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Charting the career of India’s female discus thrower at Rio 2016, Seema Punia

A look at Seema Punia's chances in the women's discus throw at Rio 2016

Discus thrower Seema Punia will be representing India at Rio 2016, with her attempt being to try her best to win the country a medal. Punia made the cut for Rio in 2016 after her attempt of 62.62 meters, breached the Olympic qualification mark of 61 meters. She was the 19th Indian athlete to qualify for the Games.

The JSW Sports Excellence Program Discus thrower has been training in the United States of late, and it was there at the Pat Young’s Throwers Classic, Hartnell College Throwers Complex, in Salinas, California where she achieved her Olympic qualification.

The impressive 62.62 meters throw is also her best till date. Ace discus thrower Krishna Poonia, who had achieved the mammoth 64.76 meters, holds the national record for the furthest discus throw in the women’s category.

She too trained in the United States but failed to qualify for the Rio Olympics after being unable to meet the qualification distance, thus leaving Seema as India’s only accomplished representative at the 2016 Games.   

Seema hails from Khewda village in the Sonipat district in Haryana and began her career at the age of 11 years as a hurdler and a long-jumper. It was later that she realized that her true talent lay in discus throwing.  

She pursued her studies from Government College, Sonipat and is married to Ankush Punia, her coach, and a former Discus thrower who represented India at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.

In 2000, Seema surprised everyone by winning India’s first ever gold medal at the World Junior Athletic Championships in Santiago, which earned her a nickname ‘Millennium Child’.   

The Olympian from Haryana then won a bronze medal at the 2002 Junior World Championships at Kingston. It was only the beginning as Seema went on to win the silver medal at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

The same year, on 26 June 2006, keeping in light her recent accomplishments, the Haryana state government honored the athlete by presenting her with the Bhim Award.  

Punia is yet to achieve big at the Olympics but if her form leading up to the Rio Games is an indication, she could be a medal contender.

At the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Seema placed 14th with a distance of 60.64 meters. The 2012 Olympics in London weren’t any better either for the discus thrower as she placed 13th with a best of 61.91 m.

Punia has learnt from her tough experiences at the Olympics and will be using her experience to her advantage in Rio.

She was also part of the historic Indian medal haul at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, 2010, in which Indians secured all the three medals in the women’s discus throw. After winning the bronze at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Seema kicked it up a notch and secured the silver at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.

It was a throw of 61.03 meters that helped her secure a gold medal at the Incheon Asian games in 2014 and this feat landed India her first ever-gold medal at the Asian Games in the women’s category.

The coach of the JSW Sports Excellence Program supported athlete, Ankush Punia, had asked Seema to raise the height of her release of the discus, which has worked very well for the husband-wife duo.

Since the change in technique, Punia has performed very well, winning multiple tournaments she has been part of and exuding confidence.

Though she hasn’t really had a good time at the Olympics yet in her career, she looks set to perform very well this time around. A medal chance can’t be ruled out, as on her day, she is as good as the best.

The fact that her qualification took time has helped her stay focused and give her maximum at qualification tournaments, keeping her in good shape for the Discus throw event.