'Everything else is background noise'; Otterdahl leaning on his winning ways heading into Olympics

The NDSU alum will throw in his first Olympics Games on August 3rd in Tokyo.

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Shot put winner Ryan Crouser (center) poses with runner-up Joe Kovacs (left) and third-place finisher Payton Otterdahl during the US Olympic Team Trials at Hayward Field. Kirby Lee / USA TODAY Sports

FARGO -- Before leaving for Tokyo on Saturday, former North Dakota State shot put thrower Payton Otterdahl came back to the place he's spent so much time over the last six years.

The throwing cage on the corner of 18th Street North and 17th Avenue North.

It's where he began his throwing career that's turned into two indoor national championships and four first team All-American spots.


That's a fitting place for him to end his Olympic training. After the Tokyo games, Otterdahl plans to move to Lincoln, Nebraska. Justin St. Clair, his throwing coach at NDSU, took a job with the Cornhuskers and he's set to help St. Clair as a volunteer assistant.

"It's the end of one chapter and start of another," Otterdahl said before leaving for Japan on Saturday.

Life is much different for Otterdahl since qualifying for the Olympics in the shot put in June.

"I'm much more on my phone now," he said. "People constantly calling, some that I haven't heard from in a while."

He's even seen his face on Cass Clay milk jugs around the area.

"A couple friends that are lactose intolerant or don't drink milk bought it because I was on it," Otterdahl said. "It's definitely a bit of a celebrity feeling."

As much as things have changed, the more they've stayed the same for the Rosemount, MN native.

"The hardest part was making the Olympic team. Now that I'm on it and competing in the Olympics, I can just go out there and have some fun," Otterdahl said. "I'm not feeling too much pressure or nervousness for it."


His training matches what he's done when aiming for national titles with the Bison.

"Training three days a week, Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Throwing comes first, lifting after," he said. "If it's not broke, don't try to fix it."

"The Olympics come first, everything else is background noise."

Preparing for the Olympics includes things most won't think of. Plenty of forms to fill out and phone calls to make, rehab and recovery, even COVID-19 tests Otterdahl had to take 96 and 72 hours before his flight to Tokyo.

"Knowing what's waiting when I get there, being an Olympian and getting to compete in front of the eyes of the whole world? That's alright. I'm alright with it," Otterdahl said.

Even though he's taking it business as usual, there are still moments Otterdahl feels a little awestruck

"Doing the dishes, making dinner, playing with my dog, I'll be like "Oh my gosh, I'm an Olympian,'" he said.

That will show itself in Japan. Otterdahl cannot bring any family with him as part of COVID restrictions.


"I'll be taking lots of pictures and sending them home to family and friends so they can see what the Olympic experience is about as well," he said.

A lot is changing from the track meets Otterdahl is used to. Heading into the biggest moment of his life, when he throws on August 3rd, Otterdahl is leaning on the habits he built in Fargo to repeat the result he got at NDSU.

"I just hope that when the competition's over I get to hold the flag above my head," Otterdahl said. "That's the end goal."

Otterdahl Throwing
Payton Otterdahl Throwing at Practice in Fargo

Zach Staton joined WDAY as a sports reporter in 2018. He grew up in Salem, Virginia loving any sport he could play or watch. Staton graduated from Bridgewater College with a degree in Communication Studies before getting his Master's in Broadcast and Digital Journalism with a Sports Communication Emphasis from Syracuse University.
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