BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — OK, so, Ryan Crouser didn’t set a new world record. This win felt even better than that.
Just before the American shot-putter was scheduled to leave for the world athletics championships in Budapest, Crouser was diagnosed with two blood clots in his lower leg. The doctors told him it was safe to fly and it was up to him and his family whether to compete.
He showed up and defended his world title Saturday night with a championship-record throw of 23.51 meters (77 feet, 1 3/4 inches) using a new technique he invented that’s been dubbed the “Crouser Slide.”
Moments after his final attempt, Crouser dropped to his knees and lifted his arms in the air.
“After all that, it was the best performance of my life, given the health issues, the stress and all of it,” Crouser said. “The last throw was testament to all the hard work and dedication over the last year. The last few days have been hard, so with all that has happened it was a phenomenal throw.”
In a post on social media a day before the start of worlds, Crouser discussed his ordeal and how a scan revealed the blood clots. He wrote that everything went into emergency mode before the medical team “did everything to mitigate them.”
“Biggest questions being, ‘What’s the safest treatment?’” Crouser wrote. “And, ‘Is WC even a possibility?’”
Crouser set the standard with his first attempt of 22.63 (74-3). No one could catch him as Italy’s Leonardo Fabbri took second and Crouser’s teammate and 2019 world champion Joe Kovacs earned bronze.
With the competition locked up, Crouser went for it on his final attempt. The moment the ball left his hand, he knew he unleashed a good one. The crowd did, too, roaring as it flew. It fell just short of world-record range. He’s broken it twice over the past 26 months, with his mark standing at 23.56 (77-3 3/4).
“It wasn’t quite a world record but to me it was,” Crouser said.
To treat the blood clots, Crouser is taking medication. He said the issue he discussed with his doctor was how to recognize the symptoms of a pulmonary embolism — just as a precaution.
“A little bit of difficulty breathing, elevated heart rate, tightness in the chest,” Crouser said. “Those are all symptoms of a world championship as well.”
While Crouser was steady in the field, runners were tumbling on the track.
Dutch runner Sifan Hassan stumbled and fell in the home stretch of the 10,000 meters, spoiling her bid to win three medals like she did at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
“I am keeping my smile but it is really hard,” Hassan said. “I am very disappointed.”
Hassan’s fall opened the door for Gudaf Tsegay to lead an Ethiopian sweep. Tsegay defeated Letesenbet Gidey by .98 seconds. Ejgayehu Taye finished third.
Another tumble came in the final race of the night, the 4×400 mixed relay. Netherlands runner Femke Bol suffered a cramp and fell right before the finish line, her baton bouncing across the finish line as she hit the track. Alexis Holmes went by for a win for the United States.
The lineup for the Americans going into the final of the 4×400 mixed relay didn’t include Gabby Thomas, the 200-meter sprinter who said she was planning on running in all three relays (mixed, the women’s 4×100 and the women’s 4×400).
The worlds got off to a rainy start with a thunderstorm delaying the 20-kilometer men’s race walk, the first medal event of the nine-day championships. Spain’s Álvaro Martin, who finished fourth and missed the medals by 18 seconds at the Tokyo Olympics, won the race in 1 hour, 17 minutes, 32 seconds.
“In Tokyo, I felt when I was in the fourth position that I could win a medal,” he said. “Unfortunately, it did not happen and that is why this gold medal is next step towards the next Olympic Games” in Paris next year.
It was business as usual for Noah Lyles in the first round of the 100 meters as he used a fast start to cruise to a relaxed-looking time of 9.95 seconds.
His American teammate and top rival Fred Kerley had some drama in the fifth heat. The sprinters were called to stand up four times by the starter. Then, there was a false start, followed by another gun to get them to stop after bursting out of the blocks. Finally, on the seventh try, they took off, with Kerley finishing second behind Jamaica’s Oblique Seville, who went 9.86 seconds for the top time.
“The first round was about taking it easy, but I had to get through it after several false starts,” said Kerley, who’s the defending champion. “I’m glad I held it together. You’ve just got to keep your emotions calm.”
Lyles and Kerley have added a little spice to their rivalry heading into the semifinal and final rounds Sunday. They playfully taunted each other the day before.
“I know what I’m going to do,” Kerley said after his race. “That’s win.”
The plan for Lyles, too.
“I ain’t come here to lose,” said Lyles, who’s the defending champion in the 200 meters.
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