Mizzou's Greatest, #16: Christian Cantwell

Ian Walton

Christian Cantwell is the greatest Missouri football player to never play football. His size, strength and athletic prowess were so stark, and the pull of football (from the fan's point of view, anyway) is so strong -- hey, Russ Bell went from discus All-American to second-string defensive tackle, after all -- that we all just considered it a matter of time before Cantwell showed up on Gary Pinkel's doorstep in pads.

It never happened, so Cantwell instead had to settle for only being just about the most accomplished former Mizzou athlete of all-time. MUtigers.com kept tracking his accomplishments on his bio page well beyond his graduation year. We'll go from latest to earliest (in abridged fashion).

2000:
Outdoor: Big 12 Champion in the shot put ... threw at least one qualifying mark at every meet. Indoor: Picked up All-American honors as well as being named the Big 12 indoor and outdoor Freshman of the Year ... placed seventh at the NCAA's with a toss of 61-5, his best of the season.

2001:
Outdoor: An All-American and Big 12 Champion in the shot put ... he finished fifth in the shot at the NCAA meet in Oregon ... best throw in the shot was a 64-8 mark to set the school standard ... also qualified for NCAA's in discus. Indoor: Earned All-America status in the 35-pound weight throw with a ninth place finish at NCAA's ... the Big 12 Champion in the shot put ... his throw of 63- 6.75 set the school record and erased the oldest record in Missouri's books (1966).

2002:
Outdoor: All-American in the shot put, finishing fifth ... personal-best toss of 70-4.5 was in the top-five throws in the world during the 2002 outdoor season ... led the collegiate performance list in the shot put for a majority of the season. Indoor: An All-American in the shot put with a third place finish (67-0.5) at the NCAA Indoor Championships ... placed second at the Indoor USA Track & Field meet with his personal best throw of 68-5.25 in the shot.

2003:
Outdoor: (MU) As a collegian, earned his seventh all-American honor, tying an individual record at Mizzou ... at the NCAA Championships, broke his own school record and finished second in the shot put event with a toss of 70 feet, 9 inches (21.56m) ... took fifth place at the USATF Championships in the shot put. (PRO) Started professional career for Nike in summer competing in IAAF Grand Prix events around Europe ... in mid-July threw for a personal-best of 70 feet, 11¼ inches, fourth longest in the world in 2003, en route to a championship at the "Diputacion de Salamanca" in Spain, jumping his world ranking into the top eight by August. Indoor: Earned sixth all-American honor in the shot put with a third place finish with a toss of 67 feet, 8½ inches (20.64m).

2004:
Outdoor: Ranked No. 1 in the World by Track & Field News ... won 14 straight shot put finals after finishing first at the Oregon Classic with a new personal-best toss of 73-11¼ (22.54m), named USATF Athlete of the Week for first time in career soon after. Indoor: (PRO) Jumped to No. 1 in the world after winning the IAAF World Indoor Title in early March ... won his first national title at the USATF Indoor Championships ... had longest indoor throw in the world at MU All-Comers (21.95m, 72-¼), throw also longest in the world indoors since 2000, the longest by an American indoors since 1989 ... recorded five of the world's ten longest throws for season.

2005:
Outdoor: USATF Champion, throwing 71-0 (21.64m), qualifying for first IAAF World Outdoor Championship ... placed fifth at World Championships, had 69-3¼ (21.11m) mark in the qualifying round ... winner of seven meets during season. Indoor: Placed fourth at the USATF Indoor, 67-6 (20.57m) ... won the 2005 Athens meeting and at the Missouri Invitational.

2006:
Outdoor: 3rd at USA Outdoor (21.89m/ 71-10)...1st at Gateshead (22.45m/73-8WL)...USA Indoor runner-up (21.10m/69-2.75)...ranked #2 in world & U.S. by T&FN...best of 22.45m/73-8WL. Indoor: 2nd at USATF Indoor, 10th at IAAF World Indoor.

2007:
Outdoor: ranked #3 in world & U.S. by T&FN...best of 21.96m/72-0.75 ... fourth at USATF Championships. Indoor: USA Indoor champion (21.72m/71-3.5).

2008:
Outdoor: Olympic Silver medalist in 2008, needing a final-round best of 69-2½ (21.09m) to go from fifth to the medal platform ... became Mizzou's first Olympic medalist since 1992 and the first as individual since 1960 ... earned a bid to the Olympic Games via second-place (71-2¾, 21.71m) showing at the USATF Olympic Team Trials in Eugene, Ore. Indoor: Became only the second person to win two IAAF World Indoor shot-put titles with a Gold medal performance in Valencia, Spain, throwing nearly two-feet ahead of Silver with a best toss of 71-5¼ (21.77m), five of six throws traveled over 69-4 ... most likely became the first person ever to record all six throws over 70 feet in marking an indoor personal-best of 72-9 (22.18m) at the UCM Classic in Warrensburg, Mo. ... recorded four meets in throwing over 70 feet, five comps over 21 meters.

The page stops there, but Cantwell did not. He became the IAAF Diamond League champion in 2010 and finished third at the 2012 Olympic Trials as well. From his USATF bio:

You need to go all the way back to 2003, when Christian Cantwell was a senior at Missouri, to find a time when he wasn't ranked in the top five in the world in the shot put for either indoor or outdoor competition. In that span he recorded the farthest throw in the world five different seasons both indoors and outdoors. In 2010 alone Cantwell competed in 20 meets where he threw the shot more than 70 feet and won the inaugural IAAF Diamond League Championship in his event. In 2009 he ended the outdoor season with the three best throws in the world. In 2006, Cantwell posted the top-three outdoor throws in the world, and six of the top eight throws. In 2004 he posted the top four throws in the world that outdoor season. He held a 14-meet winning streak heading into the 2004 Olympic Trials.

And he still might not be done. He has been rehabbing from elbow surgery in previous months, but it doesn't appear that his career is over just yet.

Cantwell is 6'5, 300 pounds. He stands out no matter where he stands, and he was an Olympic-caliber athlete, but his Eldon roots stand out in every interview. He is Missouri through and through, and he is one of Mizzou's greatest ... even if we never got to watch him cave in the middle of an offensive line.

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