Dani Samuels in the discus at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 (Getty Images) © Copyright
Series

First impressions – Dani Samuels

Australia's 2009 world discus champion Dani Samuels has enjoyed a distinguished career in the sport.

Having made the final in 2008 and 2012, she will be aiming for her first Olympic medal in Rio later this summer.

Here the personable Australian offers her viewpoint on some landmark firsts in her life, both on and off the track.

First competition

I started in Little Athletics from the age of four and I remember competing in state champs from about the age of eight. Back then, I loved hurdles, high jump, shot and discus but I also remember competing in the under-8s and under-9s state championships in the 4x100m and running the anchor leg. We won both those races and even to this day I love watching the relays.

First coach

It was a guy called Hayden Knowles, the son of Denis, my current coach. Back then we had a good group of athletes and he definitely taught me the basics very well. I remember he got me to spin the discus on my finger and we used to practise rolling the discus down the lanes and having competitions as to who could roll it the furthest. He made learning the basics really fun.

First sport

It was probably swimming. Growing up in Australia, learning to swim early is an important skill and I must have started swimming lessons from the age of about two. I also remember trying gymnastics and basketball from a young age.

First overseas athletics competition

I was aged about 10 or 11 when I represented a New South Wales team to take on New Zealand in Auckland. I remember we stayed in New Zealand for about 10 days at a university and looking back now, I feel sorry for the team managers who agreed to take about 100 10-year-old kids for 10 days to New Zealand! The trip was fantastic. I have still kept the diary of what I did each day on the trip and I think I won the shot put and discus.

First overseas medal

I competed at the 2003 World Youth Championships in Sherbrooke, Canada, and finished dead last in the shot put. That fuelled my desire to come back two years later and do better, because I didn’t want to feel I’d wasted everybody’s time. I came back and competed at the next World Youth Championships in Morocco and managed to win discus gold with a throw of 54 metres and, surprisingly, a bronze medal in the shot. The trip was amazing.

Culturally it was fascinating and it was the first competition I competed at when I realised I needed to go with the flow, because anything can happen. Although I won the gold medal in the discus, the competition did not go smoothly. In qualifying, I fouled my first two attempts and needed a half-turn third throw to advance to the final. 

First ever media interview

I remember my local paper came to interview me when I was aged about 13. Back then I was more focused on the shot and I remember the photographer wanting to get a picture of me throwing the shot and it leaving my hand. It took about an hour and a half to get that shot and I was buggered at the end. When I finally read the article, I could see the photographer had got his image and the reporter had got all his facts right.

First injury

I had a stress fracture of the foot aged about 19, which I think had been caused by a combination of both basketball and athletics. It was when I was in training for the Beijing Olympics and I had to have eight weeks off. Looking back, the break did me the world of good as I was mentally refreshed and on my return I threw a PB at the Olympic Trials to make the team for the Beijing Olympics.

First toy

I remember playing a lot with a Barbie set complete with a white Ferrari toy car. I remember my younger brother, Matt, wanting to play but I wouldn’t let him and in a rage he pushed the car off the front of the stairs and it crashed and fell apart. I was in shock and horror, and had to go down to pick up all the pieces.

First pet

We had a Doberman dog that mum found in a storm and brought home. He had been lost in a basketball stadium. We called him Kim and we probably had him for nine or 10 years. I love dogs and I have a Golden Labrador at the moment. His name is Bruce.

First thing you learned to cook

It probably would have been to bake cookies or scones at my nana's or perhaps, a little later, Anzac biscuits. I still make Anzac biscuits them and last baked them on Anzac Day (an annual public holiday in Australia and New Zealand) last year.

First book that made you cry

It could have been one of the Harry Potter books. I was always a big fan and I remember reading four or five of the books before even the first movie came out. I recall getting really annoyed on the flight over to the 2005 World Youth Championships when someone had told me Sirius Black had died before I reached that point in the book.

Fashion disaster

As a toddler, my mum used to let me dress myself, so I have a lot of photos where I am wearing things that didn’t match. I would have a white frilly shirt with bright yellow bike pants on and mismatched shoes. When I look back at old family photos, I always tended to go for bright coloured pants. I thought they were cool and fun.

First car

I was lucky enough to have a Mazda 323 as a sponsorship car when I was aged 17. I had that car for 10 years. It was very generous of them.

Steve Landells for the IAAF