Dani Samuels, the 26-year-old Australian, set the tone for the women’s discus throw finals from the first throw itself. She threw a massive 62.30m comfortably outstripping her qualifying mark.
Samuels, who had missed the 2010 Delhi edition of the Commonwealth Games, withdrawing because of perceived security and health concerns, seemed to be making up for lost time at Hampden Park on a cool Friday evening.
She is a special commodity in throwing. She is in a select band of athletes to have won World Championships in the youth, junior and senior categories, having won the discus at the 2009 edition in Berlin.
Seema Punia’s mind was in a tumult as she saw Samuels throw one 60+ after another. Having committed three fouls in the qualifying phase before finally hitting the mark, Punia says she thought she wasn’t going to be up for it. Her first throw, a rather average 53.64 did not help matters.
“It wasn’t the best of starts for me and I thought my form had gone. When you begin well, like Dani did, then your mind doesn’t play tricks on you. When you throw an average distance and suddenly the scoreboard shows it up, there is a big chance that you will let it affect you mentally,” she says.
The 31-year-old though believes her past record at the Commonwealth Games stood her in good stead. Unlike a first time competitor, the pressure of a packed Hampden Park cheering every good throw while voicing their displeasure when the discus didn’t leave the cage, did not ruffle Punia. “I was consistently throwing 63s and 64s in practice. I knew that if I just stuck to my guns, I would start getting distance on my throws,” she says.
Punia’s next two throws were logged at 58.87 and 58.62, a jump of almost five meters and helped the 31-year-old leapfrog from joint sixth to third place.
With Samuels throwing a massive 64.88 on her third throw and England’s Jade Lally looking dangerous, Punia felt the pressure reach boiling point.
“I saw Jade warming up and I kind of had a feeling that something big was coming up. I knew that now was the time to use everything I had,” says Punia.
The anxiety meant that Punia fouled her fourth throw while Lally hurled a 57.39. On the very next throw though, Punia says she got her take-off exactly as she wanted and as the discus swirled into Glasgow’s evening sky, she knew it had been enough. The silver disc landed at 61.61 meters, pushing Punia up to second place.
Lally followed up with a 60.48, which was enough for Punia to take the silver, an improvement from the bronze medal that she won at the 2010 edition.
India’s other Poonia, Krishna, one of the 2012 Olympians, had a rather miserable outing. She finished fifth with a best throw of 57.84 meters.
While Samuels waltzed to the gold with daylight to separate her from the rest of the field, Seema was simply content to win the battle over her teammate and defending champion.