Cantwell has good shot at ’04 Olympics

Thursday, May 27, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:56 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Christian Cantwell dominated Saturday at the Home Depot Invitational, which didn’t surprise him. News that his hometown of Eldon is planning a “Christian Cantwell Appreciation Day” was a surprise.

“I just feel normal there,” Cantwell said in a teleconference call.

On Saturday in Carson, Calif., Cantwell was anything but normal, producing the best shot-put effort in the world this year at 73 feet, 4 inches, and extending his winning streak to 12.

Cantwell, a former Missouri track standout, separated himself from the competition by setting and tying records throughout the day.

All six of his throws were longer than 70 feet, the second time that has happened. The winning throw placed him sixth in U.S. history and in the top 10 in the world.

Cantwell, an undergraduate assistant coach with the Missouri track and field program, trains in Columbia.

Cantwell’s string of success has boosted him to No. 1 in the world, and that makes him a favorite for the Olympics, which start Aug. 13 in Athens, Greece. He refuses to let the Olympic hype veer his attention away from the basics. He knows the Olympics Trials are key, and then the focus can shift to Athens. Even so, the whole experience could be consuming for someone trying to make his first Olympic team.

“We just don’t make it a big deal,” Cantwell said. “The ring is still 7 feet and the ball 16 pounds.”

At one time, Cantwell, who is 6 feet 6 and 290 pounds, had trouble treating the ring as only 7 feet. While Cantwell was at MU, he was introduced to the spin technique, but it took him three or four years to adapt fully.

“I had a hard time staying in the ring,” Cantwell said.

Cantwell began to excel at MU, where he was a five-time Big 12 Conference champion, but a nagging injury to his right ring finger affected his senior season in 2003 and part of his first professional season as well.

The injury was related to the tendon sheets around his ring finger. He planned to have surgery over the summer to repair the injury, but one day at practice the tendon sheets broke loose and relieved the pain.

As the Olympics and Olympic Trials draw near, the track world is mired in part of a steroid investigation that threatens the status of several athletes. Cantwell understands the importance of the testing, saying track is “trying to lead the way with a clean team in Athens.”

“I’ve been tested, I don’t know how many times,” Cantwell said. “But I was last week.”

Cantwell said he takes precautions while traveling.

“I won’t drink anything that wasn’t bottled,” he said.

Cantwell has stayed in Columbia to train, but the recent weather hasn’t cooperated. Three straight days of rain, with more in the forecast, have hindered Cantwell’s normal routine. Since Saturday’s meet, he has been unable to throw in the ring.

The revised routine focuses on lifting, where Cantwell said he “hasn’t begun to peak.” Even without the practice in the shot-put ring, Cantwell expects nothing less than “22 meters (72 feet) happening again” at the Payton Jordan U.S. Open on Monday at Stanford.

That’s quite a feat for someone who was offered a football scholarship at MU. Despite his football talent, he said he knew track and field was where he needed to be.

“I loved track,” Cantwell said. “I wasn’t very good. I was decent, but I wasn’t great.”

Cantwell has become one of the best shot-putters in the world. Each meet he competes against others such as John Godina, Adam Nelson and Resse Hoffa. Whom does he consider to be the favorite every time?

“Yeah, I don’t see why I wouldn’t be,” Cantwell said.

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