Averill Park High School graduate Rudy Winkler, who holds the US hammer throwing record, headed into this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo ranked sixth internationally. In other words, he was a force to be reckoned with on arguably the most competitive world stage for an athlete of his kind.
But for every powerhouse who trained tirelessly and beat the odds to win a medal in Tokyo, there were dozens more who did the same and came up short. Though Winkler disappointingly fell into the latter group, his experience at the Olympics wasn’t all for naught. For one, Winkler wound up with the second-longest throw in the qualifying round. And he finished an immensely impressive seventh in the finals.
CRL caught up with the world-class athlete to talk about his experience as an Olympian, and what his plans are for the future. Also, below, check out an exclusive gallery of photos Winkler took during his Olympic experience in Tokyo.
What was your best moment at the Tokyo Olympics?
Getting to see a lot of my friends that I’ve competed with for years. The track athletes, especially the throwers, are a very close-knit group. With COVID, we haven’t been able to spend a lot of time together, so it was really nice to be back all together again.
What’s one thing about your experience at this year’s Games that someone watching on TV wouldn’t have known?
One thing that people don’t see on TV, or at least don’t fully understand, is how difficult qualifying for the Olympics is in a normal year, and how much more difficult that was this past year an a half with COVID. It was extremely difficult for most athletes to find ways to continue to train through the pandemic. We’ve all dealt with our fair share of adversity this past year, and it made the whole process a lot more emotional for most.
People watching on TV also got a glimpse of the mental side of the Olympics with what was going on with Simone Biles. What most people might not realize is every athlete has his or her own mental battles, and for some that’s the hardest part of the sport.
What’s next for your athletic career?
I have one more meet this year in Poland before I am calling my season over, and then I’ll get a few weeks off before I start training for the 2022 season. In 2022, there’s the World Championships in Eugene [Oregon] and another World Championships in 2023 in Hungary and then the Olympics again in 2024 in Paris. I will be training for all of these and then I will reevaluate my athletic career after the 2024 Olympics. I have a lot more in the tank and I know I will go into these meets even stronger than I was this year.