Victory celebrations vary from athlete to athlete. Some go positively ballistic and become oblivious to their surroundings. Once Christian Cantwell had locked up the shot put gold medal in Valencia, he walked over to the officials and volunteers who had worked the event and shook each one of them by the hand.
Then came the customary photo op during which he and fellow American Reese Hoffa posed with the Stars and Stripes held aloft. But it was a track side interview broadcast over the public address system which caught the attention of those occupying seats in the press tribune.
“I hope that when they bury me they bury me upside down so all my critics can kiss my ass,” he declared before the bemused Spanish crowd.
Later he would explain his comments were directed at people, whom he refused to name, that have noted his long history of mighty throws but lack of medal podium finishes.
“Whenever you don’t live up to their expectations they are pretty hard on you,” he said at the post event press conference. “They can all go to hell for all I care. But everyone who supports me, this (victory) is for them.”
Among those who fall into the category of supporters he reserved special praise for his coach, Brett Halter, who guided him as an undergraduate at the University of Missouri and continues to mentor him today. Clearly he respects the coach tremendously.
Despite winning only the second major gold medal in his career - the other earned at these championships in Budapest four years earlier - Cantwell seemed pleased but refused to accept this victory was a psychological lift over his rivals as the Beijing Olympics approach.
“It’s the same as when you win the Millrose games,” he said later. “ For me this is not any more important than the next one. I try and win every meet. Just like Reese and the others. I am already thinking about the Drake Relays which is my next meet.”
Reminded that his victory here earned US$40,000 prize money, considerably more money than what he has won at the legendary Millrose Games or the Drake Relays he is quick to put things in proper perspective. Towering over his inquisitor at 6’5”/1.95m and weighing 300 lbs he looks down as if offended by the prospect of doing the sport he loves for monetary gain.
“You never think about the money. The money doesn’t matter. You know what I mean?” he declares. “That’s never entered my mind. In the end it’s about competing well. You will make the money. I don’t care if we are throwing for stones, I want to do as good as I can and hopefully come out with a win at the end of the day.”
A full time athlete who lives and breathes the sport Cantwell claims he has very little spare time. Come Monday afternoon, for instance, at 1 o’clock he will be back in the workout room at Columbia, Missouri, plotting the next victory. Halter was absent this weekend as he was preparing the Missouri Tigers for the upcoming NCAA championships. Pressed further on that subject he admits to having a passion for fishing on the Missouri River which flows through his town.
“I play with my dogs and I like to fish. I fish a lot,” he says, “I usually take somebody with me. We take a case of beer and go down the river and have a good time. But I think when you are at this level your life, for the most part your spare time is thinking about what you are doing in the sport.”
“Say for instance when I go fishing, I am thinking ‘Is this going to make me tired for my workout tomorrow?’ You really don’t have a lot away from this. It’s always in the back of your mind.”
Cantwell revealed his comedic side at the press conference before a handful of journalists gathered inside the room. Noticing that bronze medalist Tomasz Majewski of Poland had not been asked a single question, he playfully took on the duties of an m/c.
“Does anyone have any questions for Tomasz?” he said before conducting an interview for the benefit of those present. Then it was back to business.
After all there’s the Drake Relays to win next month.
Paul Gains for the IAAF