Seemingly at ease, Jon Kalnas sits, with his feet up in his recliner as he tunes into a primetime Olympic special. After 11 straight months of training, he finally enjoys a night at his parents’ house in his hometown.
But one could sense that he wished he would be in China, competing, rather than in New Jersey, watching..
“I don’t know, my personal best would have put me ninth in Beijing,” Kalnas said, with a half smile.
Kalnas, 28, is a shot-putter coming off of the most successful year of his life. But he now finds himself at quite a crossroad in his career.
On June 25, he had the chance to compete with America’s top throwers at the Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon. Despite a warm-up throw of 65 feet, he only hit the 62.11 foot mark when it counted, finishing 15th overall.
“65 feet would have put me through to the next day of qualifying,” Kalnas said. “I could have finished fifth.”
From the 12 athletes that make it to the second day, only three move on with the US team in Beijing.
“I can actually say that I choked,” Kalnas said. “That keeps it pretty simple.”
With Beijing behind him, and London four entire years away, Kalnas is unsure he will have the energy, or the financial backing, to give it another shot.
“Over the years I’ve put up with a lot of debt and stress, only to improve by a little bit,” Kalnas said. “I was watching a swimming event during Beijing and thought, ‘Do I really want to go through this again?'”
Kalnas followed a workout schedule that allowed him only to take off on Sundays.
“By the time Sunday came around, I was crushed,” Kalnas said.
Aside from the mental and physical anguish it takes to train, the thousands of calories Kalnas consumed during the day proved very costly.
“In order to keep my energy, I had to eat four to six meals a day and I had to keep a healthy diet too. That was the expensive part.” Kalnas said. “I know a lot of college kids complain about cafeteria food, but I saw it as thousands of free calories and I’d kill to be back there.”
Caitlin Barry, Kalnas’ girlfriend of two years, admits that sometimes things just get too rough.
“It was a positive year for him, but there has been so many up and down moments,” Barry said.
“He loves to look towards the future, but we have to look at what we have to do now.”
With his time off after the trials, he has begun to put together an internet book for student athletes, ranging from chapters on college coaches to relationships.
He and his family were also showcased in an internet documentary by Kleenex titled “Let it all out,” along with several famous Olympians and their families.
At the trials in Oregon, Kalnas was the only competitor to have a fulltime job.
He currently works as a personal trainer in Tinton Falls, N.J., where he has trained Robert Benedickson, a freshman lacrosse player, for two years.
“I was bummed out,” Benedickson said, after hearing of Kalnas’ unfavorable qualifying result. “I thought he could have done a lot better.”
Though Benedickson has never seen Kalnas throw, he looks forward to witnessing it someday, hopefully during training for London. But he has his doubts.
“It doesn’t seem like he wants to put all of that time and money into it again. But I could be wrong.”
Soon enough, training will begin once more, and Kalnas seems to be leaning toward giving the shot put life at least one more chance.
“I’m going to take it year by year now,” Kalnas said. “If I have a good year, than I’ll continue. I still have so much energy and it has to go somewhere.”
At the end of the day however, only Kalnas knows whether or not London is in the cards.
“If it leads up to that than I’ll do it. I don’t want to look back and be sick about what I didn’t do in life.”