Laulauga Tausaga in the discus final at the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23 (© Getty Images)
The pre-event predictions foretold a US victory, but no one could have foreseen that a fifth-round monster throw from USA’s Laulauga Tausaga would change the trajectory of the women’s discus final on day four of the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23.
It was expected to be a two-way clash between the Olympic champion Valarie Allman of the United States and the world champion Feng Bin of China, and it was – at least in the first four rounds.
Heading to Budapest, Allman was the only woman to have thrown over the 70-metre mark this year, with her season's best of 70.25m set in April in San Diego. That displayed the sort of form that saw her break the area record last year, with 71.46m.
She had also consistently surpassed 65 metres throughout this season, with eight victories out of 10, including the US Trials which she won with 67.66m. She topped the qualifying round with 67.14m, showing her readiness to upgrade the bronze medal she won last year in Oregon behind Feng, who struck gold with a lifetime best of 69.12m, while the iconic Sandra Perkovic took silver.
The Chinese athlete came with six wins from seven competitions, and finished just behind Allman in the qualifiers, following in second with 65.68m.
Tausaga, in comparison, had recorded mixed results in the course of a long season which saw her make 12 appearances but only secure two victories, the farthest being the 65.46m lifetime best that she set at the US Trials to finish second to Allman. As a result, she wasn’t considered a top contender in Budapest.
Allman’s first throw landed at 68.57m, propelling her to the top of the standings, and when Feng responded, it was almost one and a half metres shy, with the discus landing at 66.97m.
The Tokyo Olympic medallist extended her lead by 22cm in round three, and became the first woman in the field to throw over 69 metres with her fourth-round effort, which hit the ground at 69.23m, putting the gold medal within her grasp.
The Asian champion was consistent in her pursuit, improving on her season's best with her last three throws, going from 67.18m, to 67.41m, and then 68.20m.
With two fouls in her first and fourth attempts, and then a second-round throw of 52.28m, Tausaga was at the bottom of the pile. How was she to know that she was at the cusp of her breakthrough?
Taking to the ring, the 25-year-old dug deep to produce the farthest throw of her life that immediately shot her to the top, recording a lifetime best of 69.49m, and moving past her teammate by 26cm.
The 2019 NCAA champion was ecstatic, running across the track to celebrate her new achievement with her team.
Watching the gold slip from her grasp, Allman still had her last throw to make. She tried to give it everything but could only produce a final effort of 68.61m to settle for silver, while the bronze medal went to Feng.
Irrespective of the order of medals, history was made for the US. With her bronze from Oregon, Allman became the first US athlete to claim a world medal in the women’s discus, and with her feat in Budapest, Tausaga emerged as the first US world champion in the event, inspiring a 1-2 for the North American nation and adding a new page in the history books.
"I don't know if I have a fairy godmother or something, or my ancestors had some say in it, but I was able to do something tonight that I didn't think was possible yet," said Tausaga. "I was confident if I was on my A game I could sneak through into a medal place and not be 12th like I was in the last two world championships.
"I'm just so happy. It's unbelievable to go from 12th to first. No one was expecting me and I just showed up."
Jorinde van Klinken almost broke through the top three with a last-gap effort in the fifth round, but had to be content to leave Budapest with a season's best of 67.20m for fourth.
Two-time world champion and Olympic gold medallist Perkovic was fifth with 66.57m.
Yemi Olus-Galadima for World Athletics
|WOMEN'S DISCUS MEDALLISTS|
|🥇||Laulauga Tausaga-Collins 🇺🇸 USA||69.49m PB|
|🥈||Valarie Allman 🇺🇸 USA||69.23m|
|🥉||Bin Feng 🇨🇳 CHN||68.20m|
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