'He'd be proud': Story behind gold medallist's handwritten note

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·Sports Reporter
·4-min read
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Ryan Crouser holds up a note written for his grandfather Larry after winning gold in the shot put at the Tokyo Olympics.
American competitor Ryan Crouser held up a note written for his late grandfather after winning gold in the shot put at the Tokyo Olympics. (Photo by Jia Yuchen/Xinhua via Getty Images)

There was no missing American shot-put gold medallist Ryan Crouser at the Tokyo Olympics, that much is for sure.

The hulking figure with flowing long hair, who regularly sported a baseball around the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, lived up to his massive presence by absolutely dominating the shot put competition.

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Crouser threw a new Olympic record with the first of potentially six in the gold medal round earlier this week, before breaking that record again just 15 minutes later with his second.

If any more proof was needed that the reigning champion from the 2016 Rio Olympics was more or less competing against himself, Crouser's final attempt was it.

Three throws, three new records - this one again a new Olympic mark of 23.30 meters.

In the back of his mind the entire time though, was his grandfather, Larry Crouser.

Larry Crouser had witnessed almost every competition had taken part in as a junior, but had sadly passed away just before the Tokyo Olympics.

Earlier in the year, at the Olympic trials, Crouser threw a shot put further than anyone ever has. 

Shortly after, with the trip to Tokyo on the horizon, he was able to see his grandfather again for the first time in over a year. 

Larry Crouser had lost his hearing by then, so Ryan would communicate to him through writing. He wrote that he was the new world record holder. And what grandfather wouldn’t be proud? But Larry was overjoyed. 

He had watched Ryan take his very first throw and now he watched the record-setting throw over and over.

Shot put gold medallist Ryan Crouser's beautiful tribute to grandfather

And then he was gone, before Crouser got to write him a note about defending his Olympic title with a second gold medal.

“The Olympics is a stressful place,” Crouser said. That had started to sink in over the past week. This year, more than ever. He was following the protocols, he felt safe.

“But there's still, that back [of] your mind, every morning you take a COVID test that you don't know if you're going to get a chance to compete until you actually do.”

Crouser watched as pole vaulter Sam Kendricks tested positive and couldn’t compete. Plus, he was missing his grandfather.

“And I was just sitting there in my bed — and I had a great practice — but it was just like, I felt emotionally drained.”

So he wrote one last note addressed to Larry Crouser.

Grandpa, WE DID IT, 2020 Olympic Champion!

“I wrote that down, and I felt like as soon as I did, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.”

That was a few days ago. Crouser is confident. He had reason to be.

In the qualifying round, Crouser had out-thrown the second place finisher by .56 meters — the other 11 athletes to advance were separated by .59 meters. In the finals, nearly everyone who advanced improved.

Team USA's Ryan Crouser set multiple new Olympic records on his way to shot put gold at the Tokyo Olympics. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
Team USA's Ryan Crouser set multiple new Olympic records on his way to shot put gold at the Tokyo Olympics. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

And yet still, of Crouser’s six throws only one was not far enough to win it all. Amid a disappointing and, at times, embarrassing showing from the American men at Tokyo Olympic Stadium this week — including a failure to advance out of the prelims for men’s 4x100 relay — it was just the first men’s track and field gold.

In the end, after Crouser had bested his Rio Olympic record six times in six throws, he pulled out the note he had written days before. After missing him all week, it felt like his grandfather was there with him in spirit.

“I know he'd be proud if he was here.”

Hopefully, Crouser had fun. The records are nice, but that’s not what mattered to Larry.

“He really instilled that in me that it's not so much where you end up, it's how you get there, and enjoying the process of getting there.”

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