Crouser confident he can top shot-put record again

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FILERyan Crouser competes during the Men's Shot Put at the Millrose Games track and field meet in this file photograph taken Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020, in New York. Crouser, an OIlympic champion in the shot put, will try to break the world indoor record that he just set last weekend in an event in the American Track League during a session of the league this weekend. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger, File)

The day after breaking a world indoor shot put record that was older than he is, 28-year-old Ryan Crouser celebrated by taking the boat out to catch some bass.

Sadly, the Olympic champion came back without any great fish stories to tell. Seems like all of Crouser’s best tall tales start and end with the shot put.

A week after shattering a 32-year-old mark with an attempt of 22.82 meters (74 feet, 10½ inches) at the American Track League meet, Crouser will be back at it Sunday.

No tall tale here: He sees that mark potentially falling again.

“I can still throw quite a bit farther than that," said Crouser, who will be among the athletes to watch as the American Track League holds the second of four weekly indoor meets at the University of Arkansas.

How's this for dedication: Crouser never missed a training day in 2020 — even with the global pandemic shutting everything down. For that, give credit to his homemade shot-put ring that he constructed out of two sheets of plywood and screws from Home Depot.

Sometimes, if he threw with too much force, the plywood had a tendency to slide. So it really made him concentrate on his footwork.

He also drew the occasional stares when he set up his portable ring near the edge of a parking lot behind a baseball field in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where he lives and trains. Some people, who were walking by on a trail, would even stop and chat.

“They were like, ‘I tried that in high school and I was pretty good at it. How far are you throwing?’” recounted Crouser, a four-time NCAA indoor/outdoor shot-put champion at the University of Texas. “I’d say, ’70 feet.’ They’d be like, ‘That’s pretty good.’”

Pretty good, indeed. Last Sunday, he eclipsed the world indoor mark of 22.66 meters (74-4¼) set by Randy Barnes on Jan. 20, 1989. It was on Crouser's first try, too, and the shot nearly sailed out of the area reserved for the event.

Afterward, Crouser received congratulatory messages from friends, family and fellow shot-put standouts such as two-time Olympic medalist John Godina along with two-time indoor world champion Ryan Whiting.

There was only one slight hiccup with his record-setting day: Crouser tried to buy champagne that night to toast the moment, but struck out (because of the county's alcohol restrictions on Sundays).

Instead, he opted for a juicy takeout burger from a local restaurant with his girlfriend, pole vaulter Megan Clark, who also won her event at the American Track League meet.

“A very low-key evening,” he explained.

Crouser almost went the route of the discus much like his father, Mitch, who was an alternate on the 1984 U.S. Olympic team. Crouser did both events for a while, but got disenchanted with how the elements played a big role in the distance of the discus.

“No matter how windy, it’s not going to move a 16-pound sphere,” Crouser said of the shot put. “I like the consistency and repeatability of the numbers around the shot and not having to worry about, ‘Oh, I’m going to have the wind or not.’”

He's naturally on the leaner side for the event. That’s why to retain the 320 pounds on his 6-foot-7 frame he requires 5,000 calories a day. (FYI, golfer Bryson DeChambeau bulked up on a diet of 6,000 calories.) His menu looks like this: Two loaded breakfast burritos — packed with bacon or sausage — in the morning, a pound of lean ground beef with rice — smothered in barbecue sauce — for lunch and then three of the four servings from a meal delivery service at night.

Also playing a part in his success is working as a volunteer assistant coach at Arkansas. The job requires him to know the nuances of his craft so he can better explain the process, which in turn benefits him. One of his shot-put pupils happened to be left-handed and to teach them, Crouser worked on attempts as a southpaw. Crouser can reach about 15.5 meters (more than 50 feet) with the left.

As for just how far he might be able to reach with his right, Crouser doesn’t exactly know. He’s still going through a heavy training routine and far from tapered.

“I just approach every meet wanting to do the best that I can and trying to throw the farthest that I can," explained Crouser, an Oregon native.

For the record, the outdoor mark is 23.12 (75-10¼), which was set by Barnes in 1990.

Really, though, Crouser's sole focus is on qualifying for the Tokyo Games this summer, so he can defend his title.

“I’m in a really good place,” Crouser said. “This is a great start for me.”


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