until another year later after that,” said Nelson.
Nelson wasn’t just in attendance for the ceremony though, he was also there as a competitor, just a few days shy of his forty-first birthday.
Nelson made it through the morning’s qualifying round in ninth (20.22 meters).
As he lined up for his final throw in the evening’s final, he motioned to the crowd. The crowd of 20,987 all started a clapping crescendo that continued until he released, but the throw was foul. He raised both hands and bowed to the crowd as he came out of the ring.
Nelson finished in seventh with a 20.17 meter throw that he threw in the first round.
Ryan Crouser won with a new personal best of 22.11 and Joe Kovacs (21.95) and Darrell Hill (21.63) will round out Team U.S.A. in Rio.
After retiring in 2013, Nelson only started throwing again last year. Since, his training has been limited to an hour and a half per day because work and family commitments always came first. He admitted it was much different than the training he’d done during his almost 24-year-long career.
“It was not exactly the most intentional decision to come out here,” said Nelson. “I’m 40, I figure this is a much healthier mid-life crisis than the other reasons out there.”
When he arrived in the mixed zone, Nelson wore a blue t-shirt that said, “best dad ever.” It also happened to have two unicorns under a rainbow on it His two daughters, aged five and seven, were in attendance in 2012 as well, but Nelson said he wanted this experience to be memorable for them.
“A big part of this experience to me was to show [my two daughters] how amazing the Olympic movement really is and how you can dream big, bet the ranch, and go after it,” said Nelson.
And not only did they offer him coaching pointers like needing to stay in the ring, they got to witness him being given recognition for a medal won twelve years earlier.
Nelson’s 2013 retirement was supposed to be permanent, but his return to competition was for a number of reasons, only one of which was his daughters. Nelson also found strong motivation from his age and had the sport’s recent scandals.
“I spent my whole career advocating for clean sport and at some level I felt like I had some unfinished business,” said Nelson. “I just wanted to send a message that you can not only do this the right way, but you can do this the right way for a long long time, a lot longer than what most people feel like.”
While disappointed to have not thrown his goal of 21 meters, Nelson won’t count out another possible return.
“I won’t go four more years, I’ll just go and train and have fun and if I’m in a situation…maybe I’ll do the mile next time,” said Nelson with a laugh.