Reese Hoffa graduated from the University of Georgia in Athens and trains for the shotput in Athens.
But after Saturday's shotput final at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, Hoffa will be heading to a different Athens, 5,628 miles away from the UGA campus.
Hoffa, an Evans native and Lakeside graduate, finished second in the Olympic Trials, guaranteeing him a spot in the Olympic Games next month in Greece.
"I can't even explain how excited I am right now," the 26-year-old said when reached late Saturday night in Sacramento. "Making the Olympic team has been a dream and I have now reached that goal."
Hoffa's fifth throw (of six total) went 69 feet, 4 1/2 inches, second only behind fellow Athens resident and 2000 Olympic silver medalist Adam Nelson's toss of 71 feet.
Joining Nelson and Hoffa on the team will be three-time Olympian John Godina, a silver medalist in 1996 and bronze winner in 2000.
"We have a phenomenal team," Hoffa said of the American team that could sweep the medals. "Adam and John have a lot of experience and I absolutely believe that we will seriously contend for medals."
While Hoffa was expected to contend for a spot on the Olympic team, he entered the Trials with a cautionary attitude.
"I didn't want to get too excited because I didn't want to be let down if I didn't make the team," he said. "America has a great tradition in the shot put so there is fierce competition.
"I am surprised I made the team so early. I thought I might be competing in Beijing in 2008."
Hoffa entered the meet ranked sixth in the world by the International Association of Athletics Federations. He was behind Nelson and Christian Cantwell, the world's No. 1-ranked shot putter.
Cantwell, however, fouled on five of his six throws on Saturday. Hoffa said he was very surprised by Cantwell not making the team, but remained particularly happy with Nelson on the team.
Nelson and Hoffa train together in Athens, Ga. and are good friends.
"Going to the Olympics with Adam just makes the whole experience that much sweeter," Hoffa said. "He looks after me and was right there cheering me on during the trials. You can't put a price on how good of a friend he's been."
Although Hoffa tempered his emotions prior to the Trials, his inclusion on the team could have been predicted from his recent competitions.
Former Lakeside High School shot put champion, Reese Hoffa, seen in a 1997 photo.
The Evans resident won the silver medal at the 2004 World Indoor Championships and took the gold with a meet record at the 2003 Pan Am Games. He also won silver at the 2003 USA Outdoor Championships.
"No matter what happened out here, I am very proud of the last year," Hoffa said. "I have been competing real well and I knew I would make the Olympics one day."
He won't have much time to enjoy his accomplishment, though, as he will head to Europe over the next two weeks for some pre-Olympic meets.
"Half the battle is over," he said. "Now the real work begins."
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