In July, O’Dayne 'Fred' Richards became the first Jamaican ever to win gold in any Commonwealth throwing event. That shot put lifetime best of 21.61m also ranks him fifth in the world this year. SPIKES profiles the man from track paradise who is strong in the field.

One love

Richards has always liked to throw things. In fact, his nickname ‘Fred’ comes from his high school fondness for flinging stones, and the subsequent comparisons to Fred Flintstone.“I loved the feeling of throwing far and seeing that implement get smaller and smaller,” he says.

However, he did not start formally throwing shot and discus until he was aged 17, after his high school coach saw the potential in him and asked him to give it a crack. 

Jamaican shot putter O'Dayne Richards (Getty Images)

He used to throw footballs, now he chucks shots

Shot stopper

Like so many Jamaican athletes, Richards comes from good sporting stock. Both parents played sport, with his father, Neville, excelling at football. 

'Fred' played football and rugby at St. George’s College in Kingston, which formed the grounding for his athletics career. Richards was a lithe and agile goalkeeper for his school team and local club, and he also played as a stand-off (No.10 / fly-half) in rugby. During his youth he wanted to be a professional footballer, and idolised German custodian Oliver Kahn.

“Playing in goal and also as a rugby player helped my general fitness,” he says. “I did a lot of running and in rugby there was a lot of body contact. As a goalkeeper I obviously got to throw the ball [just like the shot]. I could throw the ball from the top of the 18-yard box to the halfway line.”

Good coaching

No athlete can excel without the input of a good coach and since 2007 – after Richards started studying a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology at the University of Technology in Kingston – he has been guided by Linval Swaby, a throws specialist.

Swaby himself was mentored by the Jamaican coaching guru Stephen Francis: leader of the MVP group which includes world and Olympic 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

O'Dayne Richards SPIKES ()

Richards on the Glasgow podium, flanked by Tom Walsh and Tim Nedow

Speed 'n' tekkers

He's 5ft 10ins, which is short for a world-class shot putter, and Richards believes he has to compensate by utilising the natural gifts seemingly presented to most Jamaicans. 

“My speed and overall athleticism is good and along with that I’ve worked hard on my technique – getting it to a point where it is as perfect as possible – has helped me get as far as I have.” 

You won't like him when he's angry

It is rare to see theaffable Richards show a flash of anger, but at the 2013 Central American and Caribbean Championships in Morelia, Mexico, the big Jamaican was like The Incredible Hulk.

“Lots of things were going badly,” he explains. “The warm up area wasn’t good. Rain had fallen the night before and it was muddy. Everything was stacked against me. I was annoyed. I went for an aggressive approach.”

It worked. He hurled the metal ball more than half a metre beyond his previous PB, with a monster 20.97m.  

O'Dayne Richards SPIKES ()

"I was annoyed, I went for an aggressive approach"

Learning from Moscow

Qualifying for his maiden first senior global championships – the 2013 Moscow World Championships – proved a chastening experience for the Jamaican. He wound up a distant 20th in qualification with a modest best of 19.08m.  

“I realised that the World Championships were not like a regular track meet,” he says. “I couldn’t go to the stadium and take as many throws as I would like. There are procedures that you have to follow. I was shocked to learn that the referee [at a major championships] talk about we were only allowed two [warm-up] throws.”

Most importantly, he learnt from the experience and was not so shocked by protocol in Glasgow.

R and R

Regularly throwing over 21 metres in training, he finally executed in competition with a stunning throw of 21.11m in his home city of Kingston, Jamaica in May. Yet in the period leading up to the Commonwealth Games he started to feel tired and listless. 

His coach listened to Richards’ concerns and that final week before he stepped in the circle at Hampden Park he eased right back off training to fully rest and recuperate.

“This time allowed me to get into my groove,” he says. 

No fear

Feeling fresh and primed for action in Glasgow, Richards added one final ingredient to his recipe.

“I decided before the competition that if I’m going to fall, I’m going to fall. I just unleashed the shot and went for it. When I saw it land over 21m, it felt like a massive throw. The shot stuck in the turf and I could see the mound it created. I felt faster on the runway, I really shook it.”