athletics World Championship closed on Saturday with the most awaited results – but under the most unexpected of circumstances.
Ryan Crouser left the National Athletics Center in Budapest, Hungary, still undisputedly the world’s best runner to ever put a shot. Crouser entered the ring for his sixth and final throw, having already secured the title. Then, using a throwing technique introduced just eight months ago, Crouser set a championship record of 77 feet 1¾ inches. It was almost a meter further than the runner-up and just two inches behind the world record set by Crouser in Los Angeles in May.
In doing so, the 30-year-old picked up gold medals in the shot put at four of the last five major world championships in track and field, in addition to his victories at the 2016 and 2021 Olympics and last year’s world championships in Crouser’s native Oregon.
Crouser is now so dominant that he seems almost routine. But nothing about what preceded this recent feat. Crouser competed Saturday despite suffering from two blood clots in one leg, a medical condition he revealed in an Instagram post on Friday, describing, “The last 20 days have been among the most frustrating and stressful of my life.”
Crouser wrote that late in his preparation for the World Cup he felt pain in a calf muscle. After that it became a burden. When treatment didn’t help after ten days, his physiotherapist suggested a Doppler scan the day before Crouser’s planned trip to Budapest.
“The scan showed two blood clots in the lower leg,” Crouser wrote. “At that point everything went into emergency mode. The biggest questions are “What is the safest treatment?” and is [world championships] any way?’”
The clots may not have been detected because there was no swelling, heat, redness, or throbbing, which Crouser described as typical symptoms, and “an initial ultrasound missed them because they were more distal and smaller than one would normally detect.” His medical team explained the risks of traveling — Crouser is based in Arkansas — and left the decision to compete up to him.
Crouser is someone who considers every factor of a problem. Raised east of Portland in a family of top-flight pitchers, he was gifted with the genes for the sport. The success was also based on his tireless willingness to deal intensively with the topic he had chosen.
He started at the University of Texas as an engineering student before moving into finance. Just in time for the 2016 Olympic Games, he completed his two-year master’s degree in one year. He’s called himself a nerd despite being 6’1″, has a long reach and has a dancer’s feet. The new shot put technique he installed in December? It was the result of a self-described “lightbulb” moment at 10pm – but also the result of weeks of tinkering with launch angles, spins and slides that didn’t work.
However, the decision Crouser faced this month was far more serious than just technology. When he decided to go to Budapest and defend his world title, he did so while taking blood thinners “to safely compete and minimize the risk of deterioration,” he wrote.
His health endured, as did his dominance over his event. Crouser is the only man to have won the shot put at consecutive world championships, along with Swiss Werner Gunthor (1987, 1991, 1993), American John Godina (1995, 1997) and Germany’s David Storl (2011, 2013).
The 16-pound metal ball was still airborne on his final throw on Saturday night, and Crouser was still in the middle of the ring when he knew the throw was big. He raised both arms above his head and roared.