This is a piece by long-time scribe Elliott Denman. Elliott has written for my publications since 1989. An Olympian in the racewalk in Melbourne in 1956, Elliott has spent his eight-plus decades on this planet loving our sport and getting others to as well. Of Elliott Denman,
Jeff Benjamin says it best, “ Elliott is the standard to which we all ascribe!”
EUGENE, OREGON, July 17, 2022
Ryan Crouser and Joe Kovacs were the givens.
Josh Awotunde surely wasn’t.
And that’s the storyline of the men’s shot put at the 2022 Worlds few will surely mention.
Winning a medal at the World Championships of Track and Field is a heck of an achievement.
Setting two all-time personal best performances along the way to that medal is even more of an achievement.
Completing a 1-2-3 Team USA sweep in the event – the first time that’s ever happened over the 18-meet history of the World Championships, the classic meet dating back to 1983 that is at least on par with the Olympic Games to the sport’s purists – clinches the performance’s total magnitude.
That, folks, is the Josh Awotunde story.
The Shore Athletic Club member, out of Delsea (NJ) High School and the University of South Carolina, made himself, his family, his Shore AC clubmates – and most importantly, his nation, immensely proud with his mighty lifetime best shot put efforts of (first) 73 feet and a quarter inch, and (then) 73 feet, 1 3/4 inches, in dramatic Day Three action of the World Championships at Hayward Field.
Together with Oregonian Rayn Crouser’s come-from-behind victory in the event with his fifth-round toss of 75 feet, 3 1/4 inches, and Pennsylvanian Joe Kovacs’ mighty heave of 75-1 1/4 for the silver, the New Jerseyan’s performance gave Team USA its first-ever 1-2-3 shot put medals sweep at the Worlds.
Not since Kansas’s Bill Nieder, California’s Parry O’Brien, and Arizona’s Dallas Long went 1-2-3 at the 1960 Rome Olympics had a Team USA shot put trio swept all the medals at a major outdoor global competition. And it was only the sixth time – any event, men or women – that a single nation had claimed all the medals at the Outdoor Worlds. Carl Lewis-led trios took them all in the 100-meter dash and long jump back in 1983 and the Fred Kerley-Marvin Bracy-Trayvon Bromell unit, who went 1-2-3 here Saturday in the 100, were the only previous American threesomes to be this monopolistic.
To Crouser, who had to battle back after Kovacs swept into the lead, it was a form of patience rewarded. He held the world record, he owns two Olympic golds, but he’d never won the Outdoor Worlds. Kovacs beat him by a single centimeter back in 2019 at the Doha Worlds.
“To win it this way, in front of family and friends, at a place (Hayward Field) I can almost call home, is just amazing,” said the 29-year-old Crouser.
“This was the perfect place to come through with the win.”
“I knew it could still turn around (after he’d taken the lead in the fourth round,” said Kovacs, 33. “Ryan’s that kind of competitor. He’s always got a way to respond.”
The Crouser-Kovacs feats were not unexpected. But Awotunde’s surely was. The 27-year-old came in just ninth place on the 2022 world list. But he still beat a bunch of those ahead of him on that list -New Zealand’s Thomas Walsh wound up fourth, Brazil’s Darian Romani fifth, and Croatia’s Filip MIhaljevic sixth.
“I’m very grateful to Shore AC,” he said. “You guys have been so great to me. I really appreciate it.”
His University of South Carolina coaches were all here to cheer his performance. And a handful of Shore AC members and friends were scattered among the Hayward Field crowd, too.
Just moments after Crouser, Kovacs, and Awotunde completed their shot put sweep, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Shericka Jackson, and Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica took the top positions in the women’s 100-meter sprint final.
And that, understandably, prompted a delegation of Jamaica fans to start a “one-two-three, one-two-three, one-two-three” chant.
And that, in turn, prompted a smiling American in the stands to tell them,”Hey, guys, I didn’t think you were shot put fans.”