Olymic shot-putter Reese Hoffa practices at Spec Towns track on the University of Georgia campus on Tuesday, August 3, 2004. (Photo credit: Allen Sullivan/Morris News Service
Former Lakeside High School graduate Reese Hoffa's Olympic dream came up short Wednesday morning when he failed to qualify for the shot put finals in Athens, Greece.
The Athens, Ga. resident, who is the first Olympian that Columbia County can claim, finished 22nd in the qualifying round with throws short of the automatic qualifying distance of 66 feet, 11 1/4 inches. The top 12 advanced to the medal round.
Hoffa easily surpassed the Olympic automatic qualifying distance on three separate throws at the U.S. Track and Field Trials in July, where he finished second.
His performance in the Olympics qualifying round came with some controversy involving practice throws. USA Track and Field filed a protest, saying one of Hoffa's practice throws was incorrectly counted as his first official throw.
The throw went 61 feet, 11 1/2 inches. The protest was denied.
On his second throw, Hoffa hit the automatic qualifying mark, but the throw was disqualified because of a foot foul, which involved stepping over a line.
Hoffa's final throw traveled 63 feet, 7 3/4 inches.
The 26-year-old declined comment to the media immediately after the event, in which both of his teammates, John Godina and Adam Nelson (also an Athens, Ga. resident), qualified for the finals. Nelson went on to win his second consecutive silver medal.
All three American shot putters were expected to contend for and possibly sweep the medals.
The shot put event, traditionally held during the Games' second week, received a large amount of notoriety because it was being held at Olympia, the site of the first Olympic Games 1,600 years ago.
"I'm extremely excited," Hoffa said before Wednesday's event. "It was kind of an awe thing, getting here and seeing the configuration and where they were going to actually hold the shot. It was amazing. I can't wait. The 18th can't get here fast enough. I'm ready to throw."
Hoffa, currently ranked sixth in the world in shot put by the International Association of Athletics Federations, continued on to an All-American career at the University of Georgia after graduating from Lakeside High.
He finished sixth at the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials, missing out on the Olympics in Sydney. In 2003, he cracked the top 10 in the world and won the gold medal at the Pan American Games. Earlier this year, he finished as a runner-up in the U.S. Indoor Championships and the World Indoor Championships.
Hoffa told The Columbia County News-Times in July he was happy but surprised by making the Olympic Team.
"We have so many great shot putters in America," he said. "I was expecting to make my big run in the 2008 Games in Beijing."
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