Patiala-born 25-year-old Indian discus thrower Kamalpreet Kaur came up with a scintillating performance to secure her place in the final at the Tokyo Olympic Games even as the more experienced and Asian Games gold medallist Seema Punia bowed out with a 16th-place finish in the qualifying stages on Saturday.
The first Indian woman to have cross the 65m mark and against whose name the national record stands at 65.06 — at the Federation Cup in March this year — breached the direct qualification mark of 64m on Saturday in her third attempt to make it to the medal round.
The Indian, who had qualified for the Tokyo Olympics on the basis of her 65.06m in March, was among the only two throwers who breached the 64m mark at the Olympic Stadium in the qualifying round.
Valarie Allman of the United States was the other thrower and she heaved the disc to a distance of 66.42 metres, to emerge the firm favourite to win the gold medal. Croatia’s Sandra Perkovic came in third with a throw of 63.75 metres.
A total of 12 throwers qualify for the final. However, with just two of them managing to cross the direct qualification mark, the other 10 were decided on the basis of their best attempts on Saturday.
Seema Punia exited the event with a 16th-place finish in qualifying. The 2014 Incheon Asian Games gold medallist’s best throw was 60.57m. Her first attempt was a foul and her last measured throw was 58.93m.
Seema, a four-time Olympian, has a personal best of 63.72m. The 38-year-old stalwart achieved it at the Inter-State Championships in Patiala last month.
In her debut Olympics, Kamalpreet breached the 60m mark with an opening throw of 60.29 metres. Her next throw was 63.97 metres followed by the 64-metre effort in the final attempt that helped her confirm a place in the final on Monday.
If Kamalpreet, whose personal best of 66.59m at the Indian Grand Prix-4 at NIS, Patiala last month was not ratified as a national record as she was the lone discus thrower competing, is able to replicate her form in the final, she will be a strong contender for a place on the podium.