THERE WERE MOMENTS she wondered if she should be doing this at all. This, being to throw the discus.
Laulauga Tausaga-Collins never intended to be here. Here, being at the top of a podium in Budapest, becoming the United States’ first world champion in the event.
“To put my autograph in history has been unbelievable,” she said. “And nobody can take that away from me.”
Her family, coaches and colleagues long believed in her, perhaps more than she believed in herself. She celebrated the gold medal by hugging her coach, John Dagata, and staying up until 3 a.m. in Budapest FaceTiming family.
Dagata, who coaches the 25-year-old Tausaga at the training center in her native San Diego area, collaborated with previous coaches because they all recognized considerable potential.
“Laulauga is a performer. Make no mistake,” Dagata said. “She’s like a boulder. If it’s in the right line and it’s going downhill, you’re going to get out of the way. She’s going to roll right through you.”
As a child raised in Hawai‘i and California, it would have been inconceivable that track & field, or any sport, would be so meaningful to little Lagi (as she is known to friends and family). She called herself a homebody and a bookworm.
Her mother, Aveaomalo, thought otherwise. Her daughter was “growing into a big girl,” Tausaga-Collins said, and should nurture such a gift.
Mother and daughter are so close, they are like best friends. “When I see them together, they are buddies,” Dagata said.
So the daughter agreed to try volleyball and basketball. A coach wanted her to run faster… except that meant running. She thought, “I would die if I do track.”
Throwing a steel ball, that was tolerable. She went from shot putter to discus thrower to, well, gold medalist. It was an uneven trajectory.
At San Miguel High School in Spring Valley, California, she was a 47-foot putter and finished 3rd at State as a junior, 2nd as a senior. She did not throw the discus seriously until she was a senior, reached 167-3 (50.70), got to State — and fouled all her attempts.
It was a beginning, and the beginning of a sequence of setbacks. Tausaga-Collins chose Iowa for college because she wanted to live through changes of seasons. She was attracted by “Midwest niceness,” she said. She threw shot, discus, hammer and weight, winning 6 Big 10…