Adam Nelson

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Adam Nelson
Adam Nelson Deagu 2011.jpg
Nelson at the 2011 World Championships.
Personal information
Born (1975-07-07) 7 July 1975 (age 43)
Atlanta, Georgia
Height6 ft 0 in (183 cm)
Weight255 lb (116 kg)
Country United States
SportTrack and field
Event(s)Shot put
Coached byCarrie Lane
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s)22.51 m (outdoor)
22.40 m (indoor)

Adam Nelson (born July 7, 1975) is an American shot putter and Olympic gold medalist. In 2013, almost a decade after the 2004 Summer Olympics concluded, Nelson was awarded the shot put gold medal after the original winner, Yuriy Bilonog, tested positive for doping after further testing.[1]

Nelson competed in three consecutive Olympic Games in 2000, 2004 and 2008. In addition to his gold medal at the 2004 Olympics, Nelson also won a silver medal at the 2000 Olympics.

Personal life[edit]

Nelson attended The Lovett School in Atlanta, Georgia, where he was born, and was a letterman and a standout in both football and track and field. He graduated from Lovett in 1993. Nelson attended Dartmouth College and graduated in 1997. As an undergraduate at Dartmouth, Nelson won various accolades as a member of the track and field team, including the shot put title at the 1997 NCAA championships, when he won with a throw of 19.62 m (64 ft. 4 ½ in.). He still holds the Dartmouth shot put record with a throw of 65 feet 3 inches (19.88 m). In addition, Nelson played on the football team, as a linebacker and later, as a defensive tackle, becoming the first freshman to play football at Dartmouth in 1993. Prior to 1993, the Ivy League prohibited first-year students from playing on the varsity football team. He was a member of Dartmouth's 1996 undefeated Ivy League champion team, and served as President of Chi Heorot fraternity in 1997.

In 1996, Nelson worked at a concession stand during the 1996 Summer Olympics in his hometown of Atlanta.

International career[edit]

In the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, Nelson earned a silver medal after coming in first place in the 2000 Olympic Trials. Going into the Games, Nelson was the favorite to win, having won every major shot put event in the summer of 2000. His throw of 21.21 m (69 ft 7 in) was just three inches (8 cm) short of the winning throw by gold medalist Arsi Harju.

Nelson's personal best is 22.51 m (73 ft 10 in), which he threw in 2002. At that time, this was the third-longest throw in U.S. history and the ninth-farthest ever in the world.

At the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, Nelson originally won a silver medal in the shot put was upgraded to gold nine years later after the original winner, Yuriy Bilonog, tested positive for doping.[2] The shot put was held in a spectacular setting at the original Stadium of Ancient Olympia, bringing Olympic competition back to the venue for the first time in over a millennium. Nelson jumped out in front of the field with his first throw of 21.16 m (69 feet, 5 inches), and held the lead going into the final round, despite fouling throws 2, 3, 4 and 5. As the event leader, Nelson was the last thrower in the sixth and final round. The holder of the second-place throw, Yuriy Bilonog of the Ukraine was scheduled to throw second-to-last. If Nelson remained in first place after Bilonog's final throw, he would know that he had won his first gold medal and his last throw would become moot. It was not to be; Yuriy Bilonog stepped up and improved with a throw of 21.16 m (69 feet, 5 inches) to tie Nelson for first place. Nelson entered the ring for his final throw with the knowledge that he would now need an exceptional throw to beat Bilonog- he unleashed what looked to be a gold medal-winning 70-foot throw, but he then fouled by stepping on the line to the left-front of the circle. With Nelson and Bilonog tied on distance, the tie-breaker rule came into effect, which utilizes the competitors' second-best throws. Because Nelson had fouled every single throw after the opening round, he had no second mark. Thus, by virtue of the tie-breaker and his superior second-best throw, Yuriy Bilonog was awarded the gold medal and Nelson had to settle for his second consecutive Olympic silver medal. Nelson initially protested vociferously to the officials, but later realized that he did in fact step on the ring line on his sixth throw and he apologized for his emotional reaction.

Nelson's gold medal was the first track and field medal for the United States in the 2004 Summer Olympics. At the 2005 World Athletics Championships, Nelson won his first major world title with a throw of 21.73 meters. Two years later, he won a silver medal at the 2007 World Athletics Championships with a throw of 21.61 meters. At the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Nelson failed to throw a valid mark in the final. In the qualifying round, Nelson had a throw of 20.56 meters. At the 2009 and 2011 World Athletics Championships, Nelson failed to medal in the finals, finishing 5th and 8th, respectively.

He tried for an Olympic place for a fourth time at the 2012 United States Olympic Trials, but did not make the final round in wet conditions.[3]

2013 elevation to gold[edit]

In 2012, retroactive testing on competitors' urine samples retained from the 2004 Olympic Games by the International Olympic Committee revealed that 2004 Olympic gold medalist Yuriy Bilonog of Ukraine was guilty of performance-enhancing drug use. In 2012, the IOC re-tested approximately 100 urine samples from specific events in the 2004 Games and found that four medal winners in track & field (both men and women, all in the throwing events) tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. On 5 December 2012 the IOC announced that men's shot put winner Bilonog, and women's shot put third-place finisher Svetlana Krivelyova of Russia, re-tests showed positive for the steroid agent Oxandrolone. The positive tests resulted in Bilonog being stripped of his gold medal.[4] The IOC, following its established rules, gave Bilonog (and the others) 21 days to appeal its ruling. Although no appeal was filed, the IOC waited another 5 months, before announcing on 30 May 2013 that it declared Nelson the 2004 Olympic champion and awarding him the Gold medal. He received the goal medal from a United States Olympic Committee official at an airport food court in Atlanta.[5]

Spin technique[edit]

Nelson throws with his right arm and he utilizes the "spin" technique to generate speed and power within the 7-foot-diameter (2.135-meter) throwing ring. While the "spin" is considered a more powerful style (because of its speed), competitors have a greater tendency to foul compared to those who use the more traditional "glide" technique. Although their throws usually remain within the legal sector, spinners are more prone to lose their balance control and to step on the front toe board (or, to have a foot come down to the side, on/over the ring's 7-foot circle line.)


During the early 2005 season, Nelson solicited sponsors by wearing T-shirts reading "Space for Rent." This culminated in May when he found a sponsor who paid him $12,000, just slightly more than the donation Nelson had made the World Anti-Doping Agency following his second Olympic silver medal.[6] Nelson went on to win the IAAF World Championships later that season (though he wore the USA uniform in that competition.

Major competition record[edit]

Nelson following his second-place finish at the 2007 World Championships.
Year Competition Venue Position Notes
Representing the  United States
1994 World Junior Championships Lisbon, Portugal 1st 18.34 m
1999 Universiade Palma de Mallorca, Spain 2nd 20.64 m
2000 Olympic Games Sydney, Australia 2nd 21.21 m
2001 World Indoor Championships Lisbon, Portugal 2nd 20.72 m
World Championships Edmonton, Canada 2nd 21.24 m
Goodwill Games Brisbane, Australia 1st 20.91 m
2003 World Championships Paris, France 2nd 21.26 m
2004 Olympic Games Athens, Greece 1st 21.16 m
2005 World Championships Helsinki, Finland 1st 21.73 m
2007 World Championships Osaka, Japan 2nd 21.61 m
2008 Olympic Games Beijing, China N/A NM
2009 World Championships Berlin, Germany 5th 21.11 m
2011 World Championships Daegu, South Korea 7th 20.29 m


  1. ^ "Day 2 of IOC Executive Board meeting in St. Petersburg". International Olympic Committee. 2013-05-30. Retrieved 2013-05-30.
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ Gordon, Ed (2012-06-24). World record for Eaton, dramatic wins for Jeter and Harper in Eugene – US Olympic Trials, Day 2. IAAF. Retrieved on 2012-06-24.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-11-30. Retrieved 2012-11-28.
  5. ^ Drennan, Jonathan (2016-09-01). "How it feels to be given an Olympic gold medal ... nine years later at a Burger King". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-09-01.
  6. ^

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