There’s no way to know for sure, but Joe Kovacs could be the world’s most explosive athlete. It’s a vague title with subjective criteria, and certainly not one he’d ever give himself, but all things considered, the Chula Vista shot putter has my vote.
Kovacs stands 6 feet tall, far from short by the world’s standards. But in a field dominated by large competitors, he often finds himself looking up at the competition.
This almost always changes, however, when the scores, standings and rankings come out.
Kovacs, the reigning world champion in shot put, can consistantly throw the 16-pound metal ball farther than anyone on the planet right now. His personal best of 74.25 feet is the 8th best throw of all time.
Ask anyone who watches him train and they will tell you he still has not reached his full potential.
Kovacs admits winning a gold medal in Rio De Janeiro this August remains the ultimate goal, but you won’t catch him snoozing on the daily steps to get there. He knows all too well what it feels like to make it to the doorstep of the Summer Games, only to watch the doors close in his face.
Kovacs finished in 4th place at the USA Track and Field Olympic Trials in 2012, just behind the three throwers who went on to represent their country in London. He stayed home.
“At the time, I thought I was going to be done with Track and Field and I was just one spot off of making the team and it kind of gave me the realization that I can take this a step further. I should be on this team,” said Kovacs.
Shortly after missing the 2012 Olympic cut, the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania native packed his bags and headed west for the Southern California sunshine and a new home at Chula Vista’s Olympic Training Center.
Kovacs credits much of his success to legendary University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) throwing coach Art Venegas, who drives to Chula Vista every other week to meet with many of the resident throwers.
“It has been a game changer for me. Since working with him, everything has been completely broken down and its completely changed the way I thought about throwing,” said Kovacs. “Everything we do is so detail-oriented and our biggest joke between each other is just being boring, breaking down the little details, being on balance, being explosive, and having fun with what we do."
While most people expect throwers to be powerful and explosive, rarely do fans describe them as graceful or coordinated. Kovacs is all of the above. He would jump of the charts at an NFL combine.
“That’s what we're meant for. We're meant for lifting weights, being explosive in the 40, and just showing how far we can jump." said Kovacs.
But he would also surprise people with his ability to do giants over the high bar in off-season gymnastics training.
“It’s really fun, but the bar bends a lot,” joked the 275-pound Kovacs.
He is a race car trapped inside a bulldozer, and if all goes as planned, the gas pedal will hit the floor this August in Rio De Janeiro.