TOKYO — Payton Otterdahl found the whole thing inspiring. The Olympic trials for track and field were held at historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. — the epicenter of the sport in the U.S. — and Otterdahl was set to compete in June for an Olympic berth in men's shot put against some of the greatest American throwers of all time.
"These guys are my heroes,'' he said. "To compete alongside them and try to beat them, I can't ask for anything more than that.''
Otterdahl, of Rosemount, made the most of that opportunity. He finished third at the trials to earn a place on the Olympic team alongside two of those heroes, Ryan Crouser and Joe Kovacs. The three will begin competition at the Tokyo Games on Tuesday with the preliminary heats at Olympic Stadium.
Crouser broke a 21-year-old world record at the trials, unleashing a throw of 76 feet, 8 ¼ inches to break the previous record by 10 inches. The defending Olympic champion, he hasn't lost in 20 competitions since Kovacs bested him for the gold medal at the 2019 world championships.
Kovacs was the Olympic silver medalist in 2016 and has the second-best mark in the world this year, throwing 74-6 ½ at a competition in May. Otterdahl is in the mix for medals, too. His throw of 71-11 at the trials was a personal best and beat 2016 Olympian Darrell Hill, currently ranked fifth in the world, by one inch.
Crouser and Kovacs are the favorites in a deep field. Tom Walsh of New Zealand and Michal Haratyk of Poland both have thrown farther than 72 feet this year, and Otterdahl's mark at the trials is seventh-best in the world this year.
Since completing a stellar college career at North Dakota State, Otterdahl, 25, has balanced pro competition with coaching at his alma mater. At NDSU, he won the 2019 NCAA indoor title in shot put and broke the NCAA indoor record with a throw of 71-6 ¾.
Otterdahl's big throw at the trials lowered his personal best for the first time in two years. When he made the Olympic team, he said it was the best day of his life.
"It feels amazing, to come out here to Hayward Field and finally make it happen,'' Otterdahl said after his competition at the trials. "There have been many high points and low points, but I'm so glad to finally be at the best high point of my life.''
American men have won at least one shot put medal at every Summer Games since 1984, earning 14 of the 27 medals awarded in that span.
"Shot put depth in America is arguably harder than the Olympics,'' Kovacs said. "We are sending three great guys.''