Reigning Olympic shot put champion Ryan Crouser overcomes sore elbow, advances to finals at trials

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Two-time defending Olympic shot put champion Ryan Crouser took one attempt and packed up for the night.

No sense pushing his sore elbow. Or a healing torn pectoral muscle.

Crouser took a business-like approach to qualifying on Friday at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials. The world-record holder went through limited warmups before unleashing an attempt of 21.44 meters (70 feet, 4 1/4 inches), which was good for the third-best mark of the evening.

Even more important, the elbow feels good heading into Saturday’s final. The top three earn a spot to the Paris Games.

“It’s been been a tough road, for sure,” said Crouser, whose world record stands at 23.56 meters (77-3 3/4) set last season. “But I’m proud of how I’ve overcome what has been a really difficult spring.”

Crouser began experiencing pain in the ulnar nerve of his elbow at world indoors in early March. About the time the ache started to clear up, he tore his pectoral muscle lifting weights.

Then, the pain in the ulnar nerve returned. He underwent a procedure on his elbow in April where the doctor lifted the nerve out of the ulnar groove with a saline solution.

“Super uncomfortable,” Crouser said. “But it helped.”

He went more than two months without what he considered “a real throw.” To be safe, he even fine-tuned his technique, eschewing the ” Crouser Slide ” — his modernized shot-put style he used to break the world record — for an efficient approach with less force. He thinks there may be room for him to incorporate the two ways of throwing.

“In the long run, it’ll be productive because if I can combine my classic big hammer finish with a more efficient (technique) out of the back, hopefully adds more distance,” Crouser said.

The 31-year-old Crouser dealt with a health scare last summer when he was diagnosed with blood clots. He won a world title in Budapest, Hungary, with American teammate Joe Kovacs earning bronze.

Kovacs had the top attempt in qualifying Friday at 22.13 (72-7 1/4). He has finished runner-up to Crouser at the past two Olympics, but is the top thrower in the world this season with a mark of 23.13 (75-10 3/4).

“For me, it’s frustrating just knowing that I’ve thrown 23 (meters) multiple times and I’m sitting on the couch,” Crouser said. “I love being out there and competing against the guys, but the biggest thing is you’ve just got to be healthy to do it. Sucked burning that first half of outdoor season but didn’t really have too much choice.”

To prepare for trials, Crouser placed a mark at 21 meters (68-10 3/4) in practice, figuring that’s what it would take to get through to finals. He was right. He’s hoping to earn his trip to Paris with a top-three finish then use the next six weeks to heal.

“You’re dealing with a lot of self-doubt,” Crouser said. “I mean, the elbow stuff for a shot-putter can be really difficult. I would try and throw, wouldn’t be able to and then I had to spend a week rehabbing it to try and throw again. … It’s definitely been a challenge.

“But I finally feel like I’m on the right track.”


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