By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
He’s 6 feet, 8 inches tall. He is 335 pounds. He was a theater major at the University of Wyoming.
And now Mason Finley is heading to Tokyo to represent the United States in the Summer Olympics.
The 2017 world championships bronze medalist won the Olympic Trials competition on June 25, throwing the 4.4 pound discus a distance of 63.07 meters — about 206.92 feet, which is longer than the height of Wyoming’s tallest building (the Wyoming Financial Center in Cheyenne is just 148 feet tall).
“I was able to settle in my technique and just get comfortable,” Finley told Cowboy State Daily, “and able to win my second Olympic trials title, which I guess only two other discus Americans have done. So that was really cool.”
Finley was born in Kansas City but moved with his family to Salida, Colorado, when he was a child. When he was in fifth grade, he found his dad’s discus in his closet, from when he was in college at the University of Wyoming.
“It was just something that he thought we both could do and enjoy,” Finley said. “And we did — we threw pretty much all year round. I did all the other high school sports, but we would just check in with it. It was just kind of like father-son fishing time — only throwing stuff.”
Finley said he attended UW because it was his dad’s alma mater, where he was a theater major from 2012-2014, but after working with coach Paul Barrett, he was able to compete in discus at a higher level.
A much higher level, as it turns out — Finley qualified for, and competed in, the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro.
“My first international meet was the Olympics,” Finley said, laughing. “So that was really wild, throwing against all my idols that I’ve been watching on YouTube, and so I was very starstruck. But I made it out of the qualification round, which was a big deal for me, I think I took 11th.”
Finley isn’t star-struck anymore.
“I’m definitely comfortable with it now,” he said. “I’ve competed against the top guys many times, I’ve gotten the bronze medal at the World Championships in 2017. So, I’ve been on the podium, and I’ve competed countless times against the top throwers in the world. So I feel very comfortable this round.”
Finley, now a Colorado resident, joins a very short list of Olympic athletes who have ties to Wyoming. Among them are shot putter John Godina, an alumnus of Cheyenne Central High School, whose record includes three World Championship wins and two Olympic medals; Jesseca Cross, who attended the University of Wyoming on a basketball scholarship and then competed for the United States in the hammer throw and shot put at the 2000 Summer Olympics, and David Taylor, who grew up in Evanston and who will compete as a wrestler in this year’s games.
And of course, there’s Rulon Gardner, the wrestler from Afton who competed at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics and won the gold medal in 2000, defeating Russia’s Aleksandr Karelin in the final. He won a bronze medal at the 2004 Games.
For Finley, this year’s games will be a different experience due to public health restrictions.
“There’s no foreign spectators allowed at all, nobody outside of Japanese population will be even able to attend,” Finley said. “But they’re planning a watch party down here in Kansas City, so that’s gonna be good, but I hope the time difference isn’t too severe.”
And Finley said he’s got his eye on the prize.
“My goal is to really overcome anything that’s thrown at me over there,” he notes (no pun intended). “And, yeah, get on that podium and try to get the shiniest medal possible.”