The first medal round of track and field competition at the 2012 Olympic Games will occur on Aug. 3 with the final of men’s shot put.
That could be a golden opportunity, pun intended, for the United States to take an early lead on the track and field medal table.
Chances are very good that one of the three U.S. throwers will win the gold medal in the event this year. If all three U.S. throwers are at their best in London, there is a chance that Team USA could take the top three places to sweep the first podium of 2012 Olympic track and field competition.
The six best shot put throws in the world this year are all by members of the U.S. Olympic team. Christian Cantwell put up the world-leading mark of 73 feet, 2 1/2 inches at the Gill Athletic Field Fest on July 7, while Reese Hoffa has the next three best throws of the season, led by a mark of 72'2 1/4" inches from the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials. Ryan Whiting has the world’s sixth-best throw this year, with a mark of 71’ 3/4”, also from the U.S. trials.
Hoffa, who has consistently been among the world’s best this season and has only lost once (to another U.S. thrower, Adam Nelson, who failed to qualify at U.S. trials), is the favorite to win Olympic gold. Hoffa has not medaled in a world championship meet since winning gold at the 2007 World Championships, but he is throwing as well as he ever has in his career this season.
Hoffa’s toughest competition in London will be Cantwell. Cantwell was the 2008 Olympic silver medalist, the 2009 outdoor world champion and is a three-time indoor world champion. He proved he is still a top contender for Olympic gold with his world-leading throw earlier this month.
Hoffa and Cantwell deserve the most attention, but Whiting is a legitimate contender for Olympic gold in his own right.
Whiting won the indoor world championship in shot put in 2012, proving that he can beat the world’s best in the event. Only Cantwell and Hoffa have thrown farther than him this season, and if he is at his best in London, he could stand atop the podium.
The most likely spoiler to the U.S. dominance in shot put is Poland’s Tomasz Majewski, the 2008 Olympic gold medalist.
Majewski’s best mark this season is 70’ 10 1/2”, the best among non-U.S. throwers this season. Other major contenders include Germany’s David Storl, the 2011 world champion, and Canada’s Dylan Armstrong, the runner-up to Storl at last year’s world championships.
Majewski and Armstrong’s best marks of the season both came at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., on June 2, a meet that could be the best indicator this season of things to come in London.
Hoffa was victorious in that meet, while Majewski finished second, Armstrong was third, Whiting fourth and Cantwell fifth. Storl did not compete in Eugene.
Even though Majewski, Armstrong and Storl are all very legitimate competition to win in shot put, the numbers are very much on the United States’ side with the three best shot-put throwers in the world this season all competing for Team USA.
It is almost a certainty that the U.S. will be represented on the event’s podium, and if all three throwers are at their best on Aug. 3, it is possible that the Stars and Stripes could make a clean sweep of the medals.
A strong start for Team USA could help build momentum for the entire U.S. track and field team going through the 2012 Games, so it is very fortunate that men’s shot put will be the first event to award medals in London.
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Dan Hope is an NFL draft Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, and also a member of B/R’s 2012 Olympics Coverage Team. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Hope.