Laulauga Tausaga obliterated her personal best by over four metres to take a stunning world discus gold on Tuesday just as fellow American and hot favourite Valarie Allman had been seemingly cruising towards the title.
Tausaga, who finished last in the previous two world finals, came into the showdown with a best of 65.46 metres but somehow found 69.49 with her fifth throw, before sprinting into the crowd to celebrate with her incredulous supporters.
Olympic champion Allman owned the top six throws of the season, the best of them almost three metres better than anyone else in the field, and was determined to avoid a repeat of last year when she was hot favourite but managed only bronze behind surprise winner Feng Bin of China.
Unlike in Eugene, Allman stamped her authority on the Budapest competition with a first round throw of 68.57 metres – further than any of her rivals had managed all year.
She improved that to 68.79 in the third round and 69.23 in the fourth and seemed comfortably set for gold until her team mate’s stunner.
Hawaiian-born Tausaga had managed a personal best of 65.56 but that was barely noticed as it kept her in sixth place at the halfway point.
After Tausaga’s Bob Beamonesque throw, Allman had a final chance to reclaim the lead but could not manage it, leaving her compatriot to take a victory throw, which she did with tears streaming down her face.
Feng claimed bronze with a final round throw of 68.20.
“I don’t know if I have a fairy godmother or my ancestors had some say in it, but I was able to do something tonight that I didn’t think was possible,” Tausaga said.
“I was confident if I was on my A-game I could sneak through into a medal place and not be 12th like I was in the last two world championships.
“It’s unbelievable to go from 12th to first. I just said to myself, ‘You need to let it out and if it fouls, then so be it’. But it sailed out to that big throw and here I am.
“I have a gold medal, I can’t believe it, it’s so unreal. When I saw my distance I just couldn’t get to my coach fast enough to give him the strongest hug of my life.”
Allman had a face like thunder at the end and said: “I wanted to be the champion tonight, it is not a secret.
“I have been training very hard, putting everything in for the victory. It’s tough when you are in a good form and you cannot reach the gold medal.
“But I feel so proud of being on the podium and a one-two for USA is also so special, to stand together with Laulauga.
“I also know I am capable of responding to this. I need to put one more year of work into it and try to find what seemed to be missing. I know I can still improve and, most importantly, I am hungry and I am not done with the fight.”
Tuesday’s remarkable events came 24 hours after another incredible finale in the men’s event.
Daniel Stahl won it with the final throw minutes after Slovenian Kristjan Ceh thought he had done enough to retain his title when his last throw edged him past the Swede into the lead.
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