When the 2012 Olympic Track and Field Team Trials roll around next summer in Eugene, Ore., competitors in the men’s shot put will be faced with a harsh reality.
As tradition dictates, three men will qualify for Team USA for the London Olympic Games, giving the Americans an excellent chance at one or more medals. The harsh reality comes in when examining the list of competitors for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials and finding the names of four of the world’s elite throwers, but only three spots in London. Simply put, someone will be left home.
American shot putter Ryan Whiting put it bluntly, “I’m biased, but I think our event is the hardest to qualify because you have someone who might not make the team who could have won (a world championship).”
However, in all honesty for Team USA, it’s a good problem to have.
In 2011, Whiting, along with teammates Adam Nelson, Christian Cantwell and Reese Hoffa, were four of the top seven throwers in the world.
It’s a trend that has been commonplace in the event for Americans over the past 10 years. Nelson, Cantwell and Hoffa have combined for 16 indoor and outdoor Olympic and World Championships medals since 2000. Add the success of John Godina, a four-time world champion and two-time Olympic medalist, and having multiple elite shot put throwers has been a trend in America for more than a decade.
It will certainly lead to stiff competition for the Olympic Team Trials.
“Someone is going to be left out and I don’t want it to be me,” Whiting said of making the Olympic team next summer. “You can have a good day and someone just has a better day. I can only control what I can control.”
Whatever Whiting has been able to control has been working so far. Whiting, at just 24 years of age, is the relative newcomer of the bunch alongside veterans Cantwell (31), Hoffa (33) and Nelson (36).
All four athletes qualified and competed in the recent IAAF World Outdoor Championships in Daegu, South Korea. Team USA was given a luxury that won’t be present for the upcoming Olympics. Because Cantwell was the 2009 World Champion, he was given an automatic pass into the World Championships this summer, which allowed four U.S. athletes. No such rules apply for Olympic competition.
It was Whiting’s first World Championships or Olympic team after a standout career at Arizona State University where he was an eight-time NCAA Division I All-American. After recording the furthest indoor throw in the world in 2011, Whiting placed fourth at USA Outdoors to advance to the World Championships.
However, Team USA left Daegu disappointed in the shot put. Despite entering the meet with four of the top seven throwers in the world, the highest any of the men could finish was fourth. It was the first time Team USA hadn’t won a medal in the men’s shot put at the World Championships since 1991, when Whiting was just four years old.
“We felt going in that it was the Americans to lose,” Whiting said. “None of us expected to win silver. It is definitely motivation for next year.”
Among other things, the experience and the feeling of leaving Daegu disappointed created a base for Whiting as he continues to build on a young but successful career. Each day he is reminded that his better days are yet to come as he enters his prime.
Cantwell won his first world (indoor) title at 24 years of age; Nelson won his first world (outdoor) title at 30 and Hoffa won his first world (indoor) title at 28. Whiting turns 25 in November.
“I need to work on timing my season a little better,” Whiting said about his preparation for the 2012 season. “Maybe not do so many meets.”
An updated bio for Whiting can be found at www.usatf.org