By Mark Haas
FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – How’s this for a real “student-athlete” story?
Last year, Colorado State University shot putter and mechanical engineering student Mostafa Hassan was centimeters away from qualifying for the Olympics for his home country of Egypt. So the Rams put together a special meet for Mostafa to try and hit the mark.
“We wanted him to hit a big throw, but he had a big engineering project and he stayed up the whole night before because that was really important to him,” CSU Track and Field Coach Brian Bedard recalled. “When he came up to the track and we had it all set up for him, I could see in his eyes he didn’t sleep much and I said, ‘It is not going to happen today.’”
It didn’t happen for Hassan that day and due to some injuries, it didn’t happen at all, as Mostafa ended up missing the Olympic qualifying mark (20.5 meters) by 4 centimeters.
“It was really frustrating to be just short of the Olympics,” Hassan said. “If I hadn’t gotten injured I would have gone over the standard, but I got injured so my chances were really low. It was a tough year.”
Fast forward less than a year and Hassan’s throws are now almost a meter past the mark he needed. He threw 21.30 meters to win the Mountain West indoor title, and 21.27 meters to win the NCAA indoor title, CSU’s first individual national title in 12 years.
“I was a little shocked and in disbelief,” Hassan said. “It didn’t hit me until the next day but it feels really good.”
Hassan is from Cairo, Egypt, where he was a good athlete growing.
“I tried a lot of sports before track and field,” Hassan said. “I tried boxing, swimming, tennis, karate and gymnastics but I settled down on track and field.”
A good choice for the now 300-pound thrower, although the shot put did not come easy at first.
“My early years I was really bad and I got last place every year,” Hassan said.
Hassan watched YouTube videos to learn better technique, and like his older brother Ahmed, chose to come to the U.S. for a better education, better training and better competition.
Hassan is just beginning his outdoor season, but already has the best throw in the nation by 3 feet. He will be the favorite to win the NCAA outdoor title in June, and as a junior, could become one of CSU’s all-time greats.
“Assuming that he stays healthy and I don’t mess him up, I think those goals are legitimate,” Bedard said about Hassan winning multiple national titles.
Hassan has already qualified for this summer’s world championships, with the long-term goal being the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
“It is an amazing feeling to represent my country because not a lot of people get to experience that,” Hassan said. “So I try and represent my country the best I can and get the first Olympic medal for them.”