Christian Cantwell of the United States competes in the Men's Shot Put qualification on Day 7 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 3, 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
With 17 gold medals in the history of the Olympic men’s Shot Put, the USA have been and continue to be the dominant force of this event which usually opens the Olympic programme of Athletics.
However, their last title is now a distant memory coming back in Atlanta 1996, with the ever strong USA shot putting squad having their gold medal hopes thwarted in the last three Olympics at the hands of putters from Finland (2000), Ukraine (04) and Poland (08).
In the case of the Sydney and Beijing Games, the American defeats were especially surprising as Arsi Harju and Tomasz Majewski, the champions on those occasions, blasted into contention in the qualifying round with huge lifetime bests.
Today in the London Olympic stadium there were to be no such surprise arrivals into gold medal contention. The five automatics came from Group A: Poland’s defending champion Tomasz Majewski (21.03), Germany’s reigning World champion David Storl (21.15), and Argentina’s German Lauro 20.75; and from Group B: USA’s 2007 World champion Reese Hoffa (21.36) and reigning World Indoor champion Ryan Whiting (20.78).
Hoffa, Storl and Majewski needed only one attempt to make it to the final and have set up what should be an intriguing encounter this evening.
Whiting by contrast needed all his three efforts to get to his best of 20.78, and while that was the same for Lauro, his 20.75m was a national record. This improved on his 20.43 national mark from earlier this year. Sixth at the World Indoors this year the 28-year-old Argentinian has reconfirmed his rise into the world elite.
Below par this morning but still qualifying were World season leader and Beijing silver medallist Christian Cantwell who struggled with a best of 20.41 (first round), and Canada’s World silver medallist Dylan Armstrong, who was fourth in Beijing, whose put of 20.49 only got him into a qualifying position on his last attempt.
A season’s best came from Belarus’ Pavel Lyzhyn (20.57), fifth in Beijing, while Jamaica’s Dorian Scott had a best of 20.31 which came like the Belrusian in the last of his three efforts.
The other qualifiers were Serbia’s Asmir Kolasinac (20.44), Russia’s Maksim Sidorov (20.40), and Chinese Taipei’s Ming-Huang Chang, the last of the 12 making the final (20.25).
Defending champion Majewski summed up the situation - "There are a couple of good guys out there, but I am one of the favourites. There is a lot of pressure. The biggest pressure is from myself." Storl and Hoffa are no doubt the other two he is thinking of but never discount Cantwell, and Armstrong’s lacklustre qualification could also be hiding a potential gold medal once the nerves of the morning have disappeared.
Andrei Mikhnevich of Belarus, the 2003 World champion and bronze medallist last year in Daegu and four years ago in Beijing, was way down in 17th overall with 19.89.
As a footnote, this is the first time that Argentina or Chinese Taipei have ever been represented in a men’s Olympic Shot Put final.
Chris Turner for the IAAF