(© Mercedes Oliver)
Ryan Crouser might have added 19cm to his own world shot put record by throwing 23.56m* at the USATF Los Angeles Grand Prix, this season’s sixth World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meeting, on Saturday (27), but even more exciting is that he feels he has more left in him.
“It still felt like an early-season meet. I’m really excited because it didn’t feel polished,” the world and Olympic champion explained. “It felt like I had a tonne of power and I caught a big one, but there’s still a lot more there.”
Crouser has been working on a new technique, which involves a larger step across the ring rather than a more static stance. He said that he used the step in rounds two through to six, and the technique really “clicked” for him.
“I finally saw that spread I’ve been looking for,” Crouser added. “That’s what has me the most excited.”
- Report: Crouser breaks world shot put record with 23.56m in Los Angeles
- Video: Crouser obliterates shot put world record
- Feature: Ryan Crouser and his pursuit of perfection
Born: 18 December 1992. Coach: Mario Sategna
Shot put: 23.56 / 22.82i
Ryan Crouser was born into a throwing dynasty. His father Mitch was a 67.22m discus thrower and 20.04m shot putter who narrowly missed out on making the US Olympic team in 1984. His uncle Dean was also a good all-round thrower with a shot put PB of 21.07m and discus best of 65.88m. Another uncle, Brian, was a javelin specialist with a PB of 95.10m (with the old model) and represented the USA at two Olympic Games. Brian’s son and daughter, Sam and Haley, are also accomplished javelin throwers. Sam is a two-time NCAA champion with a PB of 83.33m while Haley held the North American U20 record at 55.22m back in 2012.
It’s little surprise, then, that Crouser ended up as a thrower. But there’s more to sporting success than just winning the genetic lottery.
Crouser turned professional at the start of the 2016 outdoor season, following a collegiate career that featured multiple NCAA titles, and his progression continued. He won the hotly contested US Olympic Trials with a PB of 22.11m, beating then world champion Joe Kovacs.
But despite showing lots of promise that season, the Rio 2016 Olympic Games would be Crouser’s first major international senior championships and he’d be up against far more experienced competitors.
As it happened, though, Crouser rose to the occasion and dominated the competition. He improved his PB three times – 22.22m, 22.26m and 22.52m – on his way to securing the gold medal and produced the four best throws of the final. His winning mark was an Olympic record and moved him up to 10th on the world all-time list.
Crouser improved his PB to 22.65m to win the 2017 US outdoor title, but could only finish sixth at the World Championships in London later that year. In 2018 he reached a new level of consistency, throwing beyond 22 metres in nine of his 12 competitions that year.
That form continued throughout 2019 and he peaked at the World Athletics Championships Doha 2019. Unfortunately for Crouser, however, so too did most of the world’s best shot putters.
In what went down as one of the greatest competitions in the history of athletics, Crouser trailed defending champion Tom Walsh for the first five rounds after the New Zealander opened with a mammoth 22.90m. Kovacs, who had been sitting in fourth place, unleashed a monster throw of 22.91m in the last round to take the lead. Crouser – having produced throws of 22.36m, 22.36m and 22.71m in the earlier rounds – sent his shot flying out to almost exactly the same spot as Kovacs, but it came up just one centimetre short of the leading mark and Crouser had to settle for second place with 22.90m.
Crouser moved to Fayetteville in 2020 to train with Arkansas throws coach Mario Sategna and help out with the university’s track and field team. And although the coronavirus pandemic meant no major championships were held in 2020, Crouser was still able to piece together one of the greatest seasons in shot put history.
He won all 11 of his competitions this year, three indoors and eight outdoors. He broke meeting records at 10 of those competitions and improved his PB to 22.91m. No other man in the world threw beyond 22 metres in 2020, but Crouser surpassed the 22-metre line on 36 occasions – more than any other shot putter has achieved across a whole career span.
A 22.58m throw – just eight centimetres shy of the world indoor record – in December 2020 hinted that Crouser’s off-season training was going well. And he confirmed exactly that with his first competition of 2021.
“I’m still in heavy training,” he said after his world indoor record of 22.82m. “I’m excited to see what I can do when I start to taper and work on speed.”
He maintained his winning streak through to the end of his 2021 indoor season and then into his outdoor campaign. In his fourth outdoor competition of the year, he set a lifetime best of 23.01m in Tucson on 22 May, becoming just the third man in history to throw beyond 23 metres.
It told him all he needed to know ahead of the US Olympic Trials, so he kept his powder dry and went back into training until then, ensuring he’d be at his best for Eugene in mid-June. He did exactly that, breaking the world record with a 23.37m throw, and he went on to retain his Olympic title in Tokyo, achieving a 23.30m put.
In 2022, Crouser surpassed 23 metres another four times. He had to settle for second at the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade, but come the outdoor season he was ready to go for gold again and he duly did so, winning the US title with a 23.12m throw before claiming his first senior world title at the World Athletics Championships on home soil in Oregon.
Crouser opened his 2023 season with a throw of 22.58m at the Millrose Games in New York, during a competition in which he was trying out a new technique for the first time. One week later, he threw 23.38m from a static start at the Simplot Games, and while that was a centimetre farther than his own outright world record, it could not be ratified as the facility was not certified and after a survey, the shot put site was found to be not in compliance with World Athletics rules.
He would not have to wait long for another historic moment, however. At the USATF Los Angeles Grand Prix, in his second competition of the outdoor season, a sensational series by Crouser was topped by a mammoth 23.56m throw – a mark that added 19cm to his previous ratified mark.
The world record had looked under threat when Crouser opened his series in Los Angeles with 23.23m. He went even farther in round two, throwing 23.31m and edging closer to the barrier at the back of the throws area. After a third-round 22.94m, Crouser took to the circle for his fourth attempt and launched the implement 23.56m, raising his arms and clapping when the distance was confirmed.
Men’s world shot put record progression
20.06m Bill Neider (USA) Walnut 1960
20.08m Dallas Long (USA) Los Angeles 1962
20.10m Dallas Long (USA) Los Angeles 1964
20.20m Dallas Long (USA) Los Angeles 1964
20.68m Dallas Long (USA) Los Angeles 1964
21.52m Randy Matson (USA) College Station 1965
21.78m Randy Matson (USA) College Station 1967
21.82m Al Feuerbach (USA) San Jose 1973
21.85m Terry Albritton (USA) Honolulu 1976
22.00m Aleksandr Baryshnikov (URS) Colombes 1976
22.15m Udo Beyer (GDR) Gothenburg 1978
22.22m Udo Beyer (GDR) Los Angeles 1983
22.62m Ulf Timmermann (GDR) Berlin 1985
22.64m Udo Beyer (GDR) Berlin 1986
22.72m Alessandro Andrei (ITA) Viareggio 1987
22.84m Alessandro Andrei (ITA) Viareggio 1987
22.91m Alessandro Andrei (ITA) Viareggio 1987
23.06m Ulf Timmermann (GDR) Chania 1988
23.12m Randy Barnes (USA) Westwood 1990
23.37m Ryan Crouser (USA) Eugene 2021
23.56m* Ryan Crouser (USA) Los Angeles 2023
Crouser’s shot put progression
2012: 19.32 / 20.29i
2014: 21.39 / 21.23i
2015: 21.11 / 21.14i
2016: 22.52 / 21.73i
2019: 22.90 / 22.33i
2020: 22.91 / 22.60i
2021: 23.37 / 22.82i
2022: 23.12 / 22.51i
2023: 23.56 / 22.58i
Frederick Marfo is a sportswriter and social worker well known for his advocacy for equal chances and rights for all athletes, especially those with disabilities.