US wins first track and field gold of the Tokyo Games

TOKYO (AP) — The path to Valarie Allman’s gold medal — the first for the U.S. track and field team at Olympic Stadium — started with, of all things, a plate of spaghetti.

Aptopix Tokyo Olympics Athletics

Valarie Allman, of the United States, celebrates after winning the gold medal in the women’s discus throw final at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

That promise of pasta from her high school team was enough to lure her into the discus and to the point she reached on a rainy Monday night at the Tokyo Games: A breakthrough — and a much-needed gold medal for the United States.

Allman opened the final with a throw of 68.98 meters (226 feet, 3 inches) and then waited through an hour-long delay and around 50 throws by her competition. But nobody could pass her.

“To be here, to be in this moment, feels so surreal,” Allman said.

About that life-altering meal: As a teenager, she was a dancer who dabbled in different track disciplines. But she hadn’t found her true track calling. The throwers on her high school team in Longmont, Colorado, said she could partake in a pasta meal with them on one condition: She had to give throwing a try.

That’s how the discus became her thing.

“Looking back, gosh darn, that was the best spaghetti dinner of my entire life,” said the 26-year-old Allman, a multi-time All-American while at Stanford who now and trains in Austin, Texas.

Worked out well for the U.S., too.

Hardly anyone figured the country’s first gold medal at Olympic Stadium would come from women’s discus. Not so much because of the event — American Stephanie Brown Trafton won it at the 2008 Beijing Games — but because of where it fell on the schedule: Day 4.

But what seemed like good bets for wins — 4×400 mixed relay, men’s 100, women’s 100 hurdles — didn’t materialize.

Allman came through.

“Our team is filled with so many incredible athletes, and I am just blown away that I am not only a medalist,” Allman said, “but I am the gold medalist.”

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