Randy Barnes

Charleston Gazette
July 31, 1996

Randy returns with gold

St. Albans native honored by governor in Charleston

By Phil Gray
For The Gazette

In the midst of its year-long Homecoming '96 celebration, West Virginia welcomed back Olympic shot-putter Randy Barnes after his gold-medal performance Friday at Atlanta.

To commemorate his contribution to his country and his arrival back in his native state, Gov. Gaston Caperton gave Barnes a state flag and an engraved glass bowl during a ceremony at the Charleston Marriott hotel.

"I speak for all West Virginians to tell you how proud we are that you have won a gold medal for yourself, your family, your state, and most of all, your country," said Caperton.

St. Albans Mayor A. Eddie Bassitt added to Barnes' collection of precious-metal memorabilia by presenting the 6-foot-3, 320-pound athlete with a gold key to the city.

Barnes appreciatively accepted the gifts as he stood next to his parents, Ralph and Mary Lou, who now live in South Charleston, and his coach, Rusty Smith.

Competing in his first Olympics since 1988, Barnes went into the final round of competition in sixth place, trailing, among others, leader and teammate John Godina, who had thrown 68 feet.

However, the tides soon changed.

As soon as Barnes let fly his final toss, he knew the gold was his.

It just felt right.

"I know what 68 feet feels like and I nailed this one," he said.

Indeed he had. Barnes' heave was measured at 70 feet, 11 inches.

"I went over to congratulate [John] and he said 'Great job. You deserved it. I think I'm going to throw up.'"

By comparison, Barnes' best throw in U.S. Olympic trials was 70 feet, 1 inch. He threw 73 feet, 5 inches at a meet in Switzerland earlier this month, the best in the world this year.

Eight years ago, Barnes nearly missed a gold medal in the 1988 games when he was beaten by East Germany's Ulf Timmermann in, ironically, the final round.

Four years later, he was forced to miss the '92 Summer Olympics because of a two-year suspension for testing positive for steroids, which Barnes denies doing.

For now, Barnes knows that even an Olympic gold medal can't buy time-off in the sports world.

"It's important not to sit back to much now," said Barnes. "I've got too much good momentum going right now."

The 30-year-old is planning to use that momentum in an international grand prix event in Milan, Italy, this September.

"I'm not going to beat myself up," said Barnes about his upcoming training regimen. "[For the Olympics] I trained like I did when I was in college, and I'm not in college anymore. Earlier this year I had lower-right back problems that impeded my style quite a bit.

"Training and competing is such a collective thing. You have to be careful. Rusty encourages me to try."

Barnes has an objective view about his future in competition.

"I think anywhere between 28 and 32 years old is the prime age for shot putters, so I should be right in there. But I'm not real sure my peak is in front of me."

Barnes' gold medal is West Virginia's first since 1992 when James Jett from Shenandoah Junction won a gold for his part in USA's winning 4X100-meter relay team.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.