NORMAN — Kevin Bookout could relax by hitting a 1.6-ounce ball. Instead, he throws a 16-pound one. Days as a two-sport standout at Oklahoma have given way to days as a medical supply salesman for DePuy Spine. Instead of shooting baskets and watching video, he peddles rods and screws used in spinal fusion surgeries. And yet, Bookout still runs and lifts and throws every day. The shot put and the discus are his release. "This is just like going out and playing golf to me,” he said. "This is what I love doing.” Not so long ago, Bookout was supposed to be doing it at the 2008 Olympics. The Stroud High phenom became an All-American at OU. Going for Olympic glory seemed like the next step. But over the weekend when the U.S. Olympic trials concluded, Bookout was absent not only from the team but also from the trials. He was working out in Norman instead, running laps and lifting weights and rebuilding his throwing technique. So, where do his Olympic dreams stand? They're on solid footing, albeit four years behind schedule. "It was always more realistic,” Bookout said of going to the 2012 Olympics. "Let's say I wouldn't have played basketball in college ... I would've had a legit shot this past week. Playing basketball really did set me back.” Not that Bookout regrets playing basketball. He loved it so much, in fact, that he returned to it last year. He finished his basketball eligibility in the spring of 2006, but because of shoulder surgery that forced him to redshirt a track season, he still had two years of track eligibility remaining. As he threw during that next year or so, he started to miss basketball. He started to wonder, too. "What if I play?” he thought. The professional opportunities in basketball are plentiful. Even though only a select few play in the NBA, so many other players cash checks from minor-league teams and international leagues. Basketball seemed bountiful. Track? Not so much. All of the nation's top throwers were in their 30s, the age when most hit their peak. Christian Cantwell, Reese Hoffa and Co. were sure to be stiff competition for the Olympic team, and with a limited number of spots — there are only three qualifiers in each event — Bookout had to look realistically at his odds. "Good chance, I'm not going to make the team,” he thought. "If you don't make the team, it's hard to make a living.” He decided to return to basketball and figured he could always go back to track. He almost didn't get that chance. After playing a few games in a Mexican league, Bookout landed a spot with the Rio Grande Vipers in the NBA Development League. He slimmed down, losing about 35 pounds and becoming more mobile. After a month, he ranked eighth in the league in field goal percentage. Then while playing a game in Austin, Bookout went up for a rebound and felt his right shoulder come out of the socket. Even though it popped right back into place, it was the same shoulder he'd hurt in college. "It scared me probably more than anything,” Bookout said. Thing is, his fear was justified. Mess up that shoulder again, mess it up the way it was in college, and he would never play competitive sports again. His parents warned him as much. So did Brock Schnebel, the Sooner surgeon who repaired the shoulder the first time. "If I really hurt it, I'm done,” Bookout realized. "I'm going to be done with all sports the rest of my life.” Bookout walked away from basketball, but even as he spent the first three months of this year looking for a job and transitioning to the next chapter of his life, he started throwing again. He also began working with OU throws coach Brian Blutreich. The former Olympic discus thrower has coached three other Olympians, and he decided to rebuild his latest hopeful's form. Bookout has always spun with the discus but has never done so with the shot. Blutreich wanted him to spin in both events. That means Bookout and Blutreich have broken down every aspect of his technique. The growing pains have been agonizing, and yet, Bookout knows he has time to experiment, to fail and to flounder and hopefully to flourish. He can refine his form and sculpt his physique. Should the current crop of elite throwers retire, as many do in their 30s, the Olympic opportunities will be there for Bookout in four years. He will be 29 years old then, the prime age for a world-class thrower. "Making the Olympics, it would be something that would be just amazing,” Bookout said. "It's just a dream.” Of course, he would be throwing now even if the Olympics were a pipe dream. The way he relaxes just happens to be the path to Olympic glory.
Kevin Bookout has reworked his shot put form and is bulking back up in hope of making a run at the 2012 Olympics in London. by BRYAN TERRY, THE OKLAHOMAN