Not even a wall can contain Christian Cantwell.
A week ago today during morning practice, Cantwell, a former Missouri shot putter, threw the shot over the wall designed to stop throws from rolling across the infield. Most throws roll gently into the wall, which is about 80 feet away, but his throw bounced over.
Cantwell, who threw at Missouri from 2000 to 2003, will compete in the shot put in the United States of America Track and Field Indoor Championships at 3 p.m. Sunday in Boston. A top two finish would qualify him for the International Association of Athletics Federations World Indoor Championships in Budapest, Hungary, on March 5-7, but he wants to win.
“Obviously my goal is to be the U.S. champion,” he said. “I’ve never been a NCAA champion or a U.S. champion or anything.”
Cantwell hopes to continue in the meets his habit of testing the limits. At Saturday’s Missouri All-Comers meet, the Missouri staff had to alter the throwing area for Cantwell. The lines used for measurement go to 65 feet, but the event officials knew that would not be enough. To fix the problem, Missouri throwing coach Brett Halter used white athletic tape to add another line at 70 feet. Even that was not sufficient. Cantwell’s winning throw cleared the line by 2 feet.
Cantwell’s results have been strong all season. He won the prestigious Millrose Games on Feb. 6 in Madison Square Garden with a throw of 69-9 3/4. He also has set a Hearnes Center Fieldhouse record in all three of his meets there this year.
The USATF Indoor Championships will also be a strong indicator of Cantwell’s Olympic possibilities as he tests himself against most of the top national competition. A top-two finish in Boston would be comparable to the finish he needs at the U.S. Olympic Trials in July to qualify for the Olympic team.
Cantwell holds the longest throw in the world this year at 72 feet, 1/4 inch and four of the top six throws worldwide. His throw at last weekend’s Missouri All-Comers meet was the longest in the world indoors since 2000 and the longest by an American since 1989. If he maintains that level of performance, he should qualify for the World Championships and the Olympics, no matter whom the competition is.
Cantwell’s success is no surprise to those who have followed his career. He was a seven-time All-American and a five-time Big 12 Conference champion. He also earned All-Big 12 honors 17 times at Missouri. A national title, though, is the one accomplishment that has always eluded him. That is what he is training for.
Cantwell could have gone anywhere to train after his successful professional showing in Europe last summer, but he decided to return to the program that brought him his past success, Missouri. The decision was easy.
“This is where I’ve been for the last four years,” he said. “Everything I’ve accomplished has been a direct result of everything the Missouri track program is. I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without Coach Halter, Coach (Rick) McGuire and the great facilities that we have here.”
Back on track
Although Cantwell has been successful so far this year, he didn’t come back to Missouri without missing a beat. Cantwell took a break from heavy training after he won the World Athletics Final in September until mid-December. He said it took awhile to get back into shape.
“When I came back, everything was really bad, but within a month everything was back on pace and better than it’s ever been before,” he said. “My strength has already gone up, but that usually doesn’t show in distance until I get outdoors. I don’t know why, but it usually works out that way.”
However, Cantwell knows his strength will not last forever, and has ideas for what he will do after his track career.
“As long as track is lucrative, I’ll do it,” he said. “I don’t know how long I’ll be able to do sports though. Just in the last five years, my body has aged 10 years, but that happens with every athlete. I’ve always been interested in owning or operating a sports bar, but that’s for later in life.”
For now, the sports bar can wait. His focus is on this weekend’s meet in Boston and the rest of his track career.
“Last summer, I won my first major championship, and I want this to be my next and really the start of my professional career,” he said.