Ryan Crouser celebrates after breaking the world record at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Track & Field on June 18, 2021 in Eugene, Ore.
EUGENE, Oregon – When Ryan Crouser was in the sixth grade he used to pretend he’d broken the outdoor world record in the shot put.
He’d say, “That one beat Randy Barnes.”
Of course, that shot was only 6 pounds, not the 16-pounder he throws today.
“It feels good to finally do it after doing it thousands of times in practice,” Crouser said. “It was one I’d been after for a long, long time.”
Crouser, 28, set a high bar on the opening day of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Track & Field, breaking a mark that had been around three years longer than he has.
The defending Olympic champion was already comfortably in the lead when he stepped into the ring for his fourth of six throws. He then produced the prodigious heave of 23.37 meters (76 feet, 8 ¼ inches), which had so much momentum the ball bounced out of the sector and onto the grass where an official chased it down.
“If you watch the video, you can see me celebrating at the moment it left my hand … almost before it left my hand,” the former University of Texas thrower said. “I knew I had the position that I needed to hit a big throw.”
After Crouser left the ring, he tilted his head back, closed his eyes and let out a “whew.”
“Any track and field athlete, you think abut being the best that’s ever been,” he told NBC.
Not only was the 6-foot-7, 315-pound Crouser the first man over 76 feet, he was well on his way to 77 feet.
He broke Barnes’ record of 23.12 (75-10), while also scooping up the American record, the Olympic Trials record (breaking his own mark from the early-afternoon preliminaries) and the Hayward Field record.
“I’d known it was possible for four-plus years,” Crouser said, noting that it was a matter of “finally getting gout of my own way and letting it happen. I did it tonight and I felt 10 pounds lighter. I didn’t realize how much it was weighing on me.”
Crouser made his second Olympic team and will be going to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 with his friend and rival Joe Kovacs, the two-time world champion and 2016 Olympic silver medalist. Kovacs was second with a throw of 22.34 meters (73-3 ½) on his sixth attempt. He was in second place behind Crouser throughout the competition.
Payton Otterdahl became a first-time Olympian, edging Darrell Hill, a 2016 Olympian and 2018 national champion by an inch. Otterdahl overtook Hill on his second attempt. After Hill threw 21.89 (71-10 to briefly move into third on his fifth throw, the North Dakota State thrower squeaked ahead with a throw of 21.92 (71-11). Hill fouled on his final attempt.
“Without a doubt, this was the deepest shot put competition in history from one country,” Crouser said.
Breaking world records has almost become old hat for Crouser, who also set the world indoor record earlier this year. That time he smashed another record held by Barnes that was 32 years old with a throw of 22.82 meters (74- 10 ½) and celebrated in his trademark black Stetson.
This time Crouser wore only an aqua head tie. He roared into the final after setting an Olympic Trials meet record of 22.92 meters (75 feet, 2 ½) inches on his first throw in the qualifying round.
Even though he threw from a safer, static start, that was the fifth longest throw in history and only 9 centimeters off his personal best of 23.01 (75-6), which was the world-leading throw this year and - at the time - was the fourth best all-time.
He also knocked out some nerves.
For Crouser, this was a homecoming. The Oregon native competed in the junior Olympic on this same runway at Hayward Field when he was in the fifth grade, although then he was a javelin thrower.
He had not seen many members of his family since Christmas 2019 due to the pandemic. Crouser has deep Olympic roots. Besides his own Olympic experience in 2016, his father, Mitch, was an alternate on the 1984 Olympic team in discus and his uncle Brian Crouser qualified for two Olympic teams in the javelin.
According to stats guru Jon Mulkeen of World Athletics, this is Crouser’s 133rd throw beyond 22 meters, which is 94 more than anyone else. Ever.
Going in, the Big Three in the event were Crouser, as defending Olympic champion and 2019 world silver medalist; Kovacs, the defending world champion and Olympic silver medalist; and Hill, who won the national title in 2018 and had also competed at the Olympics and worlds.
They were 1-2-3 on the world list, with Crouser at 23.01, Kovacs at 22.72 and Hill at 22.34.
In the final, Crouser set the tone with a throw of 22.61, followed by tosses of 22.55 and 22.73.
“Those first three rounds, I was toeing the line on getting the big one,” he said. “I was just a little bit tight.”
Crouser told himself to be a little bit slower and a little bit more patient.
“The key was not trying to force it, but letting it happen,” he said.
And then it did.
He goes into Tokyo as the overwhelming favorite. “For me, it’s always about going out and trying to further my PR, so I think I can still go farther,” he said. “There’s still room to improve. What’s going to keep me going, and I’m excited for the Olympics, is because that was nowhere near the perfect throw.
“I think I’ll always be looking for that perfect throw.”
Other Field Events
American record holder Valarie Allman also set a meet record in the women’s discus with a throw of 70.01 meters (229-8). She moved into second on the world list behind Jorinde Van Klinken of the Netherlands (70.22 meters, 230-4). Rachel Dincoff at 61.63 meters (202-2) was the second-best qualifier and the only other thrower who surpassed the 200-foot mark.
Keturah Orji set herself up for a second straight Olympic team in the women’s triple jump, qualifying with a mark of 14.29 (46-10 ¾). She was well off her season’s best of 14.92 meters, but it was all she needed. Jasmine Moore was next at 14.04 (46-0 ¾), followed by Tori Franklin at 13.84 (45-5). They are the only Team USA jumpers who have the Olympic standard.
Rudy Winkler appears headed for his second Olympic team as well, throwing the hammer 79.12 meters (259-7) to qualify first. He has the second-best mark this year in the world in men’s hammer.
Vashti Cunningham, the world bronze medalist in the high jump, was among the 12 jumpers reaching the final in the women’s high jump with a leap of 1.87 meters (6-1 ½). She has the world leading mark of 2.02 meters.