US denied shot put sweep; Cantwell captures silver

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BEIJING - No gymnastics for you, Reese Hoffa. No Olympic medal, either.

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Reese Hoffa of the United States competes in the final of the men's shot put during the athletics competitions in the National Stadium at the Beijing 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Friday, Aug. 15, 2008.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Reese Hoffa of the United States competes in the final of the men's shot put during the athletics competitions in the National Stadium at the Beijing 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Friday, Aug. 15, 2008.

The world champion shot putter, who tantalized his fans with the idea of doing a roundoff back tuck if he won an Olympic gold medal Friday, instead trudged out of the Bird's Nest empty handed.

So did American teammate Adam Nelson.

The other U.S. thrower, Christian Cantwell, did take the silver, but even he was disappointed. The colorful American team had sweep potential, but it didn't work out that way.

"They anointed us as the 'Dream Team,' but we're not so dominant," said Hoffa, who finished a shocking seventh. "We're human. We're susceptible to making mistakes on the biggest stage and it showed."

Nelson had won silver at the last two Olympics, but was out after three throws in the evening session, fouling on each attempt. He pulled a rib muscle Monday in training, which he said made it hurt simply to breathe deep.

"It's inexcusable at this level to even think about making excuses," he said.

The Americans were trying to sweep the event for the first time since 1960. The trio accounted for eight of the top 10 throws in the world this season.

It was Tomasz Majewski of Poland who won the gold, with a throw of 70 feet, 7 inches (21.51 meters), a winning distance that made Cantwell cringe. All three Americans have personal bests of more than 73-7.

After knowing he would finish second, Cantwell lifted two fingers toward the camera and stuck out his tongue in disapproval.

"I'll take it I guess — silver's silver," Cantwell said. "Hopefully, tomorrow it will feel a little bit better. Right now, I'm still a little hurtin'."

Same for Hoffa. He came in as not only the reigning world champion, but also the U.S. Olympic trials champion, not to mention a natural entertainer who does wonders with a Rubik's Cube, has come to meets dressed as the masked "Unknown Shot Putter," and is known to celebrate victories by circling the track carrying a big turkey leg.

He has been working on his gymnastics skills of late, saying he might do something crazy — like that roundoff back tuck — if he won in Beijing.

Instead, he fouled on his last two throws, sticking out his tongue after the last one.

"I still see myself as a champion," he said. "Today, Tomasz won. Tomorrow, I could win, or Christian or Adam."


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