Ryan Crouser in the shot put at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (© Getty Images)
Ryan Crouser led the qualifying competition in the morning and the giant US putter held his nerve despite not having competed in any international competition since he won the world youth title in Italy seven years ago, unleashing the four best efforts of the night culminating in 22.52m in the fifth round to take the gold medal.
Crouser stamped his authority on the competition quickly.
The first putter into the circle, he opened with a very solid 21.15m but saw Congo’s Franck Elemba reach a national record 21.20m a few throws later. Everyone then watched as Crouser’s compatriot and 2015 world champion Joe Kovacs, throwing 10th in the initial rotation, sent the shot out to 21.78m.
Crouser then went into the circle a second time, spinning around and propelling his implement out to a personal best of 22.22m and that was the last time the lead changed hands.
He improved by four centimetres in the third round with 22.26m and then had a 21.93m effort in the fourth round.
Crouser got a reminder that the contest was not yet over in the fifth round when Kovacs, who had not improved on his first put, had a big effort which could have taken the lead but for his heel catching the stop of the stop board and being ruled a foul.
With the final attempt of the fifth round, Crouser sealed his win with an Olympic record of 22.52m, adding five centimetres to Ulf Timmermann’s long-standing mark from the 1988 Olympics and moving to ninth on the all-time list.
The final round was almost anti-climactic only in so far as neither Crouser or Kovacs could improve, putting 21.74m and 21.35m respectively once a US one-two had been secured.
Walsh continues Kiwi shot successes
Behind the two US putters, New Zealand’s 2016 world indoor champion Tom Walsh matched Elemba’s 21.20m in the second round and then reached 21.36m in the fifth round to secure the bronze medal, consolidating New Zealand’s reputation as something of a shot put haven after Valerie Adams’ many successes including a silver medal in Rio.
It’s worth remembering that New Zealand only has a population only has a population of 4.5 million.
Spare a thought for Elemba too, in fourth place.
He was the right choice to be a flag-bearer in the opening ceremony as he came so close to getting his country’s first Olympic medal in any sport, although his national record will be some compensation.
Getting huge cheers, and not being too far from getting the host nation's second athletics medal, Brazil's Darlan Romani proved to be inspired by the crowd and produced a national record of 21.02m in the first round – following on from his earlier record of 20.94m in qualifying on Thursday – and although he could not improve, he finished a hugely creditable fifth.
Another man who will leave Rio with a smile on his face will be Poland's two-time defending champion Tomasz Majewski. Indeed, the popular Pole was smiling for much of the competition despite not expecting to be in contention for the medals on current form having not gone over 21 metres in the last two years.
Neverthless, Majewski was just 12cm down on his 2016 best and took sixth place with 20.72m.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF