This is Cathal Dennehy’s first piece for RunBlogRun during the 2023 World Championships. Cathal is one of the finest writers in our sport and has been part of the track & field scene for many years now. Enjoy his observations on Ryan Crouser, newly crowned WC in Men’s shot put. 


This was surely the best one of all. Ryan Crouser has thrown farther than this. He’s thrown under more pressure than this. But of all the achievements racked up in the 30-year-old’s career – from world youth champion in 2009 to world senior champion in 2022, with two Olympic golds along the way – this was surely his finest effort.

Ryan Crouser sets two CR in winning the Men’s shot put in Budapest! photo by Kevin Morris

The records will show that the behemoth from Oregon won the world title by an astonishing 117cm, his winning throw of 23.51m sitting behind only his world record of 23.56m on the all-time list. But it was the context to it that made this better than that LA day back in May, when he broke the world record, better than Rio in 2016, Tokyo in 2021, and Oregon in 2022.

Four weeks ago, Crouser threw 23.07m to win at the London Diamond League but contracted an illness on the journey home. “I lost my sense of smell, so it was probably Covid,” he said tonight. A training session that followed in 104-degree heat likely didn’t help matters, nor did the long-haul flight back. Any of those three factors could have led to what happened next – Crouser still doesn’t know the cause – but whatever the underlying reason, he woke up one day with blood clots in his lower leg.

Ryan Crouser broke the Champs record twice in the Men’ Shot Put final! photo by Kevin Morris

At the time, he thought it was a calf strain, and it was diagnosed as such. “It didn’t present with the typical symptoms (of a blood clot) – no redness, swelling, heat, or throbbing. After 10 days of being relatively unresponsive to any treatment, my PT was like, ‘I don’t like the way this looks; it’s not sitting right with me.’”

Before he traveled to Europe, he underwent a Doppler ultrasound scan, which showed “two distal blood clots” in his lower leg. Crouser’s thoughts turned immediately to Budapest. “Since then, it’s been a matter of: can I still do world champs? Can I mitigate the risks and travel safely to and from Budapest?”

Throwing was painful, so he couldn’t really train, but the bigger risk was likely from long-haul travel. Still, if he was to compete, Crouser wanted to contend.

Ryan Crouser, World Athletics Championships
Budapest, Hungary
August 19-27, 2023, photo by Kevin Morris

“No plyometrics, no sprinting, very limited in the weight room,” he said of his last three weeks. “The bread and butter of my taper is sprinting and plyometrics, but the last time I really threw hard was the London Diamond League.”

Crouser had “fantastic medical staff” around him who worked out “what medication I could be on, within the rules, so I could travel safely,” and they gave him the numbers, the risks of what he was about to do. They were low but not exactly non-existent.

“The biggest risk was getting here,” he said. “The number one concern, and it’s a very small risk if the blood clots were to move, it’d be difficult to diagnose a pulmonary embolism during a World Championships because you’re a little out of breath and have tightness in your chest regardless.”

Before Saturday’s final, Crouser had conversations with medical staff about the importance of being able to recognize the difference between normal, world-final anxiety and something that signified a serious medical situation. Did he ever think about not coming?

Ryan Crouser, World Champ, shot put, August 19, 2023, photo by Kevin Morris

“If (the blood clots) had been higher, there’s a point where you have to say, this is not worth risking your life for,” he said. “If you’re going to have them in travel, they’re in the safest place they can be.”

The issue caused Crouser “constant pain” when he exercised in recent weeks, but he fought through that in the shot put final, seizing command in the opening round with 23.51m, adding to his lead in the second with 22.98m. Still, his first five efforts left him dissatisfied.

“I tell the athletes I coach: ‘You can make a mistake in a meet, just don’t make the same mistake twice.’ I think I made a mistake in each of the first five rounds, but I didn’t make the same one twice, so by the sixth round, I had as close to a perfect throw as I’ve ever had, given my preparation.

Was this the best performance of his career?

“Without a doubt,” he said. “I wasn’t in the physical shape I’d hoped to be. It was a testament to the preparation I had to throw that with 20 days of pretty terrible limitations.”

Ryan Crouser, World Champ, shot put, August 19, 2023, photo by Kevin Morris

With his second world title in the bag, the only question to ponder now was hypothetical. How much distance had the health issues cost him on that final throw?

“It’s difficult to say how far it could have gone,” he said. “It was definitely a far better technical execution than my world record; I just didn’t have the power out of my body. I was missing 30cm today, at least, which has me excited for the future.”

So, how far can he go down the line? “I think 24 meters is possible,” he said. “I had the technical side today; I just need the physical side.”

Given what he achieved tonight, against such odds, few would bet against him.