Eric Favors: Ireland's First Shot Put Olympian in a Generation

July 10, 2024

Eric Favors has firmly established himself as the dominant force in the shot put discipline in Irish athletics in recent years, winning three senior national titles since 2019 and breaking the Irish national record. Since declaring for Ireland through his Irish American lineage, he has gone on to compete in both European and World Athletics Championships.

He heads to Paris this summer as Ireland’s first shot put athlete to compete in the Olympic Games in over thirty years, following Paul Quirke and Victor Costello's appearance in 1992 in Barcelona.

Early Life and Emergence as a Shot Put Athlete

Growing up in the Irish-American neighbourhood of Rockland just outside New York, Eric had an undeniable link to the emerald isle through his grandmother, Margaret Kerr, a native of Ballina in Mayo. He followed his older sibling into taking up shot put as a method of building strength for high school football. However, it was not long before his talent for the sport became apparent, winning the state championship in both the indoor and outdoor seasons in his senior year. He also excelled on the national stage, securing second place at the indoor and outdoor nationals, whilst still playing American football.

These promising performances secured Favors a scholarship to the University of Carolina, where he continued to progress, improving his personal best with each season.

Declaring for Ireland & Tokyo Aspirations

Given his heritage, he declared for Ireland in 2018. Favors chose to represent Ireland through the influence of coach Paddy McGrath, a former Olympian who represented Ireland at the hammer throw event in the 2000 Sydney Games. With consistent improvements in his shot put distances, competing at an Olympic Games became a possibility. Tokyo 2020 was not far away, and Favors decided to make it his target.

In 2019, Favors earned his first Irish vest when he competed at the World Student Games in Italy, where he finished 10th. Following this, he represented his club, Raheny Shamrocks, in both the National League and the Irish Nationals. However, it would be 2022 before he would wear the green singlet again, due to a combination of COVID-19 lockdowns and injuries. In his final year at college, Favors experienced significant weight gain, leading to a body transformation for shot put, which in turn resulted in injuries and caused him to miss the 2021 season. A change in coach and a move to Reading, Pennsylvania where other top throwers are based, led to a dramatic improvement in his performance. He then qualified for the 2022 World Championships in Oregon in July, marking his first major championship outside the college setup. While Oregon didn’t see best ever series of throws, Favors went on to break the Irish shot put record several times throughout the remainder of that summer. He engaged in a fierce battle with Donegal man John Kelly, ultimately ceding the National title to him. His season culminated with the 2022 European Championships in Munich, where he narrowly missed out on a place in the final round.

The Breakthrough Season & Paris Qualification

In 2023, Favors began with another Irish title and a new national record. At the European Throws Cup, he achieved the B standard for the World Championships twice, earning the right to compete at his second World Championships, this time in Budapest.

2024 saw Eric continue to progress and, in April, broke his own Irish national record at a meet in the United States with a throw of 20.93m. He represented Ireland at the European Championships in Rome last month, where he threw 19.30m to finish 14thth – just two places short of qualifying for the final round. His focus this year has shifted. “I want to change the focus from getting the distance to competing more”, he said in a recent interview in the US. This shift aimed to accumulate ranking points for the Olympic Games.This year alone, he competed in ten international shot put competitions, in addition to the recent Irish National Championships.. A few solid throws over twenty metres and several top-four finishes ensured his ranking points were heading in the right direction, keeping him within the quota. Last week, Athletics Ireland announced that Favors had been selected as part of the Irish team for the Olympic Games.. This achievement ended a gap of more than thirty years since there was an Irish competitor in the shot put event at the Olympics.

Conclusion

Eric Favors' two continent journey to the Olympics has been characterised by a constant will to improve and a steady progression both nationally and internationally. His record-breaking throws have set benchmark for future generations of Irish shot put athletes. As he prepares for the games in Paris we look forward to his performance on the world stage and celebrate his achievement in bridging a three-decade gap for Ireland in the shot put event at the Olympics.

We wish him every success.


Image: Perri Williams 

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