Surprise Repeat Makes Olympic Shot-Put History
It was déjà vu in the sweltering heat of Tokyo as the men's shot put ended with a surprisingly familiar podium and larger-than-life antics stole the show as the women battled it out for gold.
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The shot put is no joke. Like, "Spinning 200-300 pounds of sheer mass at full-speed for one and a half turns while launching a 16-pound metal with one hand at precisely the right moment to send it sailing the length of a basketball court all while trying to stay inside a 2-meter circle" kind of no joke.
Which is why athletes who make it to the Olympics have to train for not just sheer strength, but also balance, coordination, speed, and agility. Some, like defending champion Ryan Crouser of the United States, who prepped for the games in recent years not only with practice throws and reactive drills, but also with boosting his calories straight into the gainzosphere. When Crouser detailed his diet for the New York Times back in 2019, he was cramming in five 1,000-calorie meals each day—including a dozen eggs at breakfast. He's barely slowed down since... and the shot put has kept traveling farther and farther.
Case(s) in point: Crouser set a new world record earlier this summer at the trials, and then at the finals in Tokyo he set it again, breaking his own newly-minted record not once, not twice, but all three times, ending with a final throw of 23.30 meters (76 feet, 5-1/2 inches). In honor of his grandfather, Larry, who died only a few weeks before the Games, Crouser held up a handwritten note on the podium that simply read, "Grandpa, We did it, 2020 Olympic champion!"
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Crouser's U.S. teammate Joe Kovacs threw 22.65 meters to finish second and take silver, and New Zealand's Tomas Walsh rounded out the top three with a 22.47 throw to take bronze.
What was most surprising about this lineup was perhaps that it was no surprise at all: It was the exact same podium as the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, marking the first time in its 125-year history that there's been a repeat podium in back-to-back Summer Games, with the same three athletes in the exact same positions.
Over on the women's side, USA's Raven Saunders was a clear challenger to early favorite Gong Lijiao, impressing onlookers with her incredible speed and power. But it was China's Lijiao who captured the gold, heaving a personal best of 20.58 meters—just 3 inches shy of the Olympic record—for the win.
Saunders came close with her final throw but fouled, capturing the silver medal with her first toss of 19.79 meters and stealing the spotlight with her exuberant personality, purple and green hair, and comic-book themed masks. Valerie Adams of New Zealand took bronze with a final throw of 19.62 meters.