Meet the new Olympic men’s shot podium. Same as the old one. Ryan Crouser, US, gold. Joe Kovacs, US, silver. Tomas Walsh, New Zealand, bronze.
It was the first time in the 125-year history of the Olympicsthe podium was the same in an individual event with the same athletes in the same spots for consecutive Olympic Games.
There was an Olympic record, too, as Crouser threw 23.30m – eight centimetres short of his world record – to break his best set in Rio 2016.
He held up a note afterwards to his grandfather, who died a day before he left for Tokyo. “He got me started throwing,” Crouser said. “I threw in his yard until eighth grade. The day before I had to leave I threw a shot, and it went right through the roof of his garden shed, so I had to go back the next day and replace that.
“He played a huge role in my throwing career. I sat with him for a few hours after the trials and was able to tell him I was the world record-holder. And he watched that throw on the iPad thousands and thousands of times. So I felt that was the last note I wanted to write to him, that I didn’t get the chance to.
“I know he was here with me in spirit and I know he would be proud if he was here.”
Crouser donned a cowboy hat and celebrated with Kovacs, as they draped the US flag on their backs. Asked where his throws today would have landed in his grandpa’s yard, Crouser said: “The fence was 60 feet, so it would have been into the neighbour’s yard and probably would have hit a building, maybe a house.”
Kovacs paid tribute to his wife and coach, Ashley, for his impressive performance. “The heat was a battle, I’m a big guy. My wife really helped me play this out. She knows I overheat quickly. I didn’t do any throws outside the stadium, I was keeping ice packs on myself. That was definitely a factor, everybody got a bit tired at the end.”
He also credited Ashley with keeping him in the sport. “It’s the best, the journey that we’ve been on. I was ready to be done with the sport in 2018, I was frustrated. She got me back on track.
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“To go from the low point to the high point in Doha winning the world championships 2019 and today bringing home an Olympic medal with her, it’s a truly special moment. I wouldn’t have this medal if I wasn’t here today with her. I owe everything to her.”