Olympic shot put finalist O’Dayne Richards is optimistic about his 2017 prospects and is looking forward to competition with the likes of Olympic champion Ryan Crouser and World Champion Joe Kovacs. Speaking in Mandeville before he won the shot put event at the Manchester High School/Charlie Fuller Memorial, Richards says he is working to improve this year. He also hopes more fans will watch the shot as time goes by.He was at the Memorial to test his fitness a season after knee surgery and a slow recovery threatened his Olympic hopes. He is thankful to be headed in the right direction.”I think there is still a bit of room to catch up,” the MVP Track Club throwing ace said. “It’s very close to what it was the year before.”In that year, he cemented years of steady advances with the Pan-Am Games gold medal and bronze at the World Championships in Beijing, China. Both were achieved with the national record distance of 21.69 metres. Now he just wants to improve.”That has always been the target and I guess the target really hasn’t changed; to continue to improve,” Richards noted.With a nod to the size of giant rivals like the 6 foot 7 inch Crouser, the 5′ 11″ Jamaican cracked a little smile and said, “No I can’t get taller so everything that I have control over, speed, technique, mental strength, you know, everything, whatever it takes for me to try and improve, that is what I’m working on.”The American pair of Crouser and Kovacs and New Zealander Tom Walsh went beyond 22m in 2016 and the St George’s College and University of Technology graduate thinks others will soon do it as well.”I expected to be amongst four or five guys hitting 22m within the same year,” he shared calmly, while waiting for his event to start at the Memorial. “So far, we haven’t seen it yet and I still believe that one year we will see four or five guys hitting 22m within the same year.”Richards has clear ideas as to how to get more Jamaicans to take an interest in his event. He recommends the staging of street shot put meets in places like Half Way Tree and Crossroads.”Some people stay far away in the stadium,” he described. “So you don’t really know how heavy the shot put lands on the ground.””You don’t really see it coming at you at 13 metres per second,” Richards said with a statistic on the high speed at with his implement travels.”So when people come to get closer to the event, even get involved, maybe roll back a shot and see how heavy it is and I guess people will start to see and maybe enjoy it.”Richards won the shot put at the Memorial with a distance of 20.11m.