Opening-round throw proves enough for top spot as rain-affected discus competition goes American’s way
Before the Tokyo Games, you would have been given long odds of the USA’s first athletics gold of these Olympics coming in the women’s discus, yet that was the very story which unfolded on a night where timing was everything in the throwing circle.
Valarie Allman stormed into the lead when her first-round throw soared out to 68.98m, with Cuban world champion Yaime Perez coming closest to her after an opening salvo of 65.72m.
German Kristin Pudenz managed the longest throw of the second round with 65.34m and being able to bank those early distances became increasingly important as a deluge of rain arrived and the no-throw count increased among the competitors.
The decision was taken to head for cover until the conditions eased but, even when the rain stopped and the action resumed, being able to throw well again proved to be a hugely challenging task on the slippery circle.
Allman, who fouled her second, third and final throws, did manage a distance of 66.78m in the fifth round as former European U23 champion Pudenz applied the pressure with a penultimate effort and personal of 66.86m which moved her into the silver medal position.
However, the German – along with the other medallists – also couldn’t produce a legal throw in the sixth round, which meant Allman was not only able to enjoy that honour of being first American athletics gold medallist in Tokyo this summer but also became the third woman from the USA to win this event, following in the footsteps of 1932 victor Lillian Copeland and Beijing 2008 champion Stephanie Brown-Trafton.
Croatia’s defending champion Sandra Perkovic, going for a third successive Olympic title, had to settle for fourth place after a best throw of 65.01m in the third round.
“I am so honoured that this has been a first gold medal in Tokyo [for the USA in athletics],” said Allman, who finished just seventh at the World Championships in Doha. “I couldn’t be any happier or more proud. I’m still waiting for my feet to touch the ground.”
Perez, who no-marked in the Rio 2016 Olympic final, admitted the rain stoppage had been significant.
“It affected me a lot,” she said. “It affected my concentration and I got a bit cold. I am super happy with the medal, although I am not happy with my performance. I could have done better.”
However, of her bronze, she added: “It feels great. It is a lot of years worth of work and the only medal that was missing [from my collection] was this one. Like every other athlete I wanted gold, but I’m happy with what I’ve got.”