Dani Stevens in the discus at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne (© Getty Images)
Australian discus thrower Dani Stevens boasts a long and successful career in the sport. The world silver medallist says that earning bronze at the 2006 Commonwealth Games was a key breakthrough moment in her career.
“Winning a bronze medal at the 2006 Commonwealth Games was a big step for me. I was aged just 17 at the time and although the previous year I had won gold at the World U18 Championships in Marrakech, to go to my first senior competition and win bronze in the sixth round still stands out for me.
“My preparation back then was quite different to what it is today. Back then, I was still playing basketball a couple of times a week and carried out a lot of circuits and stability work. I remember my coach was keen for me to do lots of different things to build a strong base.
“It was a big confidence boost to have won in Marrakech, although I don’t think anything could have quite prepared me for the Commonwealth Games. I was at a multisport event with athletes from many other sports. I was competing in front of 80,000 people at Melbourne’s magnificent MCG, where the stands are so tall you feel enclosed by them.
“I remember going into my sixth round, I was fourth, one place behind New Zealand’s Beatrice Faumuina, the 1997 world champion. I walked into the circle feeling absolutely petrified. I thought to myself, ‘nobody watch because I’m not sure what is going to happen’. The crowd then started to burst into a slow hand clap. I thought, ‘is there a long jump going on?’ But it was for me. It was the first time I’d ever heard a slow hand clap for a discus competition.
“Somehow, I tried to remember what I had done in training and I threw really aggressively and ended up with a near one-metre PB of 59.44m, which moved me up to bronze. With Beatrice still to throw, I expected to slip to fourth, but that didn’t happen and I held on for bronze.
“It was an amazing moment to be on that podium and for my family to be watching from the front row. To compete in front of such a big crowd was a rare privilege.
“The next week I was back at school. I attended a sports high school so everyone was very knowledgeable and my athletics director was an athletics nut, who followed every single competition. I remember being interviewed in front of the school with my medal – it was cool.
“I also remember my younger sister, Casey, who was a year-two student at the time, wanted to take my medal to show and tell and I told her she could take the medal but please not to take it out of the box because the medal had a delicate two-part metal chain. Later when I went to pick Casey up from school, there she was flying through the school gates with a medal bouncing around her neck. I thought, ‘okay, thanks for that!’
“Looking back on my Commonwealth Games bronze medal, it was special to compete in front of a home crowd, but it was also the moment my eyes were opened to exactly what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be.”
Steve Landells for the IAAF