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Ryan Crouser eyed an NFL tryout, then Olympic gold, now the bathroom mirror

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In an alternate universe, Olympic shot put champion Ryan Crouser could be run blocking or pass rushing in the NFL.

Crouser, who continues a historic start to his season Saturday at the Drake Relays on NBC Sports (broadcast schedule here), said he was offered a tryout with the Indianapolis Colts before the 2016 Olympic Trials.

“They have a special scout. He looks for athletes outside of the traditional football realm to come in and maybe play a more specific role, mostly probably on defense or offensive lineman,” Crouser, who is 6 feet, 7 inches and 310 pounds, said in a phone interview this week. “I said, we’ll see how [Olympic] trials goes.”

They went pretty well. Crouser, who came into the meet ranked No. 2 in the nation, won trials at Oregon’s Hayward Field with the second-farthest throw in the world for the year.

The Colts’ special scout, Jon Shaw, was unavailable for comment until next week given hectic NFL Draft prep. But the organization has a history of giving chances to Olympians, including signing sprinters Marvin Bracy and Jeff Demps, though neither played in a regular-season game.

“Then the Olympics went pretty much perfect, so I ended up postponing it after that,” Crouser said of the Colts’ offer. “I’ve had a pretty successful career since then.”

In Rio, Crouser, whose dad, two uncles and two cousins are accomplished discus, javelin or shot put throwers, broke the 28-year-old Olympic record held by his technique idol, East German Ulf Timmermann. Crouser used the glide motion until his senior year at Gresham (Ore.) Barlow High.

“I watched tons of film of Ulf Timmermann,” said Crouser, who was born four years after Timmermann’s Olympic title. “Technically, he was the best glider ever. The throw that I watched literally thousands of times was his Olympic record that I broke in 2016.”

In 1990 and 1991, Timmermann was among many East German athletes reported to have used illegal, performance-enhancing drugs. Timmermann always denied using anabolic steroids, according to Olympic historians.

Crouser, who has a clean testing record, is inching into Timmermann’s territory on the all-time list of farthest throws. At a small meet in California that he rode in a truck to last Saturday, Crouser threw 22.73 and 22.74 meters on consecutive attempts. They marked the longest throws in the world since American Randy Barnes set the still-standing world record of 23.12 in 1990. Barnes tested positive for an anabolic steroid two months later.

“#CleanWR,” Olympic teammate Darrell Hill commented on an Instagram image of Crouser standing next to the 22.74 scoreboard.

Crouser was careful when asked how he views the top names on the all-time list, and whether it would be good for the shot put for Barnes’ record to go down. “I would say just among all the shot putters, everybody would just like to see that,” said Crouser, who is now 15 inches shy of that Barnes mark. “I’d love to get that record off the books, I guess, in a sense. It makes me have to train smarter, chasing the 23.12, instead of saying, ‘Oh, I’ve got the clean world record.'”

There’s reason to believe Crouser can up his personal best again at Drake and certainly later this summer and at the world championships in Doha in late September.

“I wouldn’t say it’s the best I’ve felt,” Crouser, who has gained 20 pounds of “quality weight” since Rio with the well publicized 5,000-calorie-a-day shot putters’ diet, said of that season-opening meet last Saturday. “I really wasn’t tapered down too much.”

Crouser then revealed he suffered a small pectoral tear (the right pec, “the one you don’t want”) six weeks ago and missed two weeks of throws training. It took even longer to rehab strength back into it.

“It’s a really good starting point,” Crouser said, “but hoping to go further this year.”

He celebrated the personal best by eating a Chipotle burrito and, the next day, reeling in a half-dozen crappies near his Olympic training center home in Chula Vista. Fishing is a longtime hobby for Crouser, a Portland native who chose the University of Texas over the University of Oregon because it had a better mechanical engineering program.

He once caught and released a white sturgeon that was 11 feet and 600-plus pounds on the Columbia River. An all-conference basketball player in high school, Crouser broke a rim dunking. He also smashed a gingerbread house, Christmas ornament and canned pumpkin pie with a 20-pound sledgehammer (video here).

But to know the man is to be in his bathroom. Crouser has always marked his goal throw distances on that mirror, first with sticky notes (because his mom wouldn’t let him write on it) and recently in dry erase in Southern California. Around late November, when he resumed offseason training, Crouser for the first time penned “23.13” on it.

“It’s feeling like a much more realistic distance,” he said. “In the past I thought if everything went perfect, I could throw it. Now it’s feeling more and more reasonable.”

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MORE: How to watch Drake Relays, Penn Relays on NBC Sports

Brian Orser reveals Hanyu’s, Medvedeva’s, and Brown’s Grand Prix plans

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Over the past decade, the Toronto club where Brian Orser coached South Korea’s Yuna Kim to the 2010 Olympic title has become such an attraction for top figure skaters from around the globe that it could add a word to a name that already is a mouthful.

You could call it the Toronto International Cricket Skating and Curling Club.

But its reach now is limited by the deadly virus pandemic that has effectively frozen out the elite athletes from Japan, Russia, South Korea and Poland who train at the Cricket Club.

That situation won’t change quickly, even with the International Skating Union having announced Monday its plans to proceed with a live format for the international Grand Prix Series. This fall, it will become a series of six essentially domestic competitions scheduled to begin with Skate America Oct. 23-25 in Las Vegas.

If they take place.

“As soon as the skaters can come back, it will be full steam ahead… to where, we don’t know,” Orser said via telephone Wednesday.

Two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu remains in Japan. Two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva is in Russia, four-time national champion Cha Jun-Hwan in South Korea, and two-time national champion Yekaterina Kurakova in Poland.

“We would like for them all to come back, but with the Canadian travel restrictions in place until at least Aug. 21, we can’t guarantee approval to get them in, and they would have a 14-day quarantine here if they do get in,” Tracy Wilson, who coaches with Orser, said via telephone Wednesday. “Right now, they are all training at home, and that’s OK.

“The situation is different for each one. The Japanese federation may need Yuzu to do the Grand Prix in Japan, and at this point he would face quarantine entering Canada and returning to Japan.

“For Yevgenia, as soon as she does the Russian test skates (scheduled for early September), we will re-evaluate her situation.”

Orser said he has been doing three video coaching sessions a week with Medvedeva, with whom he is in his third season as coach. Medvedeva, who left Russia for Canada after winning a silver medal at the 2018 Olympics, also is currently getting help from coach Elena Buyanova at the CSKA rink in Moscow.

“She (Medvedeva) looks way ahead of where she was at this point last year,” Orser said.

MORE: Looking back at Yuna Kim’s 10-year gold medal anniversary

Orser also has been having live remote sessions with Cha and Kurakova, and they are also sending videos to him. The only skater he has not seen is Hanyu.

“That’s normal when he is back in Japan,” Orser said. “I wasn’t expecting anything.”

How long Hanyu stays in Japan may depend on travel restrictions being loosened in both his homeland and Canada.

“I would like to get them all back, and they need to come back,” Orser said. “But facing a double quarantine is not in anyone’s best interest.”

Only two of the Cricket Club’s international skaters, 2014 Olympian Jason Brown of suburban Chicago and Yi Zhu of Los Angeles (who represents China), have come back to Toronto after leaving in late winter.

It took Brown two tries to get back across the border because of issues with the paperwork necessary for Canada to consider it essential he be allowed to enter. Orser and Wilson want to be sure any skaters coming from Asia and Europe are admitted on the first try.

From April to July, until skaters could get back on the ice in their various homelands, Brown led Thursday off-ice fitness classes via Zoom, with Medvedeva, Cha and Kurakova taking part.

“It was such a fun way to stay connected and still ‘train’ together while we were oceans apart,” Brown said in a Wednesday text message.

Orser and Wilson will recommend that all the foreign skaters training at the Cricket Club try to compete at Skate Canada, scheduled the last weekend of October at a 9,500-seat arena in Ottawa. Wilson thought if the event cannot have spectators, it might be moved to a smaller facility, possibly in a different city.

“All plans are in the early stages,” Skate Canada spokesperson Emma Bowie said in an email.

Grand Prix assignments have not yet been made.

Whether Brown picks Skate Canada over Skate America – if he gets a choice – could depend on when (and if) the Canadian government shortens quarantine periods for travelers from the United States.

“I know that we are in such unprecedented and uncertain times, so I love seeing the ISU being creative and trying to find a way to hold skating events this year,” Brown wrote. “While a lot can happen before October, if it’s safe to do so, I’ll be ready and eager to take part in any events that I can.”

The ISU said it wants to have the Grand Prix Final in Beijing, whether it takes place on its original dates (Dec. 10-13) or early in 2021. The competition is to be used as a test event of the skating venue for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

There are no details yet on qualification for the final, which usually is determined by points for placements at the six “regular season” events of the series, held in the U.S., Canada, China, France, Russia and Japan. The top six in each of the sport’s four disciplines make the Final.

In the past, the highest-ranked skaters could compete in up to two Grand Prix events, but ISU Vice-President Alexander Lakernik of Russia said in a Tuesday email that everyone would be limited to one event this year.

Because the Final presumably would have much more of an international field than the six other events, staging it is infinitely more problematic because of travel involved.

“We want what’s best for the sport,” Wilson said. “We have to get these kids out there doing programs, to get them on TV. [Note: An NBC spokesman said the network would, as planned, provide coverage of the Grand Prix, with details forthcoming.] In terms of competition, we’re up for anything.

“For me, though, with all the restrictions, there is no way they will be able to run a fair qualification for the Grand Prix Final. You’ve got to reinvent yourself and make it something else – if you are able to have it at all.”

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 11 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com/figure-skating.

MORE: Nathan Chen is surprised, grateful and posing questions about figure skating’s restart

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Steven Nyman, top U.S. downhiller, faces another obstacle

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Steven Nyman, the active U.S. leader in World Cup downhill wins, tore his right Achilles in a training crash and had surgery earlier this week in Mt. Hood, Ore.

“I am moving forward,” was posted on Nyman’s social media. “I’ve been through this before and have full intention to comeback [sic] and compete through the next Olympics.”

Nyman raced in three Olympics and owns three World Cup downhill victories.

He turns 40 during the next Winter Games in Beijing in 2022, when he will be three and a half years older than any previous U.S. Olympic Alpine skier.

Nyman missed the PyeongChang Olympics after a pair of major injuries: blowing out his left knee in a January 2017 downhill race crash and tearing his right ACL in downhill training in January 2018. He also tore his left Achilles in 2011.

He raced the last two seasons with a best World Cup finish of fifth in Val Gardena, Italy, site of all of his World Cup wins in 2006, 2012 and 2014.

The U.S. men’s program is in the midst of its longest World Cup downhill victory and podium droughts this millennium — none since Travis Ganong‘s win in Garmish-Partenkirchen, Germany, on Jan. 27, 2017.

MORE: Alpine skiing World Cup plans earlier season start with fewer fans

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