Chase Ealey kicked a lot of butt last year.
After blasting a 20.21m PB to take second at Indoor Worlds, she was literally unbeatable outside where she opened with 18.74m in Great Britain, 19.51m in Qatar, 19.76m in Germany, and 19.98m in the Netherlands–all wins. Those comps were just a prelude, though, to an historic summer during which she ripped off a run of seven consecutive 20-meter performances, including a 20.49m gold-medal-winning toss in Eugene to earn her first World title.
Her best mark from last summer, a PB of 20.51m at the 2022 USATF Championships, stands as the farthest throw ever by a female shot putter using the rotational technique.
It was a stunning turnaround after a long bout with long Covid wrecked Chase’s 2021 season and had people doubting if she’d ever reach the potential she’d flashed while winning her first USATF title in 2019. The story of her climb back to the top of the sport is a good one (you can read about it here), and her success in 2022 got Chase and her coach Paul Wilson looking for larger hills to summit.
Defending her title at the 2023 Worlds and fighting for an Olympic gold medal in 2024 loomed as the next challenges on the horizon, but Chase and Coach Wilson also began speaking openly of conquering the Everest of women’s shot putting–Natalya Lisovskaya’s 22.63m World Record.
That mark has stood since 1987, and modern anti-doping protocols seemed to have rendered it untouchable, but speaking last fall, Wilson said that advances in the rotational technique have put the record in play for athletes like Chase. “The rotational technique will finally give a clean athlete the chance to break the record” he opined. “It has already made twenty meters like nineteen meters used to be for the women. With an athlete as talented as Chase who has only been rotating for a few years, we don’t know what her boundaries will be, but I’d say the sky’s the limit.”
So far in 2023, though, Chase’s path up the mountain has been neither straight nor easy.
Just before the start of the indoor season, she pinched some rib cartilage on the left side of her torso, which made throwing painful. That led to results of 18.61m and 17.90m in her first two meets, though she then popped off a 20.03m toss at the Millrose Games, a testament to her toughness and formidable physical gifts.
Paul says he wanted to pull Chase from those early indoor meets but she insisted on honoring her obligations. “She feels like she will be letting people down if she drops out of a comp,” he explained. “And she does not like letting people down.”
Over time, the injury healed, and Chase was throwing pain free by April.
She has yet to find her groove outdoors, though, at least in part because of technical adjustments she and Paul have made with an eye on Budapest, Paris, and Lisovskaya.
Paul says that after watching Ryan Crouser throw at the Millrose Games, Chase wanted to experiment with using her left arm the way Crouser does in order to create a more “wrapped” or coiled position at the front of the ring. This could potentially add power and distance to her throws, but technical changes require patience–it can take time before they translate to farther distances.
“A lot of it,” says Wilson, “is that she has to be confident with her technique during competitions. She has to commit to it. It’s still not second nature to her, so her timing is off and she’s been skying throws near twenty meters. But once she gets everything connected and gets the delivery going forwards, she’ll be untouchable again.”
(Note: Paul was not kidding about Chase “skying” throws near 20 meters. I was at the LA Grand Prix, and her 19.98m there was a moonshot.)
Because of Chase’s hectic travel schedule, Wilson estimates they’ve only had half a dozen “proper technical sessions” together the entire summer. But after USAs, she’ll head back to their home base in Great Britain for five solid weeks of preparation in advance of Worlds.
“The way her season has gone so far with only one throw over twenty meters outdoors,” he says, “has probably given her competitors a false sense of security. But once she starts reaping the rewards of the things we’re working on now, she’ll be tough to beat.”
As defending champion, Chase has a bye into the 2023 Worlds, but you can bet she’ll be fired up to defend her US title this Saturday in Eugene.
Will that be the day when her technical adjustments click and she moves a little higher up the side of Mt. Lisovskaya?
Tune in at 6:15 pm Pacific and find out!