Dani Samuels produced one of the shock results of the last IAAF World Championships as, on a damp evening in Berlin, the 21-year-old Australian produced two personal bests with her fourth and fifth rounds throws to take gold with 65.44m against a field which included Cuba’s Olympic silver medallist Yarelis Barrios and Romania’s 37-year-old three-times World medallist Nicoleta Grasu, respectively silver and bronze medallists.
Back, very far back in 12th place, was the Olympic champion – Stephanie Brown Trafton.
Two years on, Samuels is preparing to defend her title having had a relatively moderate time in competition this season. By way of an indication, the Australian is only sixth in the Samsung Diamond League’s Race for her event, in which Germany’s Nadine Muller leads by just one point from Barrios.
But Samuels – who was motivated to achieve in her athletic career by the death of her father in a road accident when she was 16 - is, in her own phrase, on the radar now after her exploits in Berlin.
“I was ranked 29th going into the World Champs in 2009 and nobody expected me to win a medal,” she said. “That’s why my odds were 67 to 1. They’re never going to get odds like that again.”
Samuels says she has been preparing for Daegu by trying to pretend she is 16 again and just trying to relax in her throwing. “That’s what I did in 2009,” she says. “I feel really good. I feel really positive. I am so determined and hungry for the World Championships.”
The next three places below Samuels in the Diamond Race are taken by two Americans – Brown Trafton and Aretha Thurmond – and one Chinese athlete, Yanfeng Li.
While these placings tell a story of consistency over the course of the season, it is not the whole story, as Li leads the world lists with her effort of 67.98m achieved in Schonebeck on 5 June.
And, for those who saw the Chinese athlete competing at the Shanghai Samsung Diamond League meeting in May, the memory is still fresh of her outstanding combativeness on an evening when she rose to the challenge of the eventually second-placed Samuels. The 32-year-old, who won the Asian Games title last year with a season’s best of 66.18m, has demonstrated both her ability and her competitiveness and she will be a strong contender to take the title.
The last Samsung Diamond League women’s discus event, at Monaco on 22 July, saw Muller lay down a marker of her ambition as she won with 65.90m – close to her season’s best of 66.05m - pushing Barrios, who managed a season’s best of 65.44m, into second place, with Brown Trafton taking third place on 62.07m.
The American has renovated her form impressively after her dip in 2010, when she managed to better 60 metres only twice in 13 competitions. A keen hunter, Brown Trafton appears to have found the scent again as she showed in securing her third national title in the US Championships at Hayward Field with a first round effort of 63.35m.
“That’s my pattern,” Brown Trafton said. “I usually have an awesome throw on my first throw. I won the Olympics on my first throw. It puts pressure on others.”
So watch out for the first throw in Daegu from the solidly built American.
Thurmond, meanwhile, has put together an impressively consistent series of throws this year, finishing in the first three on all but two of her seven competitions. And the other two saw her finish fourth.
That is the kind of throwing that sees athletes taking their place on the podium at big events.
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF
- Dani Samuels takes her sixth straight national discus title (Getty Images) © Copyright