Eugene, Oregon – Ryan Crouser leads a dynamite shot put field at the Prefontaine Classic, and this time he returns with a second Olympic gold medal and as the world record holder.
The field is as strong as possible, featuring a complete sweep of the medalists from Tokyo who duplicated their order from the Rio Olympics. The trio owns every major gold medal since 2015.
The top names in the field have much combined history, including sweeping all three medals from the greatest-ever shot put competition – the thrilling 2019 World Championships.
The Pre Classic shot put always attracts special attention, and this year it has additional excitement as Oregon native Crouser returns to the site where he obliterated the world record in winning the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in June at the re-imagined Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus.
The first six announced entrants include five who made the Tokyo final, while the sixth member of the loaded field missed making the always-powerful U.S. team by just one inch.
Ryan Crouser, 28, dominated the Tokyo Olympics in winning his second gold, launching all six of his efforts beyond the existing Olympic record. He became the first in history to record three 75-foot (22.86) throws in the same series. He topped it all by adding history’s second-ever 76-foot throw at 76-5½ (23.30).
His dominance includes great success at Hayward Field, where he owns the nine longest throws, topped by his mammoth WR of 76-8¼ (23.37) at the Olympic Trials. He is undefeated since losing the Doha Worlds in 2019, when a last-round effort by Joe Kovacs relegated him to silver despite his first 75-foot throw.
Crouser has won 20 meets since then, all but one of them by more than 2 feet (61 cm). His WR at the Trials added more than a foot to his PR, and that’s just the tip of his domination as he now thrown over 75 feet (22.86) 10 times – no one else has done it more than twice.
Born in Portland, Crouser is from an Oregon family of throwers with numerous state prep titles, national high school records and collegiate championships (dad Mitch, uncles Dean and Brian, and cousins Sam and Haley). He won World Youth shot gold in 2009, set two still-standing prep records in 2011 in the discus (237-6/72.40) and indoor shot (77-2¾/23.54), and won four NCAA titles for Texas (indoor and outdoor shot).
Joe Kovacs, 32, had the effort of his life in the last round of the World Championships in Doha, moving from 4th to 1st with a massive PR of 75-2 (22.91) as he earned his first gold since the 2015 Beijing Worlds. The Penn State grad added a second Olympic silver medal to the one he earned in Rio and has one from the 2017 London Worlds as well. His victory over Crouser and Tom Walsh in Doha made him the first to beat both twice – the first time was in 2016 when he won his second-straight Pre Classic title.
Kovacs is No. 4 all-time on the world list. This year he is No. 2 with the second-best mark of his career at 74-6½ (22.72). At the Olympic Trials he sent all six of his attempts beyond 70 feet (21.34). His last U.S. title came at Hayward Field in 2015, the year he also won the Wanda Diamond League. This will be his seventh-straight Pre Classic.
New Zealand’s Tom Walsh, 29, owns the most major gold medals in the field with three, as his title at the 2017 London Worlds was sandwiched by World Indoor wins in 2018 and 2016, the latter in Portland. He was in great shape in his bid to defend his World Championships title in Doha – in the first round, he exploded with a PR 75-1¾ (22.90) that made him the first 75-footer in more than 30 years. The historic last round saw two more join the 75-foot club, relegating him to just bronze, the same medal he earned in Rio and again in Tokyo.
His Tokyo bronze came from a seasonal best on his last throw of 73-8¾ (22.47).
Walsh won his third Wanda Diamond League crown in 2019 and, like Kovacs will be competing in his seventh-straight Pre Classic (the two are tied 3-3 in this meet).
Has anyone ever beaten the “big three” of Crouser, Kovacs and Walsh? It’s happened twice, most recently in the 2019 Pre Classic when the field was so deep that six men exceeded 70 feet (21.34) – the only time that’s occurred on U.S. soil.
Darlan Romani, 30, led the charge, PRing three times to ultimately join the 74-foot club at 74-2¼ (22.61). The Brazilian record holder was a prime figure in the dramatic Doha Worlds. He was in line for a silver medal until the last round knocked him down to bronze and finally fourth. He won his ninth-straight Brazilian title earlier this year and set a seasonal best of 71-9½ (21.88) in finishing fourth at Tokyo.
Americans Darrell Hill and Payton Otterdahl waged an exciting duel in June for the final berth on the U.S. team. Hill moved into the third spot in Round 5 at 71-10 (21.89) but the very next thrower was Otterdahl, who responded with a PR 71-11 (21.92) to regain the final team spot, which became final when neither improved in the last round.
Otterdahl, 25, is a Minnesota native who swept the NCAA Indoor shot and weight titles in 2019 as a senior at North Dakota State. His college career also showed additional versatility as he was NCAA runner-up in the discus later that spring. He first earned national notice in the discus, winning the Pan-American Junior (U20) gold in 2015, but now focuses on the shot.
Hill, who will turn 28 during the week of the Pre Classic, is a Penn State grad who has been part of previous dramatic finishes. He made the 2016 U.S. Olympic team when the Trials were also at Hayward Field by improving over 1½ feet with his first 70-foot effort.
Hill won the 2017 Wanda Diamond League final when he cranked a nearly 2-foot improvement to move from 5th to 1st with his PR 73-7½ (22.44), denying Crouser his first DL title. It was also the first time anyone had beaten Crouser, Kovacs and Walsh in the same meet.
|Men’s Shot Put||Personal Best|
|Ryan Crouser (USA)||76-8¼||(23.37)|
|Joe Kovacs (USA)||75-2||(22.91)|
|Tom Walsh (New Zealand)||75-1¾||(22.90)|
|Darlan Romani (Brazil)||74-2¼||(22.61)|
|Darrell Hill (USA)||73-7½||(22.44)|
|Payton Otterdahl (USA)||71-11||(21.92)|
Tickets for the 46th edition of the Prefontaine Classic, to be held August 20-21 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., are available at GoDucks.com.
Accreditation requests for bona fide members of the media wishing to cover the Prefontaine Classic can be placed online at portal.diamondleague.com. Media accreditation questions and other inquiries can be sent to media. @preclassic.com
The Prefontaine Classic is the longest-running outdoor invitational track & field meet in America and is part of the elite Wanda Diamond League of meets held worldwide annually. The Pre Classic’s results score has rated No. 1 or No. 2 in the world 8 of the last 9 years it has been contested. The meet has been sponsored by NIKE continuously since 1984, the longest running title sponsorship of a single sports event in the United States. The NIKE Prefontaine Classic will be shown live to an international audience by NBC on Saturday, and live-streamed on usatf.tv on Friday night.
Steve Prefontaine is a legend in the sport of track & field and is the most inspirational distance runner in American history. He set a national high school 2-mile record (8:41.5) while at Marshfield High School in Coos Bay, Oregon, that is the fastest ever in a National Federation-sanctioned race. While competing for the University of Oregon, he won national cross country championships (3) and outdoor track 3-Mile/5000-meter championships (4), and never lost a collegiate track race at any distance. As a collegiate junior, he made the 1972 U.S. Olympic Team and nearly won an Olympic medal, finishing 4th in the 5K at the 1972 Munich Olympics, at age 21. After finishing college in 1973 and preparing for a return to the Olympics in 1976, he continued to improve, setting many American records. His life ended tragically on May 30, 1975, the result of an auto accident, at age 24. The Pre Classic began that year and had been held every year since, until 2020 when it fell victim to the pandemic.