Don't look now, but the shot put is suddenly a trendy event, and its new star is 35-year-old Kevin Toth. Buoyed by the world dominance of Toth and two other Yanks—Adam Nelson and John Godina—organizers at the Adidas meet amped up the shot, halting other events while it was under way and seating spectators so close to the action that they had to dodge the gravel that sprayed when the 16-pound metal ball landed.
It was rollicking stuff. Surrounded by a boisterous, rhythmically clapping SRO crowd at the Adidas meet, Toth un-spooled a toss of 69'7", good enough to win but nowhere near his 74'4�" heave at last month's Kansas Relays—the longest in the world since 1990. Toth is an 11-year veteran whose previous best was 72'9�" and who has never qualified for the Olympics in three tries. He credits his rebirth to his new coach, Mike Mielke, who since last October has overhauled Toth's training regimen and gotten Toth to squat lower at the start of his throws to draw more power from his legs.
"Kevin was really a powerlifter who threw the shot," Mielke says. "He needed to be an agile athlete, so we put an emphasis on flexibility and cardiovascular fitness. To learn a motor skill like this, you have to have the endurance for thousands of reps."
The genial Toth is delighted with the results. "I did everything on my own for so long," he says. "It's been 11 years, and I want something to show for this damn sport."