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It wasn't so much a throw as it was an explosion. Make that a series of explosions. Randy Barnes broke the world shot-put record on Sunday at the Jack in the Box Invitational in Los Angeles on his second attempt of the day with a heave of 75'10�", more than two inches better than the old mark of 75'8" set by East Germany's Ulf Timmermann. For an encore, the 23-year-old 1988 Olympic silver medalist reeled off four more throws over 73'3". Taking into account his first throw of 71'10", he averaged 73'10�"-the best series in shot-put history.
"It's done! It's close!" Barnes yelled as his throw landed beyond the world-record chalk line and in front of a grandiose display of colorful balloons in UCLA's Drake Stadium. "That's the one!" he screamed.
When he heard the distance, 23.12 meters, Barnes immediately knew it was farther than Timmermann's two-year-old record. The 6'4�", 300-pound Barnes leaped in the air, then hugged his coach, Robert Parker, and hurdler Roger Kingdom, who had sprinted to the pad. He shook hands with U.S. Senator Alan Cranston of California, who was about to compete in an old-timers' 4 x 100-meter relay, and waved to his parents and his sister in the stands. Barnes was then presented with a check for $50,000, the amount that promoter Al Franken had offered, at Barnes's urging, as a bonus for a shot-put world record.
"I can hardly believe this," said Barnes. "I don't know if it will ever sink in."
With the throw, Barnes became the first shot-putter from the U.S. to hold the world record since Terry Albritton's mark of 71'8�" was broken by Alexander Baryshnikov of the Soviet Union in 1976, halting an uninterrupted line of American dominance of the record that went back to 1934. Barnes's toss also set the stage for a sizzling showdown this summer with Timmermann, who answered Barnes's Olympic-record final throw (73'5�") at the 1988 Games in Seoul with an Olympic-record heave of his own (73'8�") to snatch away the gold medal. Timmermann was initially expected to compete in the Jack in the Box meet, but his schedule would not allow it. His absence, to Barnes, was hardly a concern.
"It would have been fun," Barnes says. "But the picture was almost too perfect as it was. My family was here, the balloons over the shot put, the money. I knew the timing was right, but I thought something might go wrong. I had sort of blown my bubble with the press by predicting it would happen, and if I didn't get it, I knew it would hang over my head for a while."
What had made Barnes so bold in the weeks leading up to the meet was a monster throw he uncorked during a practice session at Fallbrook High School near San Diego on May 13.
Barnes, who lives in Charleston, W.Va., was staying with the family of 18-year-old Brent Noon, the nation's top high school shot-putter, whom he had befriended at a meet four years ago. Brent's father, Jim, coached wrestling at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, Calif., for 20 years before retiring in 1981. Even before meeting Barnes, Jim and Brent had watched dozens of Barnes's throws on videotape and were trying to have Brent imitate his complex spinner's style.
"They've got tapes of me even I haven't seen," Barnes says, amazed.
The Noons invited Barnes to stay with them at their home in Fallbrook in April, before the Mt. SAC Relays in Walnut, Calif. Barnes had such a good time with the family and such good results—winning the meet with a put of 73'1�—that he decided to stay on with the Noons while training for the Jack in the Box.