EUGENE, Ore. — Kent Whiting stood high in the stands at Hayward Field, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with his son’s name and trying to hold his emotions together. Ryan Whiting is an Olympian in the shot put, his young life’s work made good with one mammoth throw of that 16-pound orb. It flew 71 feet and three-quarters of an inch before landing in the dirt, and everyone watching Sunday at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials pretty much knew right then that Ryan would be heading to London. Before Kent could reflect on Ryan’s journey from his youth in Harrisburg, Pa., to this momentous occasion, he had to stop himself. He had to make sure a visitor knew about the boy’s mother.
“I wish she could be here,” Kent said. “She was his best fan ever, you know. I know she’s keeping track of him from somewhere.”
Of what would Jill Whiting have been most proud Sunday? That, for the rest of his life, her 25-year-old son will be called an Olympian? That he achieved his goal with such effortless grace? Or that, when their family was broken apart with an inexplicable tragedy, Ryan did exactly what she would have wanted him to do and helped his father and two brothers pick up the pieces and reconnect them? Three summers ago, Jill needed knee surgery. She had the operation, and it seemed routine. Until, within a few days, she went into cardiac arrest and found herself in a coma. Ryan was in school at Arizona State, but he immediately flew home to be by her side. He would never get to say goodbye. more