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Shot-Putter Nelson Makes Third Olympics


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Robert Siegel. Adam Nelson is in. The shot-putter is going to the Olympics. We've been following Adam Nelson's bid to compete in the Summer Games for the third time. As NPR's Tom Goldman reports, this weekend, at the U.S. Track and Field Trials in Oregon, Nelson qualified - just barely.

(Soundbite of cheering, applause)

TOM GOLDMAN: Everything seemed perfect Saturday. The weather was hot, the sky blue, the 20,000 track fans who packed Eugene's Hayward Field were revved up. Adam Nelson felt great, ready to put on a show. Once the men's shot-put competition started, the crowd broke into rhythmic applause each time Nelson, a fan favorite, stepped into the throwing ring. But on this day, it wasn't helping.

(Soundbite of cheering, applause)

Unidentified Announcer: A foul for Nelson. We will take you back to the track, where we're going to…

GOLDMAN: Halfway through the finals, Nelson was in fourth place. The top three qualify for the Olympics. The track announcer said over the P.A. system if the event ended now, Adam Nelson would be the odd man out.

Did you hear that?

Mr. ADAM NELSON (Olympic Shot-putter): I did hear that. But it was a good thing, actually, because it really irritated me and got me somewhat focused and motivated to throw farther.

Unidentified Announcer: Nelson into second.

(Soundbite of cheering, applause)

Unidentified Announcer: Now here's Cantwell.

GOLDMAN: Adam Nelson muscled out a throw of 68 feet, six-and-a-half inches. That would be the one to ultimately place him third and get him on the Olympic team. Earlier this month, at a track meet in the same stadium, he threw four feet farther. To the media afterwards, Nelson said he was disappointed in his performance. He said he couldn't find his rhythm. When he met up with his coach, Carrie Lane, a quick interaction said it all.

Mr. NELSON: That was ugly.

Ms. CARRIE LANE (Shot-put Coach): Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GOLDMAN: The shot-put is a power event, but six-foot, 265-pound Adam Nelson always has relied less on power and more on technique and timing. Saturday, he said, that timing was off, as he tried to pick up speed and spin through the throwing ring.

Mr. NELSON: I just felt like I wasn't moving, and if I don't continue to accelerate and move across the ring, it's brutal. I haven't had too many of those days in the last few months, but unfortunately, this was one of those days.

GOLDMAN: Nelson couldn't answer why. He did say this Olympic trials competition, in comparison to the ones he won in 2000 and 2004, was extraordinarily stressful. There was a lot of talk beforehand about the big three: Nelson, a two-time Olympic silver medalist, Reese Hoffa, the reigning world champion and Christian Cantwell, this year's world indoor champ. They were expected to qualify, and Nelson told reporters he definitely felt pressure, at one point thumping his chest to illustrate the point.

Mr. NELSON: I got into that ring for the first throw, and it was like man, this feels like my first time in an Olympic trials. My heart was just going thump, thump, and I had to sort of settle myself down and take a couple of deep breaths.

GOLDMAN: Reese Hoffa also felt the pressure and also calmed himself, with better results. He won, but didn't bother with a victory celebration, as he often does.

Mr. REESE HOFFA (Olympic Shot-putter): I guess when you actually make an Olympic team, you really don't think about doing anything except for taking a deep breath in relief to know that you probably made one of the hardest teams in the world to make.

GOLDMAN: Cantwell finished second, so the big three, combined weight 880 pounds, will go to Beijing. Cantwell and Hoffa threw well. Nelson, by his own admission, got lucky, but there's already talk of a medals sweep in China. Nelson will do his part because, he said, what happened Saturday won't happen at the Olympics. Tom Goldman, NPR News, Eugene. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.