With a Croatian flag draped around her neck, Sandra Perkovic stood proudly before the appreciative crowd in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium on Sunday night, after winning her first IAAF World Championships Discus title.
Entering the competition, she was a clear favourite having thrown more than a metre-and-a-half farther than anyone else in the field this season. The fact she is the reigning Olympic champion, undefeated in 2013 after eight meetings prior to Moscow, six of which were IAAF Diamond League victories, certainly didn’t hurt her confidence.
“I was expecting to throw well. I got 67.99m and I thought I could thrower further but then the rain started,” she said excitedly. “I just wanted to win this gold. I won it so I am so happy.
“I am the first Croatian to win European Gold, Olympic gold and World Championships gold. I trained very hard for this, six hours a day, and I expected to win because I have the best performance of the year.”
Her opening throw of 67.52m was enough for the victory. She improved that to 67.99m in the second round and was never concerned about someone coming up with a bigger throw.
Perkovic lives in the heart of Zagreb with her boyfriend and coach, former World junior Shot Put champion Edis Elkasevic, and revealed the sacrifices she has made en route to the championships.
“I had an injury in January,” she said. “I injured my shoulder and I couldn’t train for one-and-a-half months, but I had six months to prepare for this competition and I made it.
“I like to do everything with my friends, but it is really hard to do good training after that. So you don’t have much time to go out with friends but my friends respect that, and, support me in that, and for what I am doing. I train all day, almost.”
“I will celebrate here in Moscow but when I come home I will have two or three days to celebrate with my friends, but then I have to prepare for more competitions.”
Predictably, her six Diamond League victories – she won in Doha, New York, Rome, Birmingham, Lausanne and Monaco – have given her an unassailable lead in her bid to retain her Diamond Race crown and adding another US$40,000 to the US$60,000 first place prize she will pick up for her Moscow victory.
Still, it is not money that motivates her to be the best.
“If you want to make millions of dollars you should start to play tennis,” she declared. “I play this sport because I love it. l love the discus throw. It doesn’t matter how much I earn per season, I came here and I know I am the best discus thrower in the world.
“The Diamond League final is in Brussels and I expect to throw further in this competition. I expect to beat my national record which is 69.11m from the London Olympics last year. I hope the audience in Brussels will give me some power to throw very, very far.”
A delighted winner, her countenance is in contrast to her first World Championships experience, where she finished ninth in Berlin and left the stadium in tears.
Now, the thrower from Zagreb is clearly the world’s best and a Croatian hero.
Paul Gains for the IAAF