Whiting of US has top throw in shot put qualifying
MOSCOW (AP) - Give Ryan Whiting some needles and a ball of yarn and he can knit you a nice blanket or scarf.
Put a pen between his fingers and he turns into an American poet.
But place a shot put in those big, burly hands and Whiting can strike gold.
In Moscow, Whiting is the favorite at the world championships, especially after his big opening throw in qualifying on Thursday. His throw of 70 feet, 7 inches was more than a foot farther than his nearest competitor.
"Easy,'' said the 6-foot-3, 295-pound Whiting, who won the 2012 world indoor title.
No doubt he will write something more profound and detailed in a journal that he keeps by his side. He logs every throw he's ever made, along with comments, just to be able to consult his data should things go awry in the shot put ring. It's a tradition that he started during his high school days in Pennsylvania and carried over to Arizona State, where he became an NCAA champion.
And the journals especially help now as the 26-year-old Whiting tries to become next the big thing among the American shot putters.
"I feel fortunate get to see a great guy like Ryan come in here and do his thing. It's a thing of beauty to see a guy throw really well,'' said Reese Hoffa, the bronze medalist at the London Olympics who also advanced out of qualifying. "As a country, I'm rooting for Ryan to go out there and win his first world outdoor championship, to cement his place. If he wins the worlds, on top of his world indoor, the next thing he's going to get is his Olympic medal in 2016.''
A discussion for down the line. Now, the only thing Whiting is thinking about is this competition.
That, and how his wife is doing back home with their new son, who was born two months ago. Even thousands of miles away from home, Whiting still wakes up in the middle of the night anticipating the baby crying.
"It's weird,'' he said. "I don't need much sleep anyway.''
His talents don't stop with the shot put. He also writes poetry, builds things - a patio is his current project - and knits in his spare time.
That's right, knits. His mom taught him the skill while growing up.
"Best for hand rehab,'' Whiting said.
He's also big into astronomy, taking his telescope out at night to look at stars.
Whiting has definitely been a rising star. That is, once he got over the awe factor of competing with the likes of Hoffa, Adam Nelson, who's now retired, and Christian Cantwell, the silver medalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
"You get to the point where you're not surprised anymore,'' Whiting said. "They're my equals and I feel like can beat them. That's sunk in. Mentally, I'm in a good spot.''
Not a surprise given that his shot put buddies have been touting him for years.
"Reese once said, `We built this for you and feel comfortable handing it off to you as a tradition,''' Whiting said. "If they have confidence in me, why shouldn't I have confidence in myself?''
FINAL LEAP: Olympic silver medalist Brigetta Barrett nearly didn't make it out of high jump qualifying on Thursday.
Down to her last jump, the former University of Arizona star readjusted her steps to clear the bar and advance.
"I couldn't breathe, I was so nervous,'' Barrett said. "I think that's what qualifiers are for, to really snap you into reality for the final and be like, `Hey, these are the things that can happen. You always have to be ready.' I'm grateful for the bumps in the qualifier so I can be ready for the final.''
AROUND THE TRACK: Pole vaulter Brad Walker said on his Facebook page he's in trouble with his shoe sponsor, Nike, for using tape over the Velcro strap. He said he was "sort of dropped,'' adding "I won't be wearing NIKE again in my future.''... Inika McPherson displayed her team spirit, wearing a red uniform with white shoes to go with her dyed-blue hair. She didn't make it through qualifying. "Got to be more consistent in my approach,'' McPherson said. ... Brenda Martinez had the top time in the first round of the 800 meters as all three Americans advanced.