Fri, September 20, 2013

Dylan Armstrong falls flat in Olympic shot put final

By ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency


Canada's Dylan Armstrong competes in the men's shot put final at the London 2012 Olympic Games, Aug. 3, 2012. (KAI PFAFFENBACH/Reuters)


LONDON - The weight of the world was on his massive shoulders.

And when it came down to Dylan Armstrong's final desperate heave Friday night at Olympic Stadium, perhaps it was pressure that won out over all that power.

Near the top of anyone's list of top medal Canadian contenders at these Olympics, Armstrong could do no better than fifth in the men's shot put, a disappointing result despite the highly competitive field of mammoth men.

While Armstrong tried to shrug off the effort with the same ease he planned to put back some pints of Guiness later in the London night, the disappointment was not lost on Athletics Canada coach Alex Gardiner, who wasn't shy about touting the 6-foot-4, 345 pound Kamloops, B.C. native as medal material.

"I thought it was flat," Gardiner said when asked about Armstrong's performance. "It wasn't inspired.

"I didn't see what I had seen before, certainly at (national and world championships.) I think he knows he was flat tonight. I didn't see the pop in the circle."

The fired-up crowd of 80,000 in the stadium for the opening night of the track and field competition wasn't enough for Armstrong to summon another metre from his best effort of 20.93 from six throws.

Nor was the memory of four years ago in Beijing when Armstrong fell a centimetre short of a bronze medal in as heartbreaking a near miss as you can find at the Olympics.

Instead, the 21.50 metre throws that he had made routine over the past couple of years were nowhere to be found and Armstrong finished almost a full metre behind Poland's Tomasz Majewski, who defended his Beijing gold with a throw of 21.89 metres.

Though Armstrong is clearly in the mix with the top half dozen shot putters in the world, Gardiner felt he may have succumbed to expectations as he came nowhere near his personal best of 22.21, a mark that would have landed him a gold.

"There were other elements there," Gardiner said. "I don't know how the subconscious works, but he had a lot of hopes riding on him. We tried to pull back on those at Athletics Canada but he had sponsors, he had family, he had the whole city of Kamloops (behind him.)

"I don't know what that does to to you, but it's got to do something if you think you're carrying that kind of responsibility."

Armstrong played down his placing, shrugging it off as the reality of his event where the top six in the world are tightly bunched. And even with his sixth and final throw, he felt he could lay down an effort that could catch them.

"Every attempt I obviously I feel I have one in me, but this is how the chips fell," Armstrong said. "It was really tough.

"It would have meant everything to strike gold here. It's like winning the lottery man, it really is."

It was evident early on that Armstrong may not have been on his game. In the morning session, he needed a clutch effort on his third and final throw just to reach the top 12 to return for the medal round in the evening.

After his second throw in the final, a decent effort of 20.93 metres, Armstrong found himself in fifth and what he hoped would be in position to at least better the 21.04 mark he threw in Beijing or get in the shadow of 22 metres.

He didn't come close to either.

rob.longley@sunmedia.ca

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