BUDAPEST – Laulauga Tausaga-Collins dedicated her unexpected world discus title – the first for an American woman – to her mother, who pushed her to play the sport in high school.
“I just wanted to stay home and be a bookworm,” Tausaga-Collins said.
Mama Aveaomalo felt differently.
“You’re growing into a big girl. You become very powerful for no reason. We could put you somewhere,” Aveaomalo told her.
TRACK WORLDS: The results | Broadcast schedule
They put her in volleyball, then basketball, where the coach wanted her to be faster. So the track was designed. But, “I would die if I hitchhiked,” she now recalls thinking.
When she got there, someone said she could throw a steel ball instead.
“I just knew I didn’t have to run, and I liked the idea,” she said.
The shot put brought Tausaga-Collins to the University of Iowa, where her talent took off in its sister event, the discus.
She won the NCAA title and entered the Tokyo Olympic tournament ranked third in the US that year.
Three women made the team, but Tausaga-Collins, who was dealing with the remnants of a back injury, was not one of them. She fouled all three throws in qualifying.
“It broke me,” she said.
The pain followed her into 2022, where she made her second World Cup team and finished last in the 12-woman final for the second time in a row.
Tausaga-Collins had a difficult start to this season. “I wasn’t just physically beaten, but I also mentally questioned whether I belong here on the elite scene,” she wrote on Instagram.
Then something clicked. She set a personal best with her fifth and final throw at the USA Track and Field Championships in July, breaking the standard distance for the world championships.
Her practices after that were “phenomenal”. She believed that something special was possible at her third world championship (where she was seeded ninth out of 12 finalists with the best throw of the year).
In Tuesday’s six-round final, Tausagaová-Collinsová fouled her first throw. Her second finish was the shortest legal throw of anyone on the night. Then she missed her personal best in third place by 10 centimeters and moved up to fifth place.
She fouled her fourth. Then in the fifth round she unleashed a throw of 69.49 meters.
It was a personal best by nearly 13 feet. She moved from ninth to second on the American all-time list, trailing only Tokyo Olympic gold medalist Valarie Allman, whom she replaced at the top of the rankings in that final.
She rushed into the crowd and hugged her coach, John Dagata, who shouted “that’s it!” and “one throw!”
The victory lasted. Allman, who owns every major title except the world gold, won silver as the first U.S. No. 2 in the women’s shot put.
On Tuesday, Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon became the first woman to win three 1500m world titles, adding to a season that already included world records in the 1500m, mile and 5000m.
Kipyegon returns to the track for the first round of the 5000m on Wednesday. No woman has won the 1500m and 5000m at the same worlds.
JuVaughn Harrison took silver in the high jump, the first American men’s medal in the event since Jesse Williams’ gold in 2011. Gianmarco Tamberi, the Tokyo Olympic champion from Italy, won his first world title.
Reigning Olympic and world champion Soufiane El Bakkali from Morocco won the 3000 m race against world record holder Lamech Girma from Ethiopia.
Steven Gardiner, the Bahamas Olympic 400m champion, fell in the last corner of his semi-final and did not finish.
Grenada’s Kirani James and South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk, Olympic champions in 2012 and 2016, reached the final.
Dalilah Muhammad, the 2016 Olympic gold medalist in the 400m hurdles, was eliminated in the semi-finals. Muhammad estimated that she was running at 70 percent at worlds after her Achilles injury, which flared up after USATF Outdoors.
Olympic gold medalist Emmanuel Korir of Kenya crashed out in the 800m heats of his world title defense after being hampered by injury this season.
American Keni Harrison ran the world’s fastest 100m hurdles time this year, 12.24 seconds, in the heat of the first round.
The worlds continue on Wednesday with the Americans looking to dethrone the Norwegian Olympic gold medalists in the 400m hurdles (Rai Benjamin vs. Karsten Warholm) and 1500m (Yared Nuguse vs. Jakob Ingebrigtsen).
Live coverage of the finals begins at 1:30 p.m. ET on USA Network, NBCSports.com, the NBC Sports app and the Peacock.
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