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Oregon Olympian Ryan Crouser wins gold medal in shot put, breaks record

Crouser dedicated his medal to his grandfather, who died just before Crouser left for Tokyo. After he won, he held up a sign that said "Grandpa, we did it."

TOKYO, Japan — Sam Barlow High School graduate Ryan Crouser broke his own Olympic record on his way to defending his shot put title.

On his last attempt Wednesday, Crouser went 76 feet, 5 1/4 inches to earn the first track and field gold for the American men at the Tokyo Games. U.S. teammate Joe Kovacs finished second. 

"We had a game plan of 'get a far throw early' because we knew the heat would probably be a factor and two plus hours in the sun will make it harder to throw far," Crouser said. "In terms of consistency, that was my best series of my life. I'm honored to represent Team USA and always an honor to be able to hold up the American flag and represent on the podium."

Born and raised in Oregon, this is Crouser's second straight gold medal in the shot put after winning in Rio in 2016. 

After he won on Wednesday, Crouser held up a sign that said "Grandpa, we did it. 2020 Olympic champion." Crouser dedicated his gold medal win to his grandfather, Larry, who died the day before Crouser left for Tokyo. 

RELATED: 'We did it': Crouser's gold a tribute to his fallen grandpa

"I wrote that note three days ago. I was feeling stressed out and trying to keep my head in the right space," Crouser wrote on Instagram. "After I wrote the note I felt like a weight was lifted off my chest and I know that he was with me in the stadium tonight."

Crouser called his grandfather his biggest supporter.

"The very first time I threw a shotput was in his backyard and so he really got me started in throwing. He's always been my biggest fan, coming out to practice whenever he's been able to," Crouser said in an interview with NBC. "He was the biggest fan up until the end."

Crouser said he held up a sign because his grandfather had lost his hearing towards the end of his life.

"I would write on a whiteboard so he could read it and we had a conversation that way. I sat with him for a few hours after the trials and was able to write that I was a world record holder," Crouser said.

Crouser became a world-record holder after breaking a 31-year-old mark on June 18 at the U.S. Olympic trials in Eugene. His throw that evening went 76 feet, 8 1/4 inches. 

"It all came together to showcase all the hard work and dedication that I've done during this past COVID year and beyond," said Crouser after the record-setting throw. "It still hasn't quite settled in. It definitely means a lot."

Crouser comes from a family of throwers here in Oregon. He went to college at the University of Texas and is now a volunteer coach at Arkansas. 

His family threw a watch party in Redmond on Wednesday to watch him compete in Tokyo. Photos show his mother Lisa's emotional reaction seeing her son win a gold medal. 

"He's never wavered, he's hung in there," Lisa Crouser said. "I couldn't be more proud."

"For him to deliver on that stage [that] is so hard to deliver on and to see what he's done over and over at this level, it's just incredible to watch," Brian Crouser, Ryan's uncle said. "Incredible sense of pride, super happy for him."