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Ryan Crouser makes another Olympic Trials memory after difficult three months

EUGENE, Oregon — In 2016, Ryan Crouser won his Olympic Trials debut by throwing 22 meters for the first time. In 2021, he broke the world record at Olympic Trials.

Crouser said his third consecutive Olympic Trials victory, achieved Saturday night at Hayward Field after an injury-riddled spring, may be his best yet.

“This had much more of a sigh of relief and kind of proving to myself that I’ve still got it,” he said after an hourlong combination victory lap/autograph session.

Crouser, a 31-year-old native of Boring, Oregon, would have won the competition with any of his five fair throws. They ranged from 22.44 meters to 22.84. His world record is 23.56, more than a foot farther than any other man has ever thrown.

TRACK AND FIELD TRIALS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Just as in 2021, the second- and third-place finishers were Joe Kovacs (22.43) and Payton Otterdahl (22.26).

The Americans take up three of the top four spots in the 2024 world rankings. The U.S. could sweep the Olympic men’s shot put medals for an eighth time (and first since 1960) in Paris on Aug. 3.

But first, Crouser must make the most of the next six weeks.

He never intended to make his outdoor season debut at the trials. But Crouser “messed up” a nerve in his right throwing elbow in winning his first world indoor title on March 1.

Just as the nerve was improving, he tore a pectoral muscle while benchpressing on April 11. Then the nerve pain returned. He underwent a hydrodissection operation on the elbow on April 13.

He went nearly three months without “a real throw” until late May.

When he did return to shot training at his home in Arkansas, he was struggling to get the 16-pound ball to 19 or 20 meters. Crouser estimated he hadn’t thrown that short since his freshman year at the University of Texas.

“I had two hard throwing sessions in the last two weeks,” before trials, he said. “One was really bad, and one was OK.”

Undercooked, Crouser still recorded a best throw Saturday that ranks him third in the world this season behind Kovacs (23.13 from May) and Italian Leonardo Fabbri (22.95 from May).

Crouser is no stranger to setbacks. He has broken his foot, damaged ligaments in his hand and injured a pec before.

In arguably his greatest feat of strength, Crouser repeated as world champion last August with two blood clots in his left leg. He recorded the second-best throw in history at that event.

In Paris, Crouser will bid to become the first person to win three Olympic shot put titles and the oldest man to win gold in the event since 1972.

The challengers may be his toughest yet. In this Olympic cycle, Kovacs has become the No. 2 thrower in history, and Fabbri is now No. 5.

Crouser is confident.

“The biggest thing is getting the win at the Olympics; the distance is a bonus, but I would love to be in the shape that I can be in PR shape at the Olympics,” he said. “That’s my favorite thing about being a world record holder is that if you do get a PR, it’s a new world record.”

Grant Fisher won the first Olympic Track and Field Trials final, hours after a legend’s heartfelt note.