Ryan Crouser had anticipated throwing 23.20 meters this past winter. In a presser for the American Track League, I had challenged him on throwing 23.20 meters or farther in 2021. Crouser thought for a minute, then, responded. Ryan felt that, if all was good with the world of shot putting, he could achieve a 23.20m or better.
Ryan Crouser, June 18, 2021, photo by Kevin Morris/ Kevmofoto
Friday, June 18th, the first day of the Olympic Trials would have two finals, the Men’s shot put and the Men’s 10,000m.
Ryan started the day off in style.
Ryan Crouser had set a stadium record of 22.92m in the qualifying. He did it for a specific reason. He wanted to have the choice of using his old shoes, you know the comfortable, worn-in shoes.
“I threw my 22.92m, that wasn’t a safety throw but it was a static start… safer, less to go wrong… that was massive PR for my static… I tightened up a little bit on the second one.. I knew there was a big throw there… World Athletics takes your shoes if you break the world record… so I went over to my dad and I was like, ‘I don’t know, they’ll take my shoes if I break the world record… I’d have to use the new Nikes… I obviously didn’t want to have to throw without my shoes in the final… They take shoes to inspect them after a world record.”
Wicked gravity, Ryan Crouser gets airborne, photo by Kevin Morris/ Kevmofoto
And so, this wondrous day of athletics began. After waiting for nearly twenty months for a chance to enjoy the finest runners, jumpers, and throwers in the U.S.A. we were treated to some amazing throwing and distance running.
The shot put is a fascinating event. In the men’s case, they take a sixteen-pound steel ball and see how far that they can throw it while beginning the throw in a ring that they must respectfully remove themselves self from in a proper manner.
The shot put is about mastering wicked gravity. A spinner must embrace that once in a while, heck more than once in a while, they will fall on their butt. But once they embrace the speed, the power, and the beauty of throwing a sixteen-pound ball anywhere from sixty-eight to seventy-six plus feet, they might be considered of the finest pushers of steel balls in the world.
Such is the life of a shot putter. Most become students of their event and build their strength, their speed, their flexibility, and their abilities to analyze their movements in order to get another six inches onto their throw.
Hayward Field, Eugene, Oregon, June 18, 2021, photo by Kevin Morris / Kevmofoto
Ryan Crouser is such a creature.
Ryan Crouser comes from a lineage that worships the steel orb, the discus, and perhaps, the most historic and primitive, the javelin.
Those who observed him have thought that he has had “it” for some time. What the hell is “it”? Keen observers of the steel orb knew that, someday, a hard-working, talented shot putter would come along who could challenge the marks of Randy Barnes.
Ryan Crouser, June 18, 2021, photo by Kevin Morris / Kevmofoto
When did Ryan Crouser think he could set a world record?
“There wasn’t really one point where I was like, ‘Okay, I can do this’… it was really from when I started it was always a dream… when I was throwing by myself and I would put my hands above myself and be like, ‘Ohhh, a new world record!’ I knew there was a possibility that I could do it since 2017… which almost makes it more difficult… I’ve known it’s possible for four-plus years now. Finally getting out of my way, I felt ten pounds lighter when it popped up on the reader in front of me.”
Let’s discuss this “getting out of my way” comment.
Ryan Crouser has been throwing since he was a wee lad. As a kid, he would watch the big throws by Ulf Timmerman and Randy Barnes. His Dad, his coach, would take his best throw from one day, and at the end of the next workout, Ryan would have to break the best mark of Randy Barnes (actually Ryan Crouser’s best mark from the day before) or Ulf Timmerman.
At the time, Ryan Crouser was a glider, just like Ulf Timmerman. Crouser studied the VHS tapes of Timmerman and Barnes to be a better shot putter.
This ability to analyze, this ability to self-manage expectations, and the ability to break up the throw into the portions that he can improve are what makes a Ryan Crouser.
When one speaks with Ryan, and one nerd out a little bit, Ryan Crouser will betray a bit of how much he loves his event, and how much time he has spent figuring out how to throw the steel orb a bit further.
A world record is a confluence of many things: it is the perfect storm, when the physical, the spiritual, the level of competition and the confidence one has in the culture or support system that has surrounded the athlete for several years.
When Ryan Crouser set the world indoor record, he knew it was coming, but that he opened up the American Track League meet 1 with it, was, well, anti-climactic.
When this writer spoke to Ryan about his indoor WR (22.82m/74’10/5″) on 24 January 2021, Ryan, a matter of factly noted that he could go farther. It was not bragging, it was just the facts. Crouser had broken a 32-year-old world indoor record set by Randy Barnes of 2.66m (74’4″), set in 1989.
Here’s my beef with Ryan. He makes it look too easy. It is not. What he does in training, what he does in competition requires extreme dedication. It looks so damn easy because he has his body, mind, and soul working in harmony, and that has taken many years to develop.
So, get back to June 18, 2021.
Ryan Crouser began his assault on the outdoor record today with three good throws. 22.61m (74’2.25″), then 22.55m (73’11/75″), and then a 22.73m (74’7″).
It was the fourth throw. And he knew it. The problem, with the levelness of the ring, he could not see exactly where it landed. “It went a little farther than I had expected,” was how Ryan Crouser had relayed the throw’s particulars at the remote presser post-event.
There was a huge roar from the crowd as Crousers’s throw was noted. 23.37 meters, which made Ryan Crouser the first man over 76 feet in the shot put. 22.37m or 76’8″, breaking the 33-year-old record by Randy Barnes of 23.12 m/ 75’10”.
By ten inches, Ryan Crouser had pushed the steel orb farther into the sky than any other human, indoors or outdoors.
And did he know it was a world record?
Ryan responded thoughtfully:
“I didn’t know it was a world record but I knew it was good, so the second it left my hand even before it left my hand I knew it was a good one… when it popped up it was actually a little bit further than I thought… You can just see it’s over 22 by a chunk, I think the people in the stands actually knew it was a little bit farther than I thought… to see the 23 pop up on the screen was really special.”
After the world record, Ryan fouled his fifth throw, and then, ended with a throw of 22.62m. Joe Kovacs chased him, going 22.06m, 22.11m, then, 22.34m (73’3.5″). In the battle for third place, the final team place going to Tokyo, Payton Otterdahl set a PB of 21.92m to take the bronze.
I will let you in on a secret. I have interviewed many world record holders. In the moments and hours past a world record, almost everyone believes that they can get into that perfect moment once again, where they almost touch the sun.
Ryan Crouser, June 18, 2021, photo by Kevin Morris / Kevmofoto
Many athletes who set a world record, never do so again.
When Ryan Crouser was asked if he could go 77 feet, this is how answer:
“It’s always about going out and trying to further my PR… I think I can go farther, I think 77 is definitely possible… if we can move up to 77 or even just higher in the 76s then I’ll be happy… obviously the world record throw was a great one… in the earlier rounds, there were parts of those throws that I liked and there’s still room to get better… that was nowhere near the perfect throw.”
And so it goes.
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