Almanac

Discus thrower from UW-Madison wins gold at Olympic qualifying event, credits holding doors, breaking falls for success

O'Johnson, standing in front of his webcam for an uncomfortable amount of time, made sure we captured the perfect shot of his chiseled arms.

O'Johnson, standing in front of his webcam for an uncomfortable amount of time, made sure we captured the perfect shot of his chiseled arms.

Image By: Photo courtesy of Mark Mitchell / Flickr

UW-Madison freshman Alex O’Johnson has made waves in recent days for his heroic display at a qualifying event for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, to be held in 2021. In front of a grand audience of two cameras and a cat, he smashed the Olympic record for discus throwing, reaching 88 meters — or as normal people would say, 288.714 feet — in his very first attempt. Seeing such a stellar first throw, the remaining participant decided to walk away, handing O’Johnson an easy peasy lemon squeezy victory. 

“HE’S CHEATING!!” said the only other contestant who did not want to be named for reasons unknown to us. “THERE IS NO WAY ANYONE’S ARMS COULD FIND THAT MUCH STRENGTH NATURALLY!” he continued. However, having seen him dry heaving after practice before the start of the qualifying event, we decided to take his words with a pinch of salt and move to the star of the show — O’Johnson.

Upon asking O’Johnson how he had managed such a feat at such a young age, he seemed bemused and replied “It was easy."

“I only needed the fall semester at UW to realize that I was destined for the Olympics. You see, spending time on campus really strengthened my arms to such a degree that I knew for sure what I wanted to do next.”

“I CANNOT tell you the number of times I slipped on the sidewalk during the winter months at the end of the semester. Each time I slipped, I found myself flailing like a gazelle shot in the backside but always broke my fall with my arms. After the first ten times on one single day, I knew my wrists could handle anything and flinging a 4.4-pound disc felt like child’s play," he explained.

“Now when it comes to my arms, I had a very different workout imposed on me. Indeed, I remember my first experience on student orientation day. I wanted to grab some grub from Gordon’s and this gal was walking behind me. I decided to hold the door for her, out of courtesy and for no other reason whatsoever. I thought it would be quick and painless. I was wrong.”

“I couldn't have held the door for long but I started sweating and was hanging onto the door for dear life, arms stretched as she continued walking too slowly for me. She may have smiled and said thanks, but I had nearly blacked out. I couldn’t let that happen to me again," he recalled.

“In the coming months, I really got into it. I held doors as part of a chain, where someone held the door for someone who held it for me and I held it for someone else,” he said without pausing. 

“I held doors at the apex of awkwardness. I held doors for grouches who wouldn’t even look me in the eye. I held doors for people who decided to use another door instead. This was all I needed to strengthen my biceps and triceps. Didn’t need snaps from the gym or weights for the ‘gram. Just pure, hard work,” he said, flinging his arms in the air.

Hearing O’Johnson’s story from six feet apart, we were awe-inspired (although our sound guy had trouble hearing him). We would wish him the best but hearing about his road to the Olympics, we are sure no one can beat him. His training just puts him levels above the rest of the playing field.

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