By Chad Greene
Once his name is called, the shot putter has 60 seconds to step inside the circle and start his throw. That is all the time he has.
The circle is seven feet in diameter, imprinted into a slab of concrete and lined with a ring of metal. That is all the space he has.
Within these constraints, though, the shot putter has some freedom. Through his technique, he tries to make the most of that time and space.
He has to, if he wants to throw the 16-pound steel sphere farther into the pit of crushed rocks than anyone else has.
Ralph Rose became the first to put the shot 50 feet by leaning back, lifting his leg, then heaving himself through a 90-degree turn.
Parry O’Brien became the first to put the shot 60 feet by crouching low, kicking back into his signature “glide,” then rotating 180 degrees.
Brian Oldfield became the first to put the shot 75 feet by twisting through his signature discus-style “spin,” rotating 540 degrees.
Set in 1990 by Randy Barnes using the “Oldfield Spin,” the world record – 75 feet, 10 inches – is older than this shot putter.
This one graduated last Saturday. On borrowed time, he waits for his name to be called for his last throw in the final round of the NCAAs.
Standing outside this last circle, he extends his strong right arm into the air. He tests the weight. It’s more than 16 pounds. Much more.
It’s the weight of the expectations – of his parents, who paid for the camps and clinics; of his coaches, who secured the scholarships.
It’s the weight of all the moments outside this circle, all the moments no one watching at this track – or on the TV – saw.
This is the only one they will see, these 60 seconds inside this seven-foot circle. So he must try to make the most of that time and space.
Yet, when he tests the weight, he knows that it is more than he will be able throw 75 feet, 10 inches. Much more.
Is that what it would take to make this one moment last? A world record? A world record that will last the rest of his lifetime?
Is that what it would take to inspire people to replay the video of this moment on YouTube for the next two decades?
Two decades later, you can watch the video of Barnes spinning 540 degrees to put the shot 75 feet, 10 inches on May 20, 1990, on YouTube.
The shot putter knows he can’t beat one of those numbers. But maybe, by beating the other, he can make the most of this time and space.
So, when his name is called for his last shot, he spins. 90 degrees. And he spins. 180 degrees. And he spins. 540 degrees. And he spins….
A graduate of the Master of Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern California, Chad Greene is an associate professor of English at Cerritos College. Whenever he isn’t planning lessons or grading papers, he is attempting to put together a novella-in-flash-fictions tentatively titled “Trips and Falls.”