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May 4, 2004

World Leaders Leaders Collide . . . in Shot Put!

LOS ANGELES (May 4) - Twenty-three-year-old Christian Cantwell is a gentle giant.  Standing 6-feet-4 and weighing 320 pounds, the goateed-and-bearded Missouri grad is the world's best shot putter.

He won the World Indoor Championship (70-6¼) in March in Budapest, Hungary after putting a world-leading 72-0¼ at a small meet in Columbia, Missouri in February.  Only eight other Americans have ever thrown as far.

Cantwell will face his stiffest test yet at The Home Depot Track & Field Invitational on May 22.  All of his major rivals to make the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team will be there to test him, including two of the sport's wild men.

One is the defending Olympic silver medalist Adam Nelson, also the silver medalist in the 2001 and 2003 World Championships.  A fan favorite, Nelson is not only renowned as a clutch competitor, but also for his rant-and-rave routine before every throw.  He huffs, he puffs, he stomps around the ring, then spins around and releases a mighty throw.  All this from an Ivy Leaguer who was 1997 NCAA champion for Dartmouth!

Then there is the masked one.  Derided by some for wearing a two-tone wrestling mask to last year's Home Depot Invitational, \"The Unknown Shot Putter\" set a personal best of 68-7 in that meet and finished second, ahead of defending World Champion John Godina.  For 2004, this Olympic Team contender will return as \"The Still Unknown Shot Putter\" with a mask and more (a cape, perhaps?), looking to improve on his newest personal best of 69-1½, achieved indoors this season.  \"Still Unknown\" led Cantwell in the World Indoor Championships before Cantwell uncorked the winning throw.  \"The Still Unknown Shot Putter\" (whose name we shall not volunteer here) finished with the silver medal to give the U.S. a 1-2 sweep of the World Indoor event.

\"The crowd really loved 'Un' last year,\" noted meet director Rich Perelman.  \"This year he promises more fireworks, both in the ring and out.  But he can handle it as he showed last year, when he set a personal best . . . with the mask!\"

Quietly preparing for all of this action is 2000 Olympic bronze medalist John Godina.  After suffering through an inconsistent 2003 season when he was never quite healthy, he wants to improve on his lifetime best of 72-3, set back in 1999.  He's off to a good start, throwing 69-11½ at the Triton Invitational in La Jolla, California on April 24.  It's the best outdoor throw in the world this season.  Godina took a silver home from the Atlanta Games in 1996 and with his bronze in 2000 is now looking for gold to complete his full-color set of shot medals.

Four stars, but only three places on the U.S. Olympic squad for Athens.  Who will be left behind?

Somewhat overshadowed by these stalwarts are two other world-class putters who will be in action on May 22: Canadian national record-holder Brad Snyder will get a look at the U.S. putters he will undoubtedly face in Athens; and former Iowa State All-American Jamie Beyer of the U.S. who would be a lock to make the Olympic squad from most countries, but his best of 68-10¾ from 2002 is well back of the leaders.

Americans are favored to stand on the Olympic medals podium in Athens in the shot put this summer, and on May 22, The Home Depot Invitational will begin to tell us which ones might make the U.S. team and potentially stand on the Olympic podium.

It's all part of the meet's theme of \"See Athens Before It Happens\" with 21 events in all and $140,000 in prize money. More than 40 Olympians from a dozen nations are expected to compete on The Home Depot Center's lightning-fast Mondo Super-X track. Rich Perelman is the Meet Director with Bruce Tenen serving as Elite Athlete Coordinator.

Tickets for The Home Depot Track & Field Invitational are priced at $40.00 (VIP), $25.00 (home straight) and $17.00 (back straight) are available through Ticketmaster's Charge-By-Phone network at (213) 480-3232, at all Ticketmaster retail ticket center locations including Wherehouse Records, Robinson's-May, Tower Records and Ritmo Latino locations and online at www.ticketmaster.com. Tickets are also available at The Home Depot Center's box office and the box office at TEAM LA at Universal CityWalk. Group sales ticketing and discount ticket information is available at 1-866-LA-Group (1-866-524-7687) or on-line at www.homedepotinvitational.com. The Home Depot Invitational will be broadcast live on NBC television from 1-3 p.m. Pacific time.

The Home Depot Track & Field Invitational is presented and produced by AEG, one of the world's leading presenters of sports and entertainment programs. AEG owns or operates facilities such as STAPLES Center, The Home Depot Center, HealthSouth Training Center, Kodak Theatre and NOKIA Live at Grand Prairie. The organization owns the Los Angeles Kings (NHL), Redding Royals (ECHL) and Manchester Monarchs (AHL), the Los Angeles Galaxy and four other MLS franchises and four hockey franchises operated in Europe. AEG LIVE is the world's second largest concert promoter.

The Home Depot Center is Southern California's new home of world-class competition and training facilities for amateur, Olympic, collegiate and professional athletes. The $150 million, privately-financed facility was developed and is operated by AEG on a 125-acre site on the campus of California State University, Dominguez Hills in Carson, California. The Home Depot Center features a 13,000-seat stadium for tennis, a 27,000-seat stadium for soccer, athletic competitions and outdoor concerts, a 20,000-capacity facility for track & field, the ADT Event Center, a 3,500-seat indoor velodrome (opening summer 2004) and other facilities for softball, baseball, beach volleyball, basketball and other sports.

Named an Official U.S. Olympic Training Site, The Home Depot Center is also the national team training headquarters for the U.S. Soccer Federation. The \"complex,\" which is also the home of the nationally recognized Athletes Performance Training Center for elite and professional athletes has additionally be designated \"official\" training sites for USA Cycling, United States Track & Field, the U.S. Tennis Association and the Association of Volleyball Professionals.

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For additional information and media credentials, please contact
Jan Fambro at (310) 826-2962 or [email protected].