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US shot put star Ryan Crouser shares story behind tribute to late grandfather

Crouser held up a sweet sign with a message for his late grandpa after he won gold Thursday.
/ Source: TODAY

When U.S. track and field star Ryan Crouser won a gold medal in shot put Thursday, the Olympian had a special message for his late grandfather, Larry Crouser.

After his big win, the 28-year-old held up a piece of paper that read, "Grandpa, We did it, 2020 Olympic Champion!" and viewers around the globe let out a collective "aww."

Crouser opened up to Craig Melvin on the 3rd hour of TODAY about the sweet gesture and explained why it was important to him to pay tribute to his late grandfather.

"He was a huge part of my life. I was blessed to be able to spend as much time with him as I did," he said.

The gold medalist said his grandpa got him started in throwing and added that Larry Crouser always had a passion for track and field.

"The very first time I threw shot put was actually in his backyard," he shared.

Crouser celebrating his gold medal with his father and coach, Mitch Crouser.Matthias Hangst / AP

Crouser's grandfather passed away the day before the Olympian left for Tokyo, and it certainly left a void for Crouser when he was competing. But he could definitely feel his grandfather's presence.

"It felt like he was with me tonight out there in the competition, so (it was) special to have the opportunity to bring my family together and they were all watching back home," he said.

Before his grandpa passed away from cancer, Crouser had the chance to spend some one-on-one time with him after the Olympic trials. Those interactions inspired him to hold up that sweet sign after his big Olympic win.

"He'd lost his hearing so I would write on the whiteboard and he would read it and we'd have a conversation that way. I got to say everything that I wanted to him, so I'm so thankful for that," he said. "But I feel like (my sign at the Olympics) was the last thing I wanted to be able to write and was hoping to be able to write down on the whiteboard for him."

Crouser's mom, Lisa, celebrates her son's gold medal win from Oregon. Nathan Howard / AP

And even though Crouser's family is still grieving the loss of his grandfather, the athlete said the Olympics have helped them start the healing process.

"(We) miss him but the family is doing well. We kind of had this to rally around," he said.