Ryan Crouser smashes 31-year shot put world record in the first Olympic Trials final

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Ryan Crouser won the first final of the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials by smashing a world record that has stood since before he was born.

In the fourth of six shot put rounds, Crouser launched it an improbable 23.37 meters (76 feet, 8 1/4 inches), a foot further than his previous personal best of 23.01 meters and nearly 10 inches further than the previous world record.

Crouser’s is the first world record set at the new Hayward Field, a track and field mecca which finished renovation earlier this year in Eugene, Oregon.

“It was a really special moment for me, coming back, first time at the new Hayward,” Crouser told NBC reporter Lewis Johnson, adding that he has been competing at Hayward since he was in fifth grade and it felt like a homecoming of sorts.

Randy Barnes‘ world record of 23.12 meters had stood since May 20, 1990, and was a goal of the 28-year-old Crouser’s since he started the sport.

He remembers watching film of Barnes’ Olympic record (21.62 meters) and imitating him at 10 or 11 years old. Barnes won Olympic gold in 1996, eight years after taking silver.

Crouser had already broken Barnes’ indoor world record — which had stood since 1989 — in January of this year, increasing it from 22.66 meters to 22.82 meters.

“I’ve been after that world record for so long, it feels like a weight lifted to finally get it,” Crouser said.

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Crouser won the 2016 Olympic gold and later this summer will be favored to become the first American to successfully defend his shot put titles in 65 years. Parry O’Brien won in 1952 and 1956.

After setting a meet record of 22.92 in the qualifying round, Crouser knew he was in for a good night.

Qualifying for a return trip to the Olympics with Crouser is longtime rival Joe Kovacs, who threw 22.34 meters on his final attempt.

Kovacs, 31, won the 2019 World title ahead of Crouser, but took the 2016 Olympic silver behind him. Kovacs also holds the 2015 World title and 2017 World silver medal.

Their 2016 Olympic teammate Darrell Hill, who went on to take the 2018 and 2019 Diamond League Final silver medals, missed out on rejoining Crouser and Kovacs by about an inch, finishing fourth with a 21.89-meter throw.

Payton Otterdahl put the shot a personal best 21.92 meters to land on his first Olympic team at 25 years old, one spot ahead of Hill.

Crouser called the event “the deepest shot put competition in history coming from one country.”

In the first final held on the track, three runners made their names known by securing their Olympic debuts in Tokyo.

After hanging in the back for much of the race, Woody Kincaid made his kick in the final quarter of the men’s 10,000m to pull up from ninth to fifth and eventually win it in the final lap of the race.

At 28 years old, Kincaid has been a late bloomer but found success in long-distance events the past few years. He ran the fifth fastest 5000m time in U.S. history in September 2019 (12:58.1), and the sixth-fastest 10,000m time in the U.S. earlier this year in 27:12.78.

“It means everything, it really does,” Kincaid said. “It doesn’t get much better than this.”

His time of 27:53.62 at Trials was just ahead of Bowerman Track Club teammate Grant Fisher‘s 27:54.29. This was the second 10,000m race of Fisher’s career. Now 24, Fisher had won the 2017 NCAA title in the 5000m for Stanford.

In what might as well have been a three-way tie, Joe Klecker finished third in 27:54.9.

One of six kids, Klecker is following in the footsteps of his mother Janis, who competed in the marathon at the 1992 Olympics. His father, Barney, set a 50-mile road race world record in 1980.

Kincaid, Fisher and Klecker were four seconds ahead of the rest of the field, which included accomplished road runner Ben True in fourth. At 35, True was trying to make his first Olympic team at his third Trials.

Galen Rupp, who already qualified for his fourth Olympic team by winning the Olympic Marathon Trials in February 2020, was sixth with a season’s best of 27:59.43.

Another veteran of the sport, Lopez Lomong, had the chance to become the first American to compete in the 1500m, 5000m and 10,000m at the Olympics, but dropped out of the race in agony near the halfway mark. He told NBC’s Johnson that his body shut down. Lomong was suffering from a right hamstring issue going into Trials.

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