In the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Stephanie Brown Trafton won the women’s discus on her first throw of the finals.
On Friday, Trafton needed a big final throw in qualifying at the London Olympics just to make today’s final and she did just that.
Sitting in 15th place entering her last throw, the Arroyo Grande High and Cal Poly graduate uncorked a throw of 212 feet, 10 inches to move to fifth place overall and better the automatic qualifying standard of 206-8. Only the 12 top advanced to today’s finals, which will begin at 11:30 a.m. PDT.
“I love having the last throw being my best throw,” Trafton said. “I was planning for my first throw, done and gone, but sometimes that’s just not the way it is.
“I’m feeling strong going into (today) and hope to have an awesome competition.”
Meanwhile, former Cal Poly star Sharon Day was unable to overcome a subpar performance in the high jump and is in 18th place in the women’s heptathlon after the first four events with 3,740 points in the 39-person field.
In the discus, Cuba’s Yarelys Barrios was the top qualifier at 216-4, followed closely by Germany’s Nadine Muller (216-2) and Croatia’s Sandra Perkovic (215-8). Russia’s Darya Pishchalnikova was the fourth qualifier at 213-4, followed by Trafton and then China’s Yanfeng Li (211-6).
Trafton’s winning throw in Beijing was 212-5. She is seeking to become only the second woman to win two discus gold medals in the Olympics and the first to do it in back-to-back games.
“I’m pretty happy with my throw,” Trafton said. “In the preliminary round, it doesn’t matter as long as you make it to the final. I knew that after my second throw there was a good chance I was going to make it to the final, but I wanted to better that mark and prove that I’m going to be on the medal stand (today). I’m ready to throw far, and I’m ready to get a medal. I’d love to walk out of here with a medal. I don’t even care which one. I’d love it to be gold, but I’d love to get a medal.”
Trafton, who set the American record of 222-3 in a meet in Hawaii in May, said she was inspired competing in front of a sold-out crowd of 80,000 at the Olympic Stadium.
“I have never seen this many people for my qualifiers, but because it is an evening qualification it was a packed house,” she said. “But even this morning it was a packed house, I saw it on TV.”
Trafton became only the second American to win the discus at the Olympics when she was a surprise winner in 2008 and was the first U.S. Olympic medalist in the event since 1984. This is her third Olympics; in 2004 in Athens, Greece, she was 21st overall and didn’t advance to the finals.
This is Day’s second appearance in the Olympics after she competed in the high jump in Beijing in 2008. But (Friday), it was the high jump that was her undoing in the Olympics as she only cleared 5-93⁄4, well off her best of 6-4 3⁄4.
“I don’t know what happened,” Day said. “Every run (up) was different. I couldn’t find it.”
Day set a personal record of 13.57 seconds in the 100 hurdles and was close to her PRs in the shot put and 200 with marks of 46-10 1⁄4 and 24.36 seconds, respectively. But Day lost about 100 points of what she was expected to get in the high jump. For example, a clearance of 6-0 3⁄4 would have given her another 100 points and a clearance of 6-2 would have given her another 140 points.
Day’s first-day point total is only 57 points behind her score during the first day of the Olympic Trials where she went on to set a PR of 6,343 points. But Day said before the Olympics that she was hoping for a score in the 6,500-6,600 point range to put her in contention for a medal. And with another 100 points Friday, she would have had an outside shot at a medal today.
“I’m not where I want to be, even regardless of the high jump, it’s not where I want to be,” Day said. “ Every event I want to do better than I’ve done before.”
Great Britain’s Jessica Ennis, the favorite and 2009 and 2011 world champion, easily leads the competition with 4,158 points with Lithuania’s Austria Skujyte second at 3,974. Hyleas Fountain, the silver medalist in Beijing who beat Day at the U.S. Olympic Trials in June, is fifth with 3,900 points.