REDMOND, Ore. — Once every four years, or in this case five, track and field is watched by millions around the world. The Olympic Games attract a new audience to events like the shot put. Some might even be watching for the first time.
No one has thrown that 16-pound ball further in competition than Ryan Crouser, an Oregon native and defending Olympic gold medalist in the shot put.
Crouser likened track and field to throwing a 16-pound bowling bowl.
"Then go to a basketball court and stand at the free throw line and turn around and make a three-quarter court shot with that bowling ball," said Crouser.
He crushed the world record at the Olympic Trials in Eugene last month with a throw of 76 feet, 8 1/4 inches. That broke the previous record of 75-10¼, set by Randy Barnes in 1990.
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Crouser is in Redmond, Ore. where he is training for the Tokyo Olympics. He said the greatest lesson shot put taught him is to set goals and work hard towards them.
"Hard work does pay off is the main thing, it just doesn’t pay off when you want it to pay off, necessarily," said Crouser. "You kind of dedicate yourself, work and work and work, then when you think it’s all there and ready to go, it blows up in your face."
Crouser said setting the world record was a reflection of that.
"I’ve known it was possible since 2017 and every single time I went into a meet expecting to break the world record, I did not. I think that happened 6 or 8 times," Crouser said.
He broke the record in warmups and practice, but said when he tried to break it in a meet, it didn't happen.
"That instilled in me that hard work does pay off and it will pay off, just not necessarily when you want it to.”
Crouser's early success
Born and raised in Oregon, setting the record at Hayward Field in Eugene brought back memories. As a second grader, Crouser earned a second place finish throwing the javelin.
"At the time, that was mind blowing, it was the most surprising upset finish I've ever had."
His success continued at Hayward Field, where he won a state title in shot put as a freshman — another victory he puts in the upset category. It all came full circle setting the world record at 28 years old.
Preparing for the Tokyo Olympics
Crouser chose not to compete in any other events after the trials, skipping some pay days at other meets, keeping his attention on being at his best in Tokyo. Breaking his world record would be great, but the priority is on winning a second Olympic gold medal.
"The main thing at the Olympics or any major championship is winning or doing my best to come home with gold," said Crouser, who received advice from Olympic gold medalist and fellow Oregonian Mac Wilkins.
"When I was first going to my first major international competition he said, expect something to go wrong because something will go wrong. That’s been a great quote that’s helped me throughout my career compete while at major championships."
Throwing runs in the Crouser family, but only his father, who's his coach, will make the trip to Tokyo with him. Spectators are not allowed at the Tokyo Olympics due to the coronavirus.
This will be an Olympics like no other, competing during a pandemic. Crouser said he feels safe with the strict protocol that are in place including COVID-19 testing.
"The village will be kind of like a bubble, tested [for coronavirus] every day. I myself am vaccinated and I’m doing everything I can to minimize risk, wearing a mask whenever possible," said Crouser.
Crouser will throw that 16-pound sphere on Tuesday, August 3.The finals are the following day. It's a chance to bring another gold medal back to Oregon.
"I just want to say thank you and I appreciate the support, to the whole state of Oregon, especially the track fans. I’m just excited to represent Oregon on the international stage at my second Olympics."
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