OERTER SURELY SMILING DOWN ON DISCUS MEDALIST MASON FINLEY, ANOTHER JAYHAWK

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Elliott Denman is one the long time observers of the sport. A former Olympic Race Walker, Elliott has covered the sport since the late 1950s. We have been fortunate to have Elliott write for American Athletics, American Track & Field and now, RunBlogRun.

Here is his piece on Mason Finley, the athlete who took the bronze in the discus, giving us a new medal and new hope in an event that was, for many years, a stalwart for American Track & Field.

Findley_MasonW-WC17.JPGMason Finley, photo by PhotoRun.net

OERTER SURELY SMILING DOWN
ON DISCUS MEDALIST
MASON FINLEY, ANOTHER JAYHAWK

By ELLIOTT DENMAN


LONDON - He's surely "up there," somewhere, among the Gods of Olympia, the Lords of the Rings, the greats of all greats at "The Games."


He, of course, is Mr. Al Oerter,four-time Olympic underdog, yet a four-time Olympic champion, too.
To aficionados of his game, he was "Mr. Discus" personified, the human version of the classic
"Discobolus," the magnificent 460 B.C. Myron-made work of statuary, that was lost in the dust of antiquity, then unearthed many centuries later, and can now be found (in replica form) in several of the great museums of the world.


One of the classiest of those classic works can be found - in marble form - in London's British
Museum - and so it seemed totally appropriate to followers of the discus game that
Mr. Mason Finley gave an incredible impersonation of Mr. Al Oerter (who left us at age 71 in 2007) this first Saturday night of August 2017 in London, too, at the 2012 Olympic Stadium.


Finley did not take the gold medal - as Oerter did at the Olympic Games of 1956 (Melbourne), 1960 (Rome), Tokyo (1964) and Mexico City (1968) - but his bronze-medal throw of 68.03 meters (or 223 feet, 2 inches), in back of Lithuania's Andrius Gudzius (69.21/ 227-0) and Sweden's Daniel Stahl (69.19, lineally 227-0, too) at the 16th edition of the IAAF's World Championships of Track and Field was certainly an Oerter-worthy performance.


A few facts - the Gudzius-Stahl finish was the closest in Worlds history. (Both 69.21 and 69.19 "translate" to 227 feet even; Finley's 68.03 was far-far-farther than Oerter's best at the Games - which was 64.78 (212-6.)

Findley_MasonW1-WC17.JPGMason Finley, photo by PhotoRun.net


Team USA had dominated the men's Olympic discus - winning the event nine of the first thirteen times it had been held - before Oerter put his own spin on things by taking the gold in the next four.
The World Championships was first held in 1983 - Oerter's last serious competition came in 1980 - so you won't see his name on the "Worlds list" for the event. You won't see too many other American names on the "Worlds list, either. Things have been rough for Americans in the ring for decades.

Just two Americans had ever medaled in the Worlds discus - both in a previous century - before Finley's bronze in this one.


Californian John Powell had taken the silver in 1987 and Syracuse grad Anthony Washington the gold in 1999.


Washington had thrown 69.08m (Powell 66.22m)
So let us call 68.03 the new "Mason Finley (not Dixon) Line."


No American had even made the final eight of Worlds since 2011.


Before that, look it up/look it up, you'd only see Casey Malone (fifth in 2009), Ian Waltz (fifth in 2005) and Adam Setliff (fifth in 2001) for anything to cheer.


But now, they're cheering like mad for Mason Finley,and specially so in - you guessed it - Lawrence, Kansas.


Oerter, of course, was a KU Jayhawk-of-all-Jayhawks.


And 26-year-old Finley is a Jayhawk, too, sort us.


This very big man (six-eight tall; once 437 pounds, now through smarter eating, a mere 345) set national throws records as a high schooler in Colorado, started his college career at Kansas, transferred out to Wyoming, but has moved right back to
Lawerence, where he trains under KU throws coach Andy Kokhanovsky.
Finley came to London positioned just 17th on the world list for the year.


But he never let that little stat take away the confidence that he could do it all on this big day.
He was solidly in position with his 67.07 (220-0) in the first round, bombed the 68.03 in round two, and was on his way. A 65.21 (213-11) in round three and 66.59 (218-5) in round five added to his brilliant scorecard.


Oh, and there was the joke of a 37.36 (122-7) toss in round four (the platter simply slipping fro m his grasp.) Call it one of the shortest the World Championships discus throws history - and a big laugher.


While he never could overhaul Gudzius or Stahl, he still beat out such illustrious veteran names of the discus game as Fedrick Dacres of Jamaica (who'd led the world list much of the year), Piotr Malachwoski of Poland, Robert Harting of Germany and Gerd Kanter of Estonia.


Consider: Malachowski had won the Worlds in 2015, and taken silvers in 2013 and 2009, along with two Olympic silver medals. Harting was the Olympic champion of 2012 and the World champion of 2011 and 2009. Kanter had won the Olympics of 2008, and at Worlds was fourth in 2015, third in 2013, second in 2011, third in 2009, the champion of 2007 and second in 2005.


But Finley was intent on spinning some major discus history of his own, as he claimed his nation's first medal of the 2017 Worlds.


Yes, an hour before Justin Gatlin and Christian Coleman ran 1-2 ahead of Usain Bolt.


"Other than everything, what went well today?" Finley was asked.


"Well, literally everyrthing did go well today," he said, smiling hugely.


"Two personal bests," he said, for starters.


And the joy of wrapping himself in an American flag as his countrymen on the premises rejoiced.


Then he explained.


"I was actually ble to relax,
"I'm was following into my stride, trusting my body, following my coach.


"I've known I can do it for a while, I've had these throws in practice, so it's just taken me a little time. I just haven't done anything like this in a big meet.


"Plus, the stadium was nuts tonight (close to 60,000 on hand); that helped me out for sure; it had to help everybody get psyched.


"Peiople were actually cheering for the discus (as an event), and that was crazy, too.


"I've been watching gutys like Malachowski and Harting on YouTube, it seems forever.


"These guys have been my heroes. I've been trying to mimic their technique for years,
through high school, through college, and wow, now here I am up there, too"
And how was the new Worlds bronze emdalist goinmg to celebrate?


"I know we're going to have some fish and chips, my coach and I."


"We've had it a few times since we've been here in London, it's been phenomenal."
And now London can say Mason Finley was phenomenal, too.

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