Former Cowboys represent countries at Olympics
By Thorn Compton
RAWLINS — This week marks the beginning of the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, and this year there will be two former Cowboys representing their countries in the summer games.
2016 University of Wyoming grad Mason Finley qualified as the number one discus thrower for the United States and 2015 Cowboy Hall of Fame inductee David Hearn is representing his home country of Canada in the golf competition.
Both men in a conference call with Wyoming media Monday said representing their respective countries in the Olympic games is a dream come true.
“I mean, it’s incredible, it’s always been my dream to compete there,” Finley said of his opportunity. “We’ve had some rough patches but things are finally on the right track.”
“I’m personally excited about representing Canada,” Hearn said. “There’s a lot of pride and honor in representing your country on a global stage.”
Finley has had an extremely uphill battle, considering an American hasn’t even made the finals of a discus competition in the Olympics since Casey Malone finished fifth in the 2004 games in Athens.
He said his technique and confidence have come a long way in the months leading up to the qualifier during the first week of July.
“Some of the stuff I’ve done, I’ve lost quite a bit of weight,” Finley said of his training. “I am down to around 350 now and I left UW at 415. I learned a lot, I went to the Olympic Training Center (in Colorado Springs) and I learned a lot from their medical staff. I learned about rehab, keeping my body healthy, making my core stronger. I’ve made a lot of technical adjustments that are a culmination of a different approach to throwing.”
Throughout his throwing career, Finley said he has focused on building power and mass and just “going out there and throwing as hard as I can.” Since getting with his new coach and learning at the Training Center, Finley said he is more focused on building flexibility and technique.
“I had times where I would see big throws in practice but was unsure what made that happen,” Finley said of his new technique. “It’s a different story now, I know exactly what I did wrong after every throw and can adapt and change with my next one.”
Since qualifying has ended, Finley said he hasn’t had time to stop and think about what representing America in the Olympics will be like. He said he has been continuing his training and “keeping my body in tone.”
“I am lucky to have my coach, he competed in the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta,” Finley said. “He knows what’s going to happen and how to get me ready.
“When we got back (from qualifying) I had five weeks total to get ready. For two weeks we worked in the weight room and lifted heavy, giving me a boost in strength for a bit. Recently we’ve been working more on quick, explosive stuff. A lot more jumps, more sprints, just explosive kind of workouts.”
Hearn has a different set of circumstances facing him over the course of his competition in the Olympics.
This is the first time golf has been part of the summer games since 1904, when George Lyon of Canada took home the individual gold medal.
Hearn said he is ready to help his country defend its 112 year-old golfing medal, even if many of the top players in the world aren’t participating.
“I think its unfortunate those top players didn’t want to play,” Hearn said. “They made their decisions on a personal criteria, and I personally want to represent Canada to the best of my ability.
“It’s tremendously exciting to have our game brought back to the Olympics. I think part of the reason people aren’t playing is because it’s an unknown. We need to create a new history, start off on the right foot. Canada won the last gold medal in golf and we want to defend it.”
While the unknown may be a factor in many of golf’s elite not participating, there are also concerns with viruses and general chaos in Brazil leading up to the games.
Finley said the concerns are warranted, which is why he plans to lay low until after his event is over.
“It’s definitely worrisome,” Finley said, “I heard about Zika but it didn’t phase me. I’m not going to let some bugs keep me from my dream.
“I’ve heard about the other problems, the biggest thing I am going to do is basically be a ghost. I’m going to go to my training and stay in my room. I don’t plan on experiencing the culture until at least after I throw. Just going to stay to the shadows, pretty much isolate myself until after I am done.”
Hearn said he is optimistic about how the games will go off, especially when it comes to the golf course preparation.
“I think it will be up to our standards,” Hearn said of the golf course for the competition. “The International Golf Federation has been really close to the process of the Olympics and golf coming back. The PGA is a big part of it as well. I talked to some friends who are already down there and they think its fine. The media is always really hard on the Olympics, I don’t see a reason it won’t go off well.”
One of the most important factors to success in golf is knowledge of the course you are playing on. That is going to be tough for this year’s golf competition, however, because Hearn said none of the participants have ever played competitively on the course.
“It’s a unique part of this competition, none of us have seen the course,” Hearn said. “We are all at a level playing field. Guys usually have experience with a course, but that’s not the case here. It’s a real, fair competition.”
For Finley, he said he knows what to do and how to accomplish his goals — it’s all about the execution now.
“My main goal is to get in there and make the finals,” Finley said. “I think it will take 66 meters to get on the podium and I am capable of that.”
The Opening Ceremonies for the 2016 Olympic games air Friday night on NBC at 5 p.m. Finley starts off his discus competition on Aug. 12 and Hearn tees off for the golf tournament on Aug. 11.