Dylan Armstrong’s Olympics were almost over as soon as they started.
But the world championship silver medalist, and Canada’s best hope for a track and field medal, used his final throw to narrowly qualify for the men’s shot put finals on Friday.
It was a nail biting moment much sooner than he had wanted at the Games.
“The hard part’s over,” Armstrong said, sporting a big smile as he met with the media. “That’s always the hard part. In the qualification, the nerves are high and the pressure’s on just to make the final. Now I can go back and relax and try and bang one out there tonight.”
Armstrong needed to hit the qualifying standard of 20.65 metres or finish among the top 12 with one of his three throws, and after his first two, that was definitely in doubt.
He hit 19.99 metres on his first attempt, faulted on his second and was down to 15th by the time his final throw came around.
The 31-year-old Kamloops native then heaved his best toss of the day, hitting the qualifying mark tape and coming in at 20.49 metres to wind up seventh.
Armstrong then let out a “whew” on the Olympic Stadium track, realizing he almost missed moving on.
He will now participate in Friday night’s finals, which begin at 3:30 p.m. EDT. Competitors there get three initial throws and then the top eight receive three more attempts.
The best overall throw in the finals wins.
“You try and prepare as much as you can to be in a situation like this but obviously nothing comes close to this,” Armstrong said. “But this isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve just got to go for broke tonight. I’m pretty excited to try and go for it.”
Armstrong added that his goal is to land on the podium, not necessarily at the top of it, as he acknowledged there are 10 heavily decorated throwers in the final.
“It’s very, very deep right across the board,” he said. “It’s like the men’s 100. Almost deeper. I think it’s going to be cutthroat tonight.”
His top competition will be Reese Hoffa (United States), David Storl (Germany), Tomasz Majewski (Poland) and Christian Cantwell (U.S.). Storl won the worlds last year while Majewski is the defending Olympic champ.
Armstrong finished fourth in Beijing with a throw of 21.04 metres, which put him one centimetre off the podium.
“It would mean everything,” Armstrong said of winning a medal. “I’ve put a lot of hard work into this. Obviously to bring Canada a medal back home would be outstanding. My community in Kamloops. It would just be fabulous to do that.”
Canada’s other men’s shot putter, Justin Rodhe, failed to qualify for the final after faulting on all three throws.
Men’s shot put final qualifiers