American discus thrower Valarie Allman looks back on journey to Olympic gold

Posted at 3:47 PM, Aug 17, 2021

Valarie Allman is the 2020 Tokyo Olympic champion in women's discus.

“I had never felt the weight of the pressure and the weight of expectation like I had in those days leading up to it,” Allman said. “Now, looking back at it, it honestly kind of feels like a dream. You know, it's like so much work went into preparing for that moment.”

The first time we interviewed Valarie Allman was after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics were postponed. She and Coach Zebulon Sion had reframed their goals for the year leading Allman to beat the American record in women’s discus when she threw past 70 meters.

“The pandemic provided me such an amazing opportunity and time to mature, to grow," Allman said. "And I honestly don't know if I didn't have if the result would have been the same.”

The second time we interviewed Allman was right before the Olympic games finally happened. She had qualified with throws that beat more American records. Coach Sion says everything leading up to that point was intentional.

“We would spend a lot of hours, you know, trying to get stronger, you know, increasing power output, you know, things that matter when you do an event that takes a second and a half, as well as refining technique," Coach Sion said. "And, you know, again, not making it about extrinsic motivators. Making it about like what she can do, what she's capable of and how much we can improve.”

They found a gym that works well for muscle building and a generic throwing pad at a local high school. Coach Sion says her training was dialed in -- simple, but with purpose.

Her body was ready for elite competitions. The next challenge was overcoming the mental battle and maintaining composure through the world’s most famous sports competition.

“I feel so thankful to have been in this journey with coach Sion," Allman said. "There are so many moments where doubt and uncertainty easily could have got the best of me, you know, but having someone that has been in it with me every step of the way has been so positive and conveyed a belief of seeing things that he thought were capable long before I ever saw them in myself.”

Coach says he knew when she beat the American record last year that she could go for the gold at the next Olympics.

“She's so driven. It's incredible. And that, you know, allows her to make choices that are difficult to make. But they also yield the best result.”

That gold is now a token of their achievement and proof that hard work pays off.

“To me, the gold medal symbolizes dedication, sacrifice, the ability to dream,” Allman said.

She was capable of winning, she deserved to win and she did win.

“It came true, I did win," Allman said. "I can't believe it. I actually can't believe it."

Now in the middle of the discus-throwing season, they get back to work with more international competitions on the way.