Ryan Crouser monsters Tom Walsh again, then predicts dual world record assault
Shot fired. American Olympic champion Ryan Crouser smashed out the finest early-season competition of his life at the Auckland Track Challenge and then declared that the world shot put record is well within reach of both he and Kiwi rival Tom Walsh.
The big boppers did not disappoint in front of a large, vocal crowd that ringed the shot put arena on a sunny Auckland Sunday afternoon, Crouser edging Kiwi rival Walsh for the second time in a week with a sensational series of throws that peaked with two tosses of 22.15m with his final two attempts.
The 24-year-old Californian improved his own New Zealand all-comers record of 22.05m, set a week ago in winning the Big Shot in Christchurch, with his final three throws and sent four of his six attempts out beyond the 22-metre mark.
It was the finest series of throws ever seen in this country, and Walsh did not disappoint either as he pushed the 2.01m American all the way.
The Olympic bronze medallist and world indoors and Diamond League champion improved his own national residents' record with a best toss of 21.80m, but looked awfully close to the 22-metre mark with both his last two throws which were fouled when he just over-balanced.
Walsh's series was 21.58m, 21.55m, 21.67m and 21.80m before those final two no-throws. Crouser's was 21.71m, 22.03m, 21.43m, 22.08m, 22.15m and 22.15m.
Both were ecstatic with their form and predicted even more exciting things ahead as they take their rivalry to the global stage.
"I kind of surprised myself a little bit last week in Christchurch," said Crouser who threw 22.52 to win the Olympic gold in Rio. "I was just hoping to match Christchurch here and managed to be really consistent. This is probably my most consistent meet outside of the Olympics and it's still really early so I'm really, really happy.
"This was a lot of fun, as good as any meet I've done and the crowd really got into it. To have the crowd right on top makes it a lot of fun. Athletes like to feed off the energy the crowd gives and when you get people cheering along, it's a lot of fun."
Crouser also loves the rivalry brewing with Walsh and which he's adamant could take them into special territory before too long.
"We're pretty good friends off the field and it's always fun to mix it up with a guy you're friends with. He's an unbelievable competitor, one of those guys you can have a big lead on and he can throw a monster when the pressure's on. You never really beat Tom till that last throw is done."
And that 23.12m world record of Randy Barnes' set back in 1990?
"I think it's on," said Crouser. "Tom had throws in the high-21s and fouled one pretty close to 22 today, and I seemed to be digging a hole at 22, so that for February is unbelievable. I don't know if anyone in the past has opened the way we've opened this year.
"I think 23 is definitely possible this year and before 2020 I'm sure the record will fall."
Crouser said Walsh's presence would be a big part of him pushing in that direction.
"Steel sharpens steel in a way, and that rivalry drives me to train harder and compete better and I'm sure it does the same for Tom. Having a group of guys pushing towards the world record makes it a lot more reasonable to get it."
Walsh had no argument with Crouser's bold prediction.
"It's going this year, next year or the year after. It's a matter of time until either he, me or maybe Joe [Kovacs] catch on to one."
Walsh was thrilled to hit 21.80 (34cm better than Christchurch) at a time when he's working on speed and strength. He expects to be even better for the nationals in three weeks' time.
"My coach and I had a bet if I threw over 21.60 he'd buy me five rounds of golf. So to throw 21.80 already and I've got one more competition in the summer to go is pretty good
"It's amazing to throw 21.80 at this time of the year and have a really consistent series. Even though I fouled those last two throws, at least one was pretty close to 22, so, yeah, it's pretty good."
Walsh also gave the competition a resounding thumbs-up. "The crowd being so close, getting the clap going, getting us all pumped up and throwing far ... it's amazing having maybe 1000 people around the shot area watching us throw bombs."
Auckland's Jacko Gill finished third with a best throw of 20.92, just 9cm off his PB set in Lower Hutt earlier this summer. Australia's Damian Birkinhead was fourth with 20.54.