Dani Stevens (NSW) has smashed the Oceania and Australian record for the women’s discus throw to win silver at the 2017 IAAF World Championships.
Hitting a best mark of 69.64m to challenge the gold medallist Sandra Perkovic (CRO, 70.31m) with her final throw, Stevens’ medal winning result sees her return to the podium for the first time at the world titles since winning gold at Berlin 2009.
It adds to her Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games crown, as well as her gold medals at both the IAAF World Junior and World Youth Championships.
“I always had faith in my potential and the direction that we have been heading. To come 4th in Rio last year was such a motivator,” Stevens said.
“I wasn’t thinking about what Sandra had thrown. I was thinking about what I had to do to throw bigger. There was a couple of cues that I needed to do it. With the last one, I unleashed, completely relaxed and hit the mark I needed to get the height. It gave me that extra distance.
“I’ve felt that the national record was achievable for a couple of years now. The last few years I’ve known what it was to make sure I was aware if I broke it. I’ve been throwing like that in training, beyond the markers we put out to measure where they land.
“I wanted to throw what I knew I was capable of and I wanted to win a medal for Australia. The national and area record is just a bonus”
Outside of a single foul in the third round, Stevens’ series was flawless.
The 29-year-old opened with 64.23m before a 65.46m and a foul to close out her opening three attempts. Sitting in the bronze medal position as the field was trimmed to eight, she improved to 66.82m in round four, then hit 66.59 and her best mark to close.
“We’ve been on the right track, it’s just been about being able to release one in a pressure situation. I knew I could. I was building with each throw, the first couple were a little dusty, but the one that went out of the sector to foul was big,” Stevens added.
“I wanted something bigger than 66.82m and that last one was great, it had such good height, I was hoping for 68-metres plus.”
Dane Bird-Smith (Qld) also shone on day ten of the 2017 IAAF World Championships, with the 25-year-old leading the Team Australia charge in the men’s 20km walk.
Among the leaders throughout the ten laps of the two-kilometres course on London’s iconic Mall, the Rio 2016 Olympic Games bronze medallist was edged out as the race hastened towards the finish line as Eider Arevalo (COL) won gold in a national record time of 1:18:53.
Bird-Smith’s sixth place and time of 1:19:28 was also commendable, with the placing his best at the IAAF World Championships and his time a more than ten second personal best.
“It’s mixed emotions, it’s a massive PB and my best ever result at the world champs (sic) but it wasn’t the race I was expecting to have,” Bird-Smith, who is coached by his father, David Smith, said.
“I never really found my rhythm. I felt like a bit of a target in the pack and the tactics of the race meant that I had to try to make sure I held my own. It stopped me from racing the way I wanted to.
“I can’t be disappointed, it just didn’t play out exactly the way I wanted it to. I’m disappointed by that. I just have to take step back now, review it, and start to prepare for the Commonwealth Games.”
Bird-Smith was joined on course in the men’s 20km walk by Rhydian Cowley (Vic), who placed 56th in a time of 1:30:40.
In the women’s race, Regan Lamble (Vic) faired best, crossing the line in 22nd in a time of 1:31:30. Beki Smith (NSW) placed 38th in 1:35:31, with Claire Tallent (Vic) returning to international competition after recently giving birth to son, Harvey, to finish 43rd in 1:37:05.
Team Australia closes the 2017 IAAF World Championships with one gold medal to Sally Pearson (Qld), a silver to Stevens in the discus throw and a further three top- eight performances by Kurtis Marschall (SA, pole vault), Brooke Stratton (Vic, long jump) and Bird-Smith (Qld, 20km walk).
A total of 17 athletes and relay teams placed among the top-16 at the 2017 IAAF World Championships, two fewer than the 19 achieved at Rio 2016 but more than the 15 at Moscow 2013 and 16 at both the London 2012 Olympic Games and Beijing 2015 IAAF World Championships.
As we look ahead to Gold Coast 2018 there are 25 athletes ranked among the top-eight in the Commonwealth, with these athletes to challenge for medals when competition commences on 4 April 2018.