HELSINKI , August 7 - Euphoric. Thanks, at least in part, to
Rex the Talking Pill Bottle.
That was Adam Nelson, shot put bridesmaid no more, after
clinching his first senior world championship crown last
night in Helsinki. Nelson, whose last world crown came as
a junior in 1994, may have a second career lined up after all
as a stand-up comic after some of the one-liners he let
loose in his interviews last night. But his sponsorship by
medical supply manufacturer Medivox Rx during the month
of June was no laughing matter. The Ebay auction, which
marketed Nelson as a pitchman for the highest bidder
during the four televised track meets he was slated to
compete in during that month, put $12,000 in his pocket and
pushed him past an early-season injury to peak for these
outdoor world championships. And when it counted, Nelson
finally delivered, winning his first senior world
championship gold medal after two Olympic silvers and two
world champs silvers in the last five years.
Talking to the press after his emotional victory, Nelson was
at turns giddy, philosophical, deadpan funny and undeniably
gracious. He won the gold medal with his first throw of the
evening - a 21.73m heave that received a roar of approval
from the Finnish fans. The Finns, famous for their support of
the throwing events, had two of their own to cheer in this
final, Ville Tisanoja and Tepa Reinikainen. Did Nelson get
adopted by the crowd as one of their own? Sure seemed
like it - even to Nelson himself.
"They love the shot put here in Finland and they've treated
me so well," Nelson said. "I've got to say this is one of my
favorite places to compete and they've always been very
supportive of me and my career."
But why so much support in Finland for the throws, Adam?
he was asked.
"Oh, you know, they have big people!" the 260-pound Nelson
deadpanned. "And they like big things. And the shot put is
kind of a big thing."
Indeed it is. On a night of some excellent American
performances, including all three men's 1500 meter
competitors advancing to the semifinals, Nelson's win may
stand out, when all is said and done, as the finest American
performance of these championships.
One by one, Nelson's competitors fell by the wayside while
he stayed focused. There were fellow American stars John
Godina, who didn't make it out of the morning qualifying
round, and Christian Cantwell, who did but fouled four of six
attempts in the final, eventually finishing fifth (20.87m). Yuri
Bilonog of Ukraine, who stole Olympic gold from Nelson last
year in Greece when he tied Nelson's one legal throw and
bested him on second attempts, didn't come within half a
meter of Nelson's best, finishing fourth ( 20.89m). 2004
Olympic bronze medalist Joachim Olsen of Denmark was
never in it, finishing seventh (20.73m). And 2003 world
champion Andrei Mikhnevich of Belarus was sixth (20.74m).
Nelson, the last to throw, took an almost giddy final attempt,
fouling badly. He admitted afterwards that emotions got the
better of him - "I'm an emotional guy" he said, understating
the fact, afterwards - but it didn't matter.
Medivox Rx, which markets a talking pill bottle for the visually
impaired, displayed more market savvy than previous
Nelson sponsor Nike, which declined to renew his
sponsorship contract even after the Olympic silver in 2004.
"[Medivox] bought me for a month, and I hope they got their
money's worth," said Nelson. The company was one of
many that bid for the endorsement services of the gentle
giant, and Nelson proved to be quite the spokesperson,
even though technically he's no longer on their nickel. Will
the gold lead to more sponsorship opportunities? "It
certainly doesn't hurt," Nelson said. "We'll see."
One year ago in Olympia, Greece, Nelson nearly won the
Olympic title on his first throw but then fouled all five of his
subsequent attempts. He eventually finished second when
Yuri Bilonog tied Nelson's distance but posted a legal mark
for his second throw.
One could talk forever about how due Nelson has been for
this moment, how much his career has been a series of
if-only and oh-so-close moments, and even moments of
seemingly stunning unfairness. Two years ago at the Paris
worlds, Nelson won silver behind Mikhnevich, who was
competing in only his second event since finishing a
two-year drug suspension.
Maybe that's why this was such a popular result - that even
in the face of events such as that one, journalists were only
too happy to connect the dots and see a drug cheat where
Nelson, at least in his remarks to the press, only saw a
champion. He was gracious as always in the mixed zone at
the Paris worlds in 2003, and even when pressed, wouldn't
comment on the drug past of the man who bested him that
Last night, though, nobody could best him.