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Godina Missed in Specialty, Qualified for Olympics in Discus


NORTHRIDGE — John Godina is known more for his accomplishments in the shotput than the discus throw.

He is a two-time world shotput champion who won the World Cup in 1998 and a silver medal in the 1996 Olympic Games at Atlanta with a career best of 72 feet, three inches.

The discus throw is not just a sidelight for Godina. It actually was his first event, and it will be his only event in the upcoming Olympic Games at Sydney.

Godina finished fourth in the shotput at the U.S. Olympic trials in Sacramento with a mark of 69-2 1/2 while nursing a pulled hamstring muscle, and finished second in the discus at 208-8.

Godina's coach, UCLA coach and former Cal State Northridge assistant Art Venegas, explained the injury only affected Godina in the shotput.

"The first thing I did after the trials was to give him some time like you do an accident victim, to get over the shock," said Venegas, a graduate of St. Genevieve High. "I gave him a week off then completely rebuilt him for the discus."

Godina, who was 5-9 and over 200 pounds in sixth grade, began throwing discus as a fifth-grader when his father, Bill--who threw discus at Montana State with a best of 155 feet--purchased one at a local sporting goods store. He became serious about the event as a seventh-grader at Eisenhower Junior High in Lawton, Okla., and took up the shotput at Central High in Cheyenne, Wyo., to help the track team score points in dual meets.

Godina won three consecutive state championships in the discus, posting a best throw of 210-4 with the high school implement and 175-9 with the international implement. He won two consecutive state championships in the shotput.

Track wasn't Godina's only sport in high school. He played offensive guard and defensive tackle for three years on the varsity football team, which compiled a 27-game winning streak and won two state championships.

"At the time, I sat down and thought about if I wanted to play football, and I was tired of that," Godina said. "I had been playing since fourth grade."

Venegas recruited Godina after receiving a letter from Godina's father.

"I felt this guy, if he didn't change with the attitude he had, I knew he [could] be this good," Venegas said.

Godina threw the discus 192-3 during his redshirt year, but gave no inkling of things to come in the shot. His best was 58-3, although he won both events at the U.S. Junior Games and the Pan Am Junior Games.

He broke 200 feet in the discus as a freshman, finishing ninth in the Olympic trials and 17th in the shot.

As a junior, Godina continued to shine in the discus, winning his first NCAA outdoor title with a toss of 198-5 and posting a best of 204-2.

His best in the shotput was 65-7 3/4 outdoors and 65-8 3/4 to win the NCAA indoor championship, but greatness in the event was just around the corner.

Godina cracked the 70-foot barrier in 1995, winning the NCAA championships with a college record of 72-2 1/4. He won his first world championship with a 70-5 1/4 effort and was ranked No. 1 in the world by Track & Field News.

"When I realized I could do it for real was in 1995, when everything came together," Godina said.

In 1996, Godina became the first American to make the Olympic team in both events since Oxnard High graduate Bud Hauser in 1924.

"At the time, it wasn't a big deal to us," Godina said. "Looking back now since I didn't make it, I realized just what a big deal it is."

Godina had another stellar season in 1997, taking gold in the world championships in the shotput at 70-4 1/4 and finishing fifth in the discus at 214-7. He won the USA outdoor championship in the discus with a career best of 221-1, and was ranked first in the world in the shotput and fourth in the world in the discus.

He started the 1998 season with a bang, posting the greatest one-day shotput-discus double in history at the Mt. San Antonio College Relays, 71-5 1/2 and 218-0. Godina showed tremendous consistency, going undefeated in the shotput.

Godina became the first to win the shot and discus in the USA championships since Parry O'Brien in 1955. His shot put titles also included the Grand Prix Final, the World Cup--where he was fourth in the discus--and the Goodwill Games, where he was third in the discus.

His ranking of first in the shot and third in the discus was the second best in history. O'Brien was ranked second in the shot and first in the discus in 1957.

The success continued in 1999, until the world championships at Seville, Spain. Godina, who won the shot at 72-3 and finished second in the discus at 217-3 in the USA outdoor championships, finished seventh in the shotput at 66-9 1/4 and 16th in the discus at 204-3 at Seville.

The last 12 months have been frustrating for Godina, who says he is his toughest critic.

"There is plenty of pressure [to perform well]," Godina said. "To a degree, it's kind of put a brain lock on me over the last 12 months, after that debacle in Seville, knowing what I could do and not doing it."

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