Joe Kovacs put on a silver-medal performance Thursday night.
The former Penn State All-American picked up his first Olympic medal with his runner-up finish in the shot put at Olympic Stadium.
The former Nittany Lion registered a top throw of 71 feet, 5 1/2 inches (21.78 meters) on his first of six attempts in the finals. He held the lead into the second round before he was passed by eventual winner Ryan Clouser.
“You’re never happy to get second,” Kovacs said on usatf.org. “It’s a bittersweet feeling, but it’s setting in on this walk down that I’m still bringing a silver medal to the U.S., and the gold is coming to Ryan (Crouser). Ryan had some great throws today and I have to congratulate him on that. He put it together, and I know I had that bigger throw in me. It didn’t come out today, but we will be back here.”
Clouser, from Texas, later clinched the gold with an Olympic-record throw of 73-10 1/2 (22.52 meters). The 1-2 finish also helped the U.S. sweep the shot put this year, with Michelle Carter winning the women’s title earlier in the week.
Tomas Walsh of New Zealand took the bronze out of a field of 12 finalists who advanced from the morning round of preliminaries.
Kovacs was the 2015 World Champion. He had a top throw of 68-0 1/4 in the preliminaries, and had the best throw in the world this year heading into the games. His 71-5 1/2 mark is No. 7 all-time in Olympic history.
The Bethlehem Catholic product becomes the 32nd Olympic medalist from Penn State, is the third medalist at the Rio games and the first track and field silver medalist since Mike Shine in the 400-meter hurdles in 1976.
He had a decent-size following on hand in Rio.
“Going into a competition like this, I had 14 family members here, so you take a breath and you see all of the support,” he said. “I’m not going to say it’s hard to stay in the zone, but shot put is an emotional sport, you can’t be happy with throwing the ball. You gotta be in the zone, you have to be intense, but you have to keep a soft spot when you see your family and all of the support. It’s an amazing feeling and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Another former Nittany Lion, Darrell Hill, did not make it to the finals. He finished 23rd in the preliminaries with a top attempt of 64-2 (19.56 meters).
“Today wasn’t the day I was looking for,” Hill said on usatf.org. “I had big expectations, I wanted to make the final with dreams of making the podium, but making the Olympic Games was a dream for me. Just like anything you get the wins and you celebrate those, so you look at this as a lost but it’s all about how you come back from it. I’m not upset, I’m just really happy to be here and taking in the experience.”
He was disappointed he could not perform better for his father, Ellis, who made it to Rio only after a passenger in his Uber car started a gofundme page to raise money to send him on the trip.
“It wasn’t the performance I wanted him to see obviously, but I still appreciate everyone’s support and I appreciate my dad being here,” Darrell Hill said. “It was such a blessing for him to be able to make this travel and for him to want to make this travel to come down and watch me compete. It meant the world to me. It was awesome.”