14 March, 2017

Eugene: Ryan Crouser Returns to Pre Classic with Olympic Gold Medal

Olympic gold medalist Ryan Crouser leads a power-packed shot put field at the Prefontaine Classic that includes all of the world’s best.

In addition to Crouser, three other major gold medalists (and the Rio Olympic silver and bronze medalists) will compete, and the seven confirmed entrants are the top seven in the world according to All-Athletics.com, the official data partner of the IAAF Diamond League.

Ryan Crouser will get much of the attention as he will compete in his home state for the first time since capturing Olympic gold in Rio last summer with a dominating display of putting that saw him win by almost a meter.

Crouser, 24, is from a family of throwers (dad Mitch, uncles Dean and Brian, and cousins Sam and Haley) with numerous state prep titles, national high school records and collegiate championships among them.  Ryan won World Youth shot gold in 2009, set two still-standing prep records in 2011 in the discus (237-6/72.40) and indoor shot (77-2¾/23.54), and won four NCAA titles for Texas (indoor and outdoor shot).

It was only after graduating with a Master’s degree in finance last May that Crouser could finally focus all of his concentration on throwing, giving way to his mammoth Olympics, where he set a personal best of 73-10 3/4/22.52.  The 2017 season has already seen the benefits of Crouser’s determination – in two meets in February he recorded five efforts over 22 meters, topped by a world-leading 72-8 (22.15).

Joe Kovacs, 27, was the silver medalist in Rio.  He owns the farthest effort in the field at 74-¼ (22.56) from 2015, the year he turned his first major international competition to a gold medal at the Beijing World Championships.  He has won the last two Pre Classic titles (with a world-leading performance in 2016) and was the Diamond Trophy winner in 2015.

New Zealand’s Tom Walsh, 25, earned the bronze medal in Rio and later in the summer twice did what no one else in the world has done since the Olympics – defeat Crouser.  Those efforts (both PRs at the time) helped him dethrone Kovacs as the overall Diamond League winner. The Kiwi star is no stranger to throwing far in Oregon, having won at last year’s World Indoor Championships in Portland.

The fourth gold medalist in the field actually has two – winning the World Championships in 2011 and 2013 at the ages of 21 and 23.  David Storl, now 26, also has four major silver medals, including the 2012 Olympics.  He is Germany’s third farthest ever at 72-10 (22.20), trailing only a pair of former world record holders in Udo Beyer and Ulf Timmermann – both from the former East Germany.  Storl was born after Germany was reunified in 1989.

Kurt Roberts, 29, did not make last year’s U.S. Olympic team but the rest of his 2016 season was strong enough to earn him the No. 4 position in the Track & Field News world rankings.  A former NCAA Division II champion from Ashland in Ohio, he won his first U.S. title last year indoors.

Franck Elemba, 26, is from the Republic of the Congo and made a big splash in Rio, finishing 4th after being in the bronze medal position until round 5, when Walsh overtook him.  He has set national records every year since 2010, when he first made international notice and his PR was just 52-2 (15.90).  His best of 69-6¾ (21.20) is behind only South Africa’s Jannus Roberts and Nigeria’s Stephen Mozia all-time among African putters.

The youngest in the field is Poland’s Konrad Bukowiecki, who will turn 20 on March 17. He's another familiar face at Hayward Field, having won the World Junior title there in '14. He repeated that title last year and was also 4th in the World Indoor Championships in Portland.  Earlier this month, he won the European Indoor Championships in Belgrade with a huge PR of 72-1 (21.97).

The 8th position in this incredible field will go to the athlete throwing best outdoors this spring.

Men’s Shot PutPersonal Best
Joe KovacsUSA22.56m
Ryan CrouserUSA22.52m
Tom WalshNew Zealand22.21m
David StorlGermany22.20m
Konrad BukowieckiPoland21.97m
Kurt RobertsUSA21.57m
Franck ElembaCongo21.20m