University of Kansas

Former Mizzou standout Christian Cantwell takes shot put title in downtown Lawrence

Christian Cantwell won the Downtown Shot Put event, held Friday in Lawrence.
Christian Cantwell won the Downtown Shot Put event, held Friday in Lawrence. The Kansas City Star

If his body cooperates, and if his muscles and ligaments hold together, Christian Cantwell will be in Rio de Janeiro next August, competing in another Olympic Games in the shot put.

That’s the goal. For Cantwell, 34, that’s also a big if.

“For me, being old, I still got some good tread on the tire,” says Cantwell, a former Missouri track and field standout. “I think I can still throw super far … but it’s whether or not my body lets that happen.”

On Friday night in Lawrence, Cantwell’s body cooperated. Competing in a downtown shot put event that highlights Kansas Relays week, Cantwell emerged from a field of professionals and claimed the title with a throw of 70 feet, 61/2 inches.

His longest throw came on his final attempt as a packed city block made some noise and surrounded a temporary shot put pit that sat adjacent to two bars and a coffee shop. But Cantwell actually claimed the title on his first throw, setting a mark of 70 feet, 6 inches that wasn’t touched all night.

“(It was) that little extra adrenalin I got,” said Cantwell, who won the event for the second straight year. “It worked out well.”

Cantrell, who grew up in Jefferson City and still makes central Missouri his home, has been coming to the relays since his days at Mizzou. But in the last five years he has become a staple in the downtown shot-put event — a night that can often described as half competition, half block party.

By early Friday evening, downtown Lawrence was buzzing with pedestrians. At the corner of Eighth and Massachusetts, the smell of beer wafted through the air as 800 tons of sand had been shaped into a shot-put landing pit, complete with temporary bleachers.

“It’s fun,” Cantwell says. “When we were getting ready to warm up, there wasn’t a whole lot of people here. All of a sudden, when it was my turn, I looked around and was like: ‘Holy cow, where did all these people come from?’”

Cantwell, who won the silver medal at the 2008 Olympics and finished fourth in 2012, bested a field that featured former Olympians Reese Hoffa (bronze medal in 2012) and Ryan Whiting.

For now, Cantwell said he planned to keep his 2015 schedule very businesslike. He will compete in close to 20 meets, but the main goal is to stay healthy. He’ll turn 35 in September, and he figures he has one Olympics left.

“I’m trying to pace myself out this year … just try to stay in the ring for 20 meets,” Cantwell said. “If the distance is good, great. All my good years have followed years of not being hurt. So that’s what I’m looking for. I’m just tying to stay healthy. If I do that, and go into Rio healthy, I think I got a chance. A good chance.”

For Cantwell, that made Friday night a success. His only disappointment: For the first time in five years, this Missouri Tiger wasn’t booed in Lawrence.

“I was actually surprised,” Cantwell said. “I wanted it. I was like: ‘C’mon.’”

Related stories from Kansas City Star