Athletics-Crouser turns COVID-19 challenge into world record

Feb 19 (Reuters) - Training in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic has hurt many athletes preparing for this year’s delayed Tokyo Olympics but not American shot putter Ryan Crouser, who will close out his indoor season on Sunday looking for another world record.

The pandemic has created challenges for athletes forcing many to get inventive. Crouser moved his weight training to a garage and his throwing practise off a sheet of plywood behind an elementary school.

But out of adversity has come achievement, the 28-year-old American setting a world indoor record of 22.82 metres in January bettering the 32-year-old mark of 22.66m set by Randy Barnes.

The 2016 Rio Olympics gold medallist also bettered the old world record on another attempt dominating the indoor competition this season.

“Not going to lie and say it’s been easy,” Crouser told Reuters following a training session for Sunday’s Zenni Blokz American Track League indoor season finale in Fayetteville, Arkansas. “There’s been a lot of improv, it’s not been ideal training situations.

“It’s kind of been finding ways to make things work.”

Unable to follow the training regime he had used for years, Crouser shifted his focus from the weight room to working on his throws and finding a flow.

“The one thing that has helped me is being very limited in my training that I’ve had to really focus on throwing and not so much what I can do in the weight room,” said Crouser. “I have just kind of found my rhythm in my throw a little.

“It’s something I feel like I have been missing the past couple of years.

“I was really working on the intangibles of rhythm and being loose and relaxed and letting it happen instead of trying to force myself to execute technically.

“Just shutting my brain off and letting the throw happen.”

Strong results during the indoor season have provided a solid foundation to build on as Crouser heads into the next stage of his Olympic preparation and an attack on the outdoor record of 23.12m set by Randy Barnes in 1990.

It is a record that needs to fall, says Crouser, to leave no doubt that such a throw can be produced by a clean athlete.

Barnes, the 1996 Olympic gold medallist, was banned for life in 1998 after a second failed drugs test.

“In the new age of drug testing and retroactive testing I think if we can get the world record to be thrown under the scrutiny we have presently that would be a great step forward for track and field,” said Crouser. “It’s on the list of things I want to do.

“It will come when it comes.

“In the past I have been in shape to throw it, knowing I can throw it going into a meet and I feel like I have tried to force it to happen instead of relaxing and letting that big throw happen.” (Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Christian Radnedge)