World record-holder Ryan Crouser successfully defended his Olympic shot put gold medal Thursday in Tokyo, launching a No. 2 all-time mark of 23.30m on his final attempt to seal the title.
Crouser, who led Tuesday’s qualifying, opened up with a massive 22.83m to best his own Olympic record set in Rio by about a foot, then increased it by 10 centimeters on his 22.93m second attempt before heaving the colossal sixth attempt, only the third throw in history to surpass 23 meters.
"I though my mindset was really good going in," he said. "Heat management was key, and my mind was in a great place."
The 28-year-old Oregon native took down Randy Barnes' 31-year-old all-time mark in June at U.S. Olympic Trials with an otherworldly 23.37m.
His series in Tokyo will go down as one of the best performances in history, with all six attempts bettering his previous Olympic record.
After claiming the victory, the Texas alum donned his iconic cowboy hat and displayed a sheet of paper that read, "Grandpa, We DID IT, 2020 Olympic Champion!"
His grandfather, Larry, passed away the day before he boarded the plane to Tokyo. Fortunately, the throwing family's patriarch was able to witness Crouser's world record at Trials.
"Soon after his record he was able to spend quality time with his grandfather," said 2016 Olympic gold medalist Michelle Carter, who shared the sign's meaning on Peacock.
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"And so he carries that memory with him, so when he came to this Olympic Games, he said, 'I was ready, and I'm doing this for my grandfather.'"
Larry was the spark that gravitated Crouser to throwing, taking him out to the backyard to practice like he did with his father and uncles before him.
Crouser's father competed for two years at Idaho and served as the discus alternate on the 1984 U.S. Olympic team; his uncle Dean was a three-time NCAA champion shot put and discus thrower at Oregon; and his uncle Brian was a two-time NCAA javelin champion at Oregon and an Olympian in 1988 and 1992.
Crouser's teammate Joe Kovacs, the reigning world champion, threw 22.65m for silver, while 2017 world champion Tomas Walsh of New Zealand recorded 22.47m for bronze.
After the battle, Kovacs' second-best performance at a global meet behind his Doha title, the 32-year-old Pennsylvania native praised his teammate.
"I know who [Crouser] is and he brings it every time," he said. "I have to be ready, too, and that pushes me every day. I have to be ready because I know he'll be, too."
Crouser echoed Kovacs' remarks in an epitome of what the throws are known for at all levels of competition, from high school to the pros: sportsmanship.
"In the winter I'm training hard because I know Joe's training hard," Crouser said. "Without either of us shot put wouldn't be where it is — not because of our results but because of how hard we all work and push each other."
The medal-winning trio's Tokyo finish repeats the exact podium order from Rio, the first time in Olympic history that's happened in an individual event at consecutive Games.
They also finished top three at the 2019 World Championships, with Kovacs taking first.