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Ryan Crouser Approaches World Championships Shot Put on a Torrid Pace, Exuding Confidence and Untapped Potential

by Brian Pinelli

Ryan Crouser competes in the men's shot put during the 2023 USATF Outdoor Championships on July 9, 2023 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Getty Images)

An ideal combination of power, explosiveness, speed and agility on his feet, perfection of a revised throwing technique, and execution have elevated Ryan Crouser to undisputed ‘King’ of the shot put world.

Crouser, a two-time defending Olympic champion, has been unstoppable this season amassing eight consecutive victories. The six-foot-seven, 320-pound shot putter uncorked a world record toss of 23.56m (77 ft 3¾ in) at the Los Angeles Grand Prix on May 27 to start the streak. His fourth-round heave was nearly an eight-inch improvement on his previous world best from June 2021.

“It wasn’t the time of year that I was expecting to throw far as I was on heavy weights in the weight room, so not ideal and without having any speed work,” Crouser tells Team USA, in an interview from his home near Fayetteville, Arkansas. “I established a few really good throws in the early rounds without trying to hammer the ball. That led to having better throws in the later rounds.

“When I threw it, I knew it was good and it might be around the world record, but 23.56 was a surprise,” he said. “In the moment, I was more excited to break it the first time around (his first world record), but this one has me more excited for the future knowing there is room to improve.”

The record-breaking throw came with Crouser riding the momentum of having set an indoor world record in New York just three-and-a-half months prior.

Not only did the 30-year-old U.S. track and field veteran set the world record in L.A., but his six-throw series was probably the greatest ever. Three efforts exceeded 23 meters and his 23.12m (75 ft 10 ¼ in) average was just slightly below his Olympic record of 23.30m (76 ft 514 in).

The Oregon native has been the mark of consistency all season, thriving through his sheer athleticism, near-perfect timing and steady execution.

Crouser’s most recent defeat came in August 2022, at the Athletissima Diamond League meet in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Unfortunately for Crouser’s opponents, he claims that he is still improving the execution of his newly adapted ‘Crouser Slide’ technique.

At the upcoming World Athletics Championships in Budapest (Aug. 19-27), Crouser will renew his longstanding friendly rivalry with U.S. teammate and two-time world champion Joe Kovacs. New Zealand’s Tom Walsh, the 2017 world champion and two-time Olympic bronze medalist, is another force to be reckoned with. However, Crouser is currently in a league all of his own.

Ryan Crouser competes in men's shot put during Athletissima, part of the 2023 Diamond League series on June 30, 2023 in Lausanne, Switzerland. (Photo by Getty Images)

“You can’t rule those guys out – Walsh threw a season-best in London and is rounding into form and Joe is so unbelievably strong with the 2019 world championships as a prime example,” Crouser said, referencing a tough defeat to his countryman at Doha 2019. Kovacs snatched victory with a dramatic final throw by a mere .01 meters. Crouser settled for silver.

“I need to be on my ‘A’ game at world champs and can’t think that anything is guaranteed,” Crouser said.

“My two goals for world champs are to win gold, that’s number one, and hopefully throw a personal best,” he said.

Crouser was victorious with a winning toss and meet record of 23.07m (75 ft 8 ¼ in) at his most recent Diamond League meet, on July 23 in London. He achieved the ninth-best throw in history and currently owns seven of the ten best all-time, only joined by Kovacs and Randy Barnes.

The men’s world championship shot put final takes place on opening night, Aug. 19. Considering Crouser’s current form, it could quickly become an electrifying night at the National Athletics Centre stadium in the Hungarian capital.

Crouser is traveling to Europe for a pre-championships training camp on Aug. 9, prior to arriving in Budapest a few days before his event.

Perhaps Crouser will accomplish something unprecedented in his already illustrious career in Budapest – a world record on foreign soil?

Bringing an academic background in engineering, analytics and finance to his craft, Crouser takes a scientific approach to developing his new technique and revolutionary style. It has enabled him to move further past his competition.

Crouser’s innovative technique involves a step-across method, beginning his sequence to the right of the throwing circle and including an initial lateral shift which allows for an additional rotation of nearly 60 degrees. Thus, if his timing is correct, he creates additional speed and explosiveness when releasing the 16-pound shot.

“The new technique has been good – it lends itself to farther throws allowing me to apply more force to the ball and increase force generation in terms of adding that lateral step,” Crouser explains. “It has also been a big change for me mentally. In December, when I first started adapting it, throwing here at the house, it excited me to go to practice that time of the year.

“It’s new and innovative for me, and at 30 anything that makes throwing more enjoyable and raises my level of commitment is a benefit.”

Ryan Crouser competes in men's shot put during Athletissima, part of the 2023 Diamond League series on June 30, 2023 in Lausanne, Switzerland. (Photo by Getty Images)

Crouser also attributes some of his strength and recent accomplishments to Velocity-Based Training, a weightlifting method using technology to track the movement speed of an exercise in order to produce greater efficiency and more streamlined results. 

“Twelve years ago, we started to use Velocity-Based Training extensively where you’re measuring bar speed lifting at certain weights, calculating power production based on bar velocity in mass and kilos,” Crouser explains.  “At the time, people were like why are you lifting 100 Kilos when you could be lifting 200 Kilos to get stronger.”

The powerful U.S. athlete notes that only more recently has sports science become more commonplace among major collegiate football programs and in other sports.

He adds about the path to achieving success in his sport: “Track and field, especially among other sports, tends to be much more cutting edge because it’s purely a performance sport.

“The tape measure doesn’t lie – that makes it so much more conducive to true athletic performance.”

Crouser will seek a third consecutive shot gold medal at the Olympic Games Paris 2024, a feat that has never been accomplished. Crouser will aim to surpass fellow U.S. shot put icons Parry O’Brien (1952 & 1956) and Ralph Rose (1904 & 1908), both of whom also won back-to-back golds.

“I’m excited for the opportunity to hopefully be the first person to win three – it would truly be an honor,” Crouser says. “It’s a sport that beats you up over time, but chasing that third is definitely a big motivator for me, especially with the history of the event.

“It’s still a little bit on the backburner simply having the world championships coming up, but I’m already excited to go into fall training. You only have so many Olympics in your career.”

U.S. shot putters have won gold medals 19 times over 29 Olympic Games, for an impressive 65-percent winning percentage.

The Oregon native captured his sixth national title, and third consecutive, at the Toyota USATF Outdoor National Championships in Eugene, on July 10. He is also a world championship gold and silver medalist, 13-time Diamond League winner and four-time NCAA Champion while attending the University of Texas.

Crouser says he strives to stay in the moment. Legacy in his sport is important to him, but he emphasizes that it’s all about the process.

“It’s something that’s difficult to wrap your head around because I’m operating and focusing on execution each day,” Crouser said. “I’m always focused on my next meet or world championship and performing at my best there.

“If you can focus for long enough, you’ll get to the point where you will have a great legacy in the sport.”