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Ryan Crouser, best shot putter in history, does more coaching than being coached

Ryan Crouser owns two Olympic gold medals and three world titles, plus unleashed the five farthest indoor shot puts and outdoor shot puts in history.

What makes his feats of strength all the more incredible: He accomplished many of them while doing more coaching of others than being coached himself.

Crouser has been primarily self-coached since 2016, with some help from his dad, Mitch, a 1984 Olympic discus alternate, and a few others.

He has been a volunteer assistant coach at the University of Arkansas since late 2019.

He has written weight training programs, assisted at practices for shot put, discus and hammer throwers and even shared the gym in his barn.

Track and field athletes and swimmers often become volunteer assistants at universities after graduating in large part to gain use of the tracks, pools and gyms on campus.

That’s true for Crouser, too. The 6-foot-7 Oregonian said teaching younger athletes also made him understand the shot put better and throw farther.

“It helps me stay more passionate for the sport,” he said. “It kind of keeps it in perspective. It can get very frustrating at the level that I’m at where you’re chasing one centimeter and trying to find the smallest improvements. I can get so laser-beam focused on myself and kind of get a little bit down when I’m not throwing as far as I want to be. But it can be helpful to have the college kids there for perspective. I was in their shoes once, and look at far how I’ve come.”

After earning a master’s degree in finance at the University of Texas in spring 2016, Crouser turned pro and moved to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California.

Many athletes go there after graduating for the high-level coaching, training facilities and sports medicine available.

Crouser, an outdoorsman, spent three years in Chula Vista before taking up the opportunity in Fayetteville.

The university has an indoor throwing facility, so he can train year-round no matter the conditions. Long term, the cost of living is more manageable than in Southern California. The fishing is better, too.

Erich Sullins, who graduated from Arkansas in 2019, has been his training partner for the last four years.

Sullins’ personal best before meeting Crouser was 67.85 meters, which ranked outside the top 30 in the country in 2019. Last year, he threw 74.56, which ranked eighth in the country for 2023.

He wants to make the Olympic team. Crouser has been integral to his improvement. Sullins now eats like Crouser, having cut back on fast food.

“Added in a lot of beef and rice, which is Ryan’s staple,” Sullins said. “A pound of ground beef and as much rice as you can slop down.”

This academic year, Crouser began coaching Jamaican Rojé Stona, who said Crouser was one of the reasons why he chose Arkansas when transferring from Clemson in 2022.

In the discus, Stona was 19th at worlds last August and ranked seventh in the world in 2023 by best throw.

He finished his college career at the NCAA Indoor Championships earlier this month, placing second in the shot put with a personal best by more than a foot. Four days later, the 6-6, 265-pound Stona took part in Arkansas’ pro day — despite having no college football experience — and ran a reported 4.69-second 40-yard dash.

Crouser, who in 2016 was invited to work out for the Indianapolis Colts, was there for it.

“It tempted me to want to do a pro day because the ongoing joke in training is that I never let Rojé win in anything,” Crouser said.

Stona hopes to compete at his first Olympics in Paris.

“I pretty much try to mimic (Crouser’s) technique even though he’s far stronger than me,” Stona said. “He points out a lot of technical adjustments that I should follow. Everyone is different. He has his own strengths and weaknesses. I have my own strengths and weaknesses, but he has so much knowledge about the throws that he can pick around and see what works.”

Crouser can draw from his genes. He comes from a family of throwers: uncle Brian (two-time Olympian in the javelin), uncle Dean (NCAA champion in the shot put and discus for Oregon), cousin Sam (javelin Olympian) and cousin Haley (NCAA javelin thrower at Oregon and Texas) in addition to his dad.

Crouser, 31, doesn’t know how long he’ll stay in Arkansas. His girlfriend of seven years began medical school two and a half years ago and is applying for residency soon.

“I’m getting later in my career,” he said. “So at some point, I’ll have to take a bit of a backseat to her career and go where the doctor path takes her.”

For now, he’s comfortable.

“He got a boat here before he got a couch,” Sullins said. “In my mind, if you think of an Olympic gold medalist, you think they’re at some high-performance facility with wires hooked up to them, like everything’s dialed and studied. And he’s just a country boy who’s got a boat — two boats — and a shot put ring with a gravel pit in his backyard. He’s kind of low-key about everything, gets his job done. Then it’s time to play in the afternoons.”