As proof that Jamaica produces more than elite speed on the track, we present O’Dayne Richards.
In contrast to the multitude of celebrated sprinters from his homeland, Richards travels a mere seven feet during his athletic competitions. That’s the diameter of the shot put circle, in which Richards rotates his short and powerful body to generate the momentum required to send his 16-pound shot out to 70 feet and beyond.
“I believe I generate power by moving the shot across and out of the circle in a shorter time than most,’’ Richards said in an e-mail exchange with TrackTown USA. “Sometimes I know as soon as the ball leaves the hand that it’s a big throw and other times I surprise myself. What I mean by this is, sometimes I am unaware of how great a shape I’m in until I hear the reading of the mark in competition.’’
Richards liked what he heard on August 23 at the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing after his top throw was measured. He reached a personal best and national record of 71 feet, 2 inches (21.69m) to earn the bronze medal behind Joe Kovacs of the United States (71-11 ½/21.93m) and David Storl of Germany (71-4/21.74m).
In the process, Richards became the first Jamaican to win a World Championships medal in a throwing event.
“I did receive a nice reception when I arrived back home,’’ he said. “It was overwhelming with all the congratulatory wishes and all the nice things they had to say – so much so that even my parents started to get some of the same treatment.’’
The 27-year-old Richards is now hoping for the same kind of success in the shot put ring at the 2016 IAAF World Indoor Championships at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland. He hopes to use the meet as a catalyst for success at this summer’s Rio Olympics in Brazil.
“It is my hope that having a great season in 2015 will aid a greater season in 2016,’’ he said. “I have only competed indoors once and that was at the World Indoor Championships in Sopot, Poland. For this reason I think it’s difficult to compare outdoor vs. indoor, but I look forward to competing more indoors.’’
At 5-11 and weighing 251 pounds, Richards was destined for the throwing circle, not the starting blocks. In his event, the best throwers combine quickness with power to achieve greater results.
“The thought of being a sprinter may have crossed my mind but I never recalled pursuing becoming a sprinter,’’ Richards said. “I just wanted to be fast. Even now that is still one of my desires.’’
In that regard, Richards is similar to former U.S. standout Adam Nelson, the 2004 Olympic gold medalist in the shot. Both athletes are of comparable size and rely on a quick rotation in the ring to propel the ball.
Only time will tell if Richards can continue to make throwing history for Jamaica.