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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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USOPC proposes more athletes on board as part of overhaul

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DENVER (AP) — The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee is proposing an increase in athlete representation on its board and a recasting of its mission statement to include the job of promoting athletes’ well-being.

These changes are part of a proposal, released Monday, to rewrite the USOPC bylaws.

The rewrite comes 20 days after federal lawmakers — looking for a shake-up in the wake of the sex-abuse scandal that has tainted the U.S. Olympic movement — proposed their own drastic overhaul of the law governing the USOPC.

The USOPC portrayed its proposals as merely a first step, and, indeed, the measures lack many of Congress’ more aggressive proposals.

But they would heed athletes’ calls for more representation, by increasing their makeup on the board from 20% to 33%.

They would also change the mission statement to read: “empower Team USA athletes to achieve sustained competitive excellence and well-being,” where previously the well-being part was not mentioned.

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Why a 62-year-old played at the world badminton championships

Mathew Fogarty
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Mathew Fogarty said badminton’s European elite made fun of him for playing professionally at age 59. That was three years ago. Fogarty still competes at the sport’s highest level, taking part in the world championships that began Monday in Basel, Switzerland.

Fogarty, who turns 63 on Oct. 30, is older than any U.S. Olympian in any sport since the St. Louis 1904 Games, according to the OlyMADMen.

“I play because I can, and I’m a doctor, and I think sports is a really important part of people’s health and fitness,” said Fogarty, who has played competitively since age 7, whose full-time job is a psychoanalyst and who is based in the Los Angeles area. “I’ll stop badminton when I can no longer qualify. There’s still opportunity, and I love the sport. I’m going to continue to do the best I can.”

He lost in the first round of mixed doubles at worlds on Monday. Fogarty and partner Isabel Zhong, a 27-year-old with an IMBD profile, saw their world championships end in 23 minutes, a 21-9, 21-10 loss to a Ukrainian pair.

That was more competitive than Fogarty’s last two worlds appearances — a 21-6, 21-4 loss with Zhong in 2018 and a 21-2, 21-4 loss with another partner in 2017. Fogarty’s only international match wins in the last two years came via walkover or the one time his singles opponent retired after three points, according to his World Badminton Federation profile. He won an international tournament as recently as 2011 and said his career-high mixed doubles world ranking was 32.

He and Zhong paired because they were part of the same Manhattan Beach Badminton Club, and she wanted to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Games, Fogarty said. Zhong did not respond to an interview request.

“I told her I didn’t know if we could do it, but we could try,” Fogarty said. “It’s extremely remote [chances] … slim to nil.”

The top mixed doubles team from the North and South American region is in line to qualify for the Olympics. The leaders in qualifying so far are Canadians ranked 19th in the world. Fogarty and Zhong, though they are the only U.S. mixed doubles team at worlds, are 67th in the world in Olympic qualifying and third among Americans.

The U.S. has never earned an Olympic medal in badminton, which debuted at the 1992 Barcelona Games. Mixed doubles was added starting at Atlanta 1996, but the U.S. has put just one mixed team into an Olympics, getting swept out of pool play in Rio.

Fogarty, who has never played at the Olympics, is able to play at worlds for a few reasons: he can fund his way to international events to accumulate ranking points; the U.S. is historically weak and has a lack of players with professional ambitions; mixed doubles is the least common of the Olympic disciplines.

“Matt takes it seriously,” said Dean Schoppe, a fellow 62-year-old who has known and played with Fogarty for nearly a half-century. Schoppe recently retired from pro badminton himself. “Matt still approaches the matches with the actual idea of winning,”

Schoppe called Fogarty the best American junior player of his generation in the late 1970s.

“Most badminton players retire at about 26 or 27 with their first catastrophic injury, which is usually a torn Achilles,” he said. “There are people who are born [to play], you see it in every sport. Magic Johnson, they have the peripheral vision. They have the balance. They have all the intangibles that other people have to try to learn and can’t.

“He has the gift. He can look at you peripherally and see that you’re leaning. … Fogarty can hold the serve and turn his shoulders and do crap that makes you fall over, and that infuriates.”

Mathew Fogarty
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Fogarty took breaks from the sport for medical school in the 1980s and ’90s. He returned in the late 1990s and kept playing deep into his 40s, 50s and now 60s in part, he said, to challenge corruption within the sport.

Fogarty had legal battles with USA Badminton. He said that past officials broke up his Olympic hopeful partnership with a teenager in men’s doubles to push others toward the 2000 Sydney Games.

“The last thing they wanted was a 42-year-old with an 18-year-old trying to make the Olympics,” Schoppe said.

USA Badminton recently had mass resignations among its board and top officials amid reports of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee threatening decertification.

USA Badminton’s new interim CEO, 1992 and 1996 Olympian Linda French, declined comment on Fogarty’s past issues with the organization because she was not formally involved at the time.

“We’re hopeful to move forward in a positive manner and wish all our athletes continued success,” French said.

Fogarty does not know how much longer he will travel the world, or even the U.S., to play competitively. A 43-year-old told him at a recent event that Fogarty was his inspiration to keep playing.

“The nature of sports is you can’t predict what it’s going to be,” Fogarty said.

Schoppe dismissed a question of whether it’s easier to play badminton at such a ripe age than other physically demanding sports.

“Imagine pulling out James Worthy and say, OK, James you are now starting for Golden State and you’re playing the Lakers tomorrow,” Schoppe said. “You cannot be old in badminton and do well in badminton. It’s nothing like baseball.

“We were the anomaly of anomalies to have success in our 40s. Nobody does.”

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