Randy Barnes

Charleston Daily Mail
July 29, 1996

Barnes in daze after winning gold

By Jody Jividen
Daily Mail Sports Editor

ATLANTA - The evening ended in joy for Randy Barnes and his family and friends. But the happiness was preceded by despair and frustration.

Until his sixth and final throw in the shot-put finals here Friday night, Barnes struggled badly. His first five attempts all were disappointing before a crowd of more than 80,000 at Olympic Stadium during the centennial Summer Games.

In the stands, the hand-wringing Barnes clan died a thousand deaths each time his throws landed far shorter than expected.

"They told me they were just in fits up there," said Barnes, a 1985 graduate of St. Albans High School and the world record-holder in both the outdoor and indoor shot put. "I told them they weren't alone."

Finally, on his last put, Bames vaulted from sixth place to first with a throw of 70 feet, 11 1/4 inches, releasing himself and his supporters from anxiety.

The suspenseful shot-put competition left his family emotionally drained.

"My brother Lee told me he was retiring from being a shot-put fan," Barnes laughed Saturday.

Also in attendance at Olympic Stadium were Barnes' father Ralph, and his mother Mary Lou; his daughter Erica and her mother Cheryl; his sister Cindy, her husband Tom and their two children, Courtney and Beck; his sister Debbie; Lee's wife Annn; his cousin Jeff Barnes; and his friends Rusty Smith, Christian Erb, Chip Brown and Greg and Chianina Joelson.

Barnes' first five puts in the finals were 63-10 1/4, 67-0 3/4, a foul, 66-5 3/4 and 66-8.

Then, at last, Ralph and Mary Lou's baby boy unleashed the gold-medal throw.

On his final attempt, the 6-foot-4 1/2, 310-pound Barnes decided to throw with reckless abandon and not fret about fouling.

"I attacked it," Barnes said. "I just literally attacked it. I realized I just had to go for it. Fouling was the least of my worries at that point. I was in sixth place. So what if I fouled at that point?"

When did Barnes realize that the throw had made him an Olympic champion?

"Right after I let it go, I knew," he said. "I knew it was a good one. I knew it was enough to win."

The mechanics of his technique were vastly improved on his winning toss.

"I had a lot more drive through my hips," Barnes said. "My speed across the ring was infinitely better."

Barnes reacted to the triumphant put by leaping into the air and then running around the shot-put area pumping his fists upward.

The crowd's response was equally intense. The stunning conclusion of the competition prompted a huge roar from the fans.

And the crowd was still rollicking when Barnes took a euphoric victory lap.

"It was great," he said. "I couldn't believe the response. The fans were into it. It got a little bit dramatic. If I'd had a comfortable lead all the way through the competition, the reaction wouldn't have been like that."

Barnes was still in a daze when the "Star Spangled Banner" was played during the medal ceremony.

"The ceremony was quicker than I thought it would be," he said. "I was so numb at that point that I'll probably get a lot more out of the videotape than the real thing. The whole day was just a flash to me, and that point was just a flicker."

Barnes, 30, is now free to relax and enjoy the rest of the Games, or to go home.

"I'd really like to do the closing ceremonies," he said, "but at this point I'm not sure what I'll do."