BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Discus throw is a game of centimeters. So when Laulauga Tausaga launched a throw that beat her personal best by more than four meters (13 feet) at world championships on Tuesday to win the title, she stunned the crowd — and herself.
“I just screamed,” Tausaga said about the throw that made her the first American woman to win a world gold medal in discus. “I was like, I don’t know how to contain this emotion.”
Tausaga took the title in Budapest with a fifth-round throw of 69.49 meters (228 feet), beating her old mark by a whopping 4.03 meters. That throw vaulted her past her teammate and world leader Valarie Allman for a first-place finish she hadn't seen coming.
“I had such a rough beginning to my season and, you know, I didn’t think I was gonna be able to come out of it,” the 25-year-old Tausaga said. “I’m just proud, very, very proud.”
For Allman, silver seemed like a letdown given she had spent most of the evening in first place. A couple things made it feel better. She finished one notch up from last year's worlds. And she lost to an athlete from her own country.
"If I could pick someone that I would want to win, I would absolutely be so honored to be sitting at the podium with another American," Allman said.
Tausaga was born on Oahu, moved to San Diego when she was 7 and then picked Iowa for college because, she said, it was “time for me to get, you know, locked in in a snowstorm.”
The Hawaii native, who is part Samoan, said she was pained to see "the devastation that happened to Maui” during recent fires that destroyed the town of Lahaina and killed more than 100 people with hundreds still missing.
“I’m constantly praying for them,” she said. “Pacific Islanders stick together.”
In her final round, Allman had one last chance to outdo her teammate, but fell short. So when Tausaga took to the ring for her final throw, already assured of a world title, she had tears in her eyes. Her first four rounds included two fouls and a throw of 52 meters.
“That was one of the best series of my life, considering I had two fouls and I was able to make it up,” she said. “I’m just glad to say that I mentally got over that hump.”
Not bad for an athlete who wasn't all that interested in sports growing up. She dedicated the gold medal to her mom, who pushed her into sports.
“I just wanted to stay home and be a bookworm,” Tausaga said. “She was like 'No. ... You are getting very strong, so we might as well go do something.”
It started with volleyball, but that didn't stick. Then, basketball, but she didn't have the speed. Tausaga started throwing shot put in high school, which was her ticket to college. At Iowa, she started throwing the discus, which was her ticket to Budapest and the gold medal.
“It was almost like a lucky streak,” she said. “Something would happen, and every time it got sweeter and sweeter, where people invested in me and I was able to get further in life. I'm just so thankful for my mother, all the way to the coach I have now and everyone who has supported me through everything.”
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