2016 Olympic shot put champion Ryan Crouser in Rio (© Getty Images)
Olympic shot put champion Ryan Crouser emerged as a world-class senior athlete during an outstanding 2016. Here the 24-year-old American talks about the circumstances surrounding how he first achieved his maiden 60ft (18.28m) throw.
“As an eighth grader at school I recall my goal for the season was wanting to throw 60 feet with an eight-pound shot for the first time. That was my target because I knew a famous shot putter called Randy Matson (the 1968 Olympic gold medallist and former world record holder) had thrown 60ft 1in as an eighth grader.
“I first became aware of Randy Matson when at a garage sale I found an old book called The Randy Matson Story. My dad bought the biography and I read the book. That’s when I found out the distance he had thrown at eighth grade. I saw a lot of similarities between himself and me. He was a glider (as Ryan was at that time) and he was tall and skinny just like me (note, Matson went on to grow to 2.01m the exact same height as Crouser). I just thought, if I could break his record, it would be pretty cool, so I set it as my goal.
“It had worked well towards achieving this and then two weeks before a key county meet I lost my shot put rhythm and my training started to go poorly. I was frustrated and whenever I was in a slump I used to go to my grandfather’s house (Larry Crouser, a former high school javelin record holder back in the 1950s) and he often used to get me out of it.
“What he did was he got me back to the fundamentals of throwing. I did a bunch of drills, simple drills that even at that age I had done more than a hundred times before. Once I had completed the drills I was ready to throw.
“I hadn’t thrown in the back yard for almost a year but when I did my first throw after the drills it went way further than I thought it would. It went to the right, but was really long. In fact, it went so far it went through the roof of his tool shed. I don’t even think he was disappointed because it was such a long way, although I did have to go and fix it the next day!
“With my confidence restored, I went to the meeting a couple of days later at Mount Hood Community College in Oregon where I threw 60ft 3in to better Matson’s mark. It was a fun experience for me.”
Steve Landells for the IAAF