When Dave Hunter told me, a couple of weeks ago, that he had a piece he was working on about Ryan Crouser, I knew that would be the big one before the World Champs. Dave has just covered the NCAA champs in June, and the USATF Champs two weeks later. Dave will be writing a column a day for us at the 2022 World Athletics Outdoor Championships, to be held in just one week, July 14-July 25, 2022.
Ryan Crouser: Focused On Further Improvement, Farther Throws
July 7th, 2022
No one would ever dispute that shot putter Ryan Crouser, not yet 30 years old, is on his way to establishing himself as the greatest of all-time in that event. In fact, many would say he is already there.
Look at his accomplishments in the ring: Crouser is the current world record holder in the shot put, both indoor and outdoor, with a record indoor put of 22.82m (74’101⁄2) in January of 2021 and an outdoor best of 23.37m/76’8¼” at last year’s Olympic Trials.
In addition to his world records, Crouser is a money player when the chips are on the table. He is always well-prepared and at his best in the heat of global competition. Crouser is a two-time Olympic gold medalist having been to the top step of the podium in both the 2016 and 2020 (or should we say 2021…) Games. In both Olympiads, his winning put set a new Olympic record, heaving the shot 22.52m/72’10½” in the ’16 Games and bettering that record mark with a best put of 23.30m/76’5½” in successfully defending his Olympic title at the Tokyo Games.
Before Ryan burst on the scene, the Crouser family had already been producing a squad of accomplished throwers. Ryan’s father Mitch was a discus alternate in the ’84 Olympic Games; his uncle Ben was a two-time Olympian in the javelin. His uncle Dean was a good shot putter. And his cousins Sam and Haley were top-flight performers in the javelin. Family members and others were eager to see what young Ryan might be able to do.
Crouser first stepped into the track & field spotlight as a highschooler, putting the 12-pound shot 23.54m/77’2¾” to set a new national indoor high school record. That record heave is a #2 all-time high school record, second only to Michael Carter’s Beamon-esque mark of 81’3½”. As a collegian at the University of Texas, Crouser, undaunted by a variety of nagging injuries, was nonetheless a 4-time NCAA champion in the shot put and a very good performer in the discus as well.
After the conclusion of his collegiate career, the Oregon native remained in Austin to further hone his shot put skills. At the same time, Crouser, an excellent student, pursued a master’s degree in finance, graduating early in 2016. With the distractions of higher education behind him, the newly-minted professional was able to laser in on progressing in his field event in the Olympic year. Not surprisingly, Crouser began showing attention-getting improvement. At the Trials, he was the surprise shot put victor with a winning mark of 22.11m/72’6¼”, bettering the pre-meet favorite Joe Kovacs. A few weeks later at the Rio Games, Crouser captured the gold with a personal best and Olympic record heave of 22.52m/73’10½ and the #10 throw on the all-time world list.
In the 2019 Doha World Championship finals, an event heralded by many as the greatest shot put competition of all time, the trio of Crouser, Kovacs, and Tom Walsh battled for the medals. It was a gripping competition that was extremely close and was not fully settled until the final put had been launched. In the 6th and final round, Kovacs burst into the lead with a final heave of 22.91m. Crouser, the leader prior to Kovacs final throw, was next up. His final attempt was 22.90m – an improvement but still .01m behind Kovacs. Tom Walsh, whose earlier 22.90m was the early leader, fouled on the final throw of the competition. By a margin of a ¼ inch, Kovacs captured the gold. With Crouser and Walsh both sporting top heaves of 22.90m, the American edged Walsh on the count-back for the silver while the New Zealander was relegated to the bronze. For Crouser, memories of that competition – and that loss – still linger.
Stung by the buzzer-beater finish in Doha, Crouser came out focused and ready in pandemic-riddled 2020, winning all of his indoor and outdoor competitions, ringing up a best indoor mark of 22.60 (just .06m behind the world indoor record) and an outdoor best of 22.91m/75’1¾”, a throw at that point which tied the #3 mark of all time.
Crouser’s ascent has continued. In 2021, on his first competitive throw of the new year, the Olympic champion launched an indoor world record heave of 22.82/74’10½” taking down the previous record which had stood for over 30 years. Crouser’s undefeated 2021 outdoor season was highlighted by his world record outdoor best of 23.37m/76’8¼”, bettering the previous record throw of 23.12m.
It would be understandable if Ryan – or, for that matter, any constantly-successful track & field athlete – might be content to stand pat or even drift away a little bit from the intensive training and preparation that helped them to become wildly successful in the first place. Ryan Crouser isn’t built that way.
“I switched my training a little bit. I feel like I’m behind where I have been in past years. But I’m under a 5-year training load. And I’ve implemented a new training style this year to try and surpass where I’ve been in the past,” explained Crouser this past winter after the pre-Millrose Games press conference. “It (the new training style calling for more variety and experimentation) is a little bit of a leap of faith. I wouldn’t say that I am widely leaping, but it’s a leap So I feel like I’m a little bit lagging behind where I’ve been in the past,” explains the Olympic champion in outlining his goal of expanding to broader training opportunities “If I can throw (in the Millrose Games) even in the realm of where I have been in the past or surpass that it is a fantastic indicator of what I’ll be able to do in the future. 22 meters [72’2¼”] would be a solid throw. Despite everything in past years, I still consider 22 meters to be the gold standard of shot putting. So if I can do that I’ll be content. And if I can throw a Millrose record I’ll be happy.” The next day Crouser won the Millrose Games shot put, his winning mark ultimately announced at 22.45m/73’8” and an improvement upon his 2019 Millrose record. By his own announced standard, he had to be happy.
The best evidence that the Crouser is on the right track is his performance in last month’s USATF National Championships. After reigning world champion Joe Kovacs sent a message with 1st and 2nd round throws of 22.87m/75’½”, Crouser, unshaken, responded with a 3rd round heave of 23.12m/75’10¼”. The defending national champion followed that up with 4th and 5th round puts of 23.01m/75’6” and 23.11m/75’10” – becoming the first ever to throw three 23 meter puts in the same series as he sailed on in a successful defense of his national title. How dominant has Crouser been in this event? Outdoors he owns the top 3 throws and 7 of the top 10 throws of all time.
Despite Crouser’s domination in his sport. Ryan has not allowed himself to become lackadaisical – quite the contrary. Know this: Ryan Crouser is fully devoted to the shot put; is committed to thoughtful, consistent training; and is open-minded about exploring new and different training approaches that might help him squeeze out more centimeters in his throws. Ryan is likely still smarting from his razor-thin loss in the 2019 Doha World championships. And he has never won gold in a World Championships. It is only logical to assume that Ryan Crouser would like nothing better than to win in Hayward Field and to stand – victorious – on the top podium step at the first World Championships held in the United States. / Dave Hunter /