Ryan Crouser celebrates winning the gold medal in the Men's Shot Put Final with a message for his grandfather at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 Aug. 5, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.
TOKYO – Ryan Crouser wrote the note a few days ago and kept it in his bag.
It said, “Grandpa, We did it. 2020 Olympic Champion!’
“I figured if I didn’t win, I just wouldn’t pull it out,” said Crouser, who did pull out the paper after becoming Team USA’s first male track and field gold medalist of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Crouser held it as he carried the American flag behind his shoulders with his signature black cowboy hat on his head.
The note was Crouser’s last message to his grandfather, Larry Crouser, who passed away at age 86 just before his grandson left for Tokyo.
He was spurred to write it while sitting in his bed at the Olympic Village. Despite a great practice, Crouser said, “I felt emotionally drained, just from a lot of stress,” which included the COVID-19 protocols keeping the athletes safe.
He was also missing his grandfather, whose backyard had been the staging ground for Crouser’s first throws as a small boy – if you can believe the 6-foot-7 Olympian was ever small.
As soon as Crouser finished the short note, “ I breathed a huge sigh of relief,” he said.
The 31-year-old Oregon native knew if he did what he had prepared himself to do, he’d repeat as Olympic champion. And it was a way for him to feel close to his grandfather, who had lost his hearing in his final days and relied on notes for communication.
“It was a good way to help me kind of clear my mind,” Crouser said, “and feel like I could write one last note to him.”
On a morning at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium when upsets in the 4 x 100-meter relay and 110-meter hurdles seemed to prove the old adage, “There are no sure things in track and field,” Crouser was one of the biggest shoo-ins the men’s shot put has ever seen.
Not only did he repeat as Olympic champion, Crouser could have won the gold medal Thursday with five of his six throws. The other throw would have been good enough for second.
Crouser set three Olympic records – breaking his own mark from 2016 on his first throw -- during what was the greatest series of all time. His sixth throw, his longest toss at 23.30 meters (76 feet, 5 ½ inches), was just .07 shy of the world record he set in mid-June at the 2021 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – track and field.
Sure, teammate Joe Kovacs, the reigning world champion, was right there, placing second with a throw of 22.60 meters (74-1 ¾) on his final attempt.