Randy Barnes

Charleston Daily Mail
July 31, 1996

The other big throw

Barnes nearly got hit in the head in practice by toss from chief rival

By Tom Aluise
Daily Mail Sportswriter

Randy Barnes' most memorable throw in the centennial Summer Olympics will always be his sixth attempt in the shot put finals. p> Barnes, of coarse, unleashed his best put of the night on his last throw, a 70-11 1/4 heave that gave the 1985 St. Albans High School graduate a long-awaited gold medal.

But it was a throw that no one in the crowd of 80,000 at Olympic Stadium, nor anyone watching on TV around the world, witnessed that was nearly as monumental as Barnes' winning put.

And it came from Barnes' chief rival, silver medalist John Godina.

Warming up at a practice facility outside the stadium before the shot put competition, Godina accidentally hit Barnes with a practice throw.

The two were sharing the same ring for the workout and had "a little psych thing going on," Barnes said, noting that he and Godina were trying to establish an edge for later.

"I went out to get my ball," Barnes said. "On the way out, he wasn't near the ring."

Barnes retrieved his shot and was dusting it off when the warning cries from bystanders, as well as Godina, alerted Barnes to what amounted to a 16-pound bowling ball flying dangerously toward his head.

"When I looked up," Barnes said, "the ball was right in front of my face."

The 6-foot-4, 310-pound Barnes avoided serious injury by ducking just in time. Godina's throw glanced off Barnes' back, right below his neck. It was painful but did no damage. "Man, I was lucky," Barnes said. "I was so lucky."

Barnes, who at times has had a strained relationship with Godina, was initially incensed at the Californian.

"He made some comment like, 'I didn't mean to take you out like that,'" Barnes said. "But it wasn't his fault. I'm sure he assumed I'd be looking."

Barnes, back from his triumphant trip to Atlanta, relayed the above story Tuesday following a press conference at the Charleston Marriott, which was attended by Gov. Gaston Caperton, Barnes' family, state and city officials, Barnes' coach Rusty Smith, and fans.

Caperton presented the 30-year-old Barnes with a state flag and an engraved glass bowl. St. Albans Mayor Eddie Bassitt handed his former student a gold key to the city.

During and after the conference, Barnes, who holds world records in both the indoor (74-4 1/4) and outdoor (75-10 1/4) shot put and who won a silver medal at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, addressed several topics.

Here's a sampling of what the Olympic champion had to say.

On his desire to return to Olympic competition; Barnes was suspended two years for testing positive for steroids in 1990 and missed the '92 Games in Barcelona:

"The last two or three years I had been floating along. I didn't feel like I had the desire I'd had in the past. When the buzz surrounding the Olympics started I felt like I couldn't let this get by. I started training like I did in college."

On his family's backing:

"I'd like to thank my family. I couldn't have done any of this without them. I sincerely appreciate all their help and support through the tough times."

On comparisons between finishing second in Seoul and first in Atlanta:

"In '88 I was only 22 and I couldn't have possibly appreciated what was going on. This was beyond my wildest imagination. I never dreamed it would be something like that. i'm just now starting to understand what happened."

On what his accomplishment means to West Virginia:

"I realize I have a tremendous influence on the young people of West Virginia. And I'm proud of that."

On his chances of throwing 75 feet again:

"I think it's possible. I'd like to get back close to that, if not break it."

On his future and a possible trip to the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia:

"I'll compete at least another year. At this point, I'll take it one year at a time. I don't want to beat myself to death. Perhaps I've had my peak. Maybe I'm on a downhill slide. I'm not sure my peak is in front of me."

On what Godina said following Barnes' triumph:

"He said, 'Great job, you deserved it. I think I'm going to throw up.' He and I had been snapping at each other the last few weeks."

On his animated reaction following his winning put and subsequent victory lap around Olympic Stadium:

"I thought about what I'd do if I won. Would I take a victory lap? Some of the reactions from some of the other athletes seemed canned. I didn't want to produce an Olympic moment."

On his career:

"I feel totally fulfilled at this point."