Winkler’s plan to get to the Olympics started as a teenager. After competing in the discus and the shot put his first two years at Averill Park High School, he quit the school’s team in order to focus on the hammer throw, which is not sponsored by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association. Under the guidance of a private coach, former Irish Olympian Paddy McGrath, Winkler spent hours in a practice circle that he and his father built on the family farm, and he competed as an unattached athlete.
The hours throwing in solitude paid off.
Winkler became the high school national record holder in the hammer throw and went on to be a finalist at both the 2011 World Youth and 2012 World Junior Championships before winning the silver medal at the 2013 Pan American Junior Championships. A highly sought-after recruit, he decided to attend Cornell after taking official visits to Virginia Tech, UCLA and Stanford.
“Cornell was the only one that had exactly what I wanted academically and athletically. It was the place I knew I would be able to succeed in both areas,” says Winkler.
There is little doubt that he has done just that, excelling in Information Science and earning USTFCCCA All-Academic and Academic All-Ivy accolades during his time on East Hill.
Once his time at Cornell is over, Winkler plans to continue training with the hopes of making future Olympic Games. Adrian Durant, The George Heekin '29 Head Coach of Men's Track and Field and Cross Country at Cornell, agrees that Winkler’s future is remarkably bright.
“Rudy has the potential to be one of the best hammer throwers in the world,” Durant says. “By its nature track and field is a very unpredictable sport, so it is hard to say what will happen down the line. But if Rudy continues down his current path, we should see him in Tokyo four years from now aiming for the gold.”
Winkler with Cornell head coach Adrian Durant, who served as the head track and field coach for the U.S. Virgin Islands at the Rio Olympics.
“The rule of thumb is around 28, 30 is when you peak in most of the throwing events,” says Winkler. “So that’s what’s cool about me doing this when I’m 21. I could have a few more Olympics under my belt if everything goes as planned.”
With the possibility of spending nearly a decade training and competing in an event that doesn’t have the same lucrative prospects as other professional sports, Winkler acknowledges that the ideal scenario would involve a part-time job with a company that would support his Olympic career.
Maybe Johnson & Johnson will be hiring.