Yet the injury helped define Nelson's future. In much the same way that he had become more mature academically and socially, he became a more committed shot-putter. Under Dartmouth throws and jumps coach Carl Wallin, Nelson concentrated on channeling his energy into great throws. In practice Wallin made a quick man even quicker by having Nelson throw "light" shots weighing 14 or 15 pounds. "Throwing lighter shots reinforces technique and builds speed," says Wallin. "My theory is that if you can throw something light far, you can eventually throw something a little heavier far as well." In the spring of '97 Nelson won the NCAA outdoor title. He used his final season of track eligibility to finish second in the NCAA indoor meet in March 1998. A month later he moved to California to train with Weir.
For two seasons Nelson improved in practice, but nagging injuries in '99 kept him in the high 67-foot range, too short to make the Olympic team. In July of last year he quit a 55-hour-a-week job as a financial consultant with Merrill Lynch and networked his way to a position in business development with Icarian, an Internet software company in Sunnyvale, Calif. Icarian was flexible about Nelson's hours throughout the winter and spring and allowed him to take a leave of absence in June. (He plans to return to Icarian after the Olympics.)
He is happy to delay the acquisition of wealth to pursue a small serving of gold. "This Olympic thing," he says, "I've really got to get it out of my system."
Just as he did with Nellie.