Postcard from Beijing: U.S. track strikes gold

It took four days for the United States to win its first track and field gold medal of the Beijing Olympics — and then by someone not even on the radar screen of most prognosticators. Discus thrower Stephanie Brown Trafton, a San Luis Obispo native, took the lead with a 212-foot, 5-inch first throw at the Bird’s Nest stadium. That held up to end a 76-year USA title drought for any women’s throwing event. The only previous American golds came at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, in the discus and javelin.

“I had a far throw and nobody else stepped up,” the 6-foot-4 Brown Trafton said. “I won a gold medal! I almost started to cry on the victory lap.”

The 28-year-old Cal Poly grad had been the world leader much of the season, throwing a personal best 217-1 on May 5 at Hartnell College in Salinas, but placed third at the U.S. Trials. She currently lives in Galt and self-trains at Sacramento City College. I work with Brown Trafton, in my position of women’s track and field chair for USA Track and Field’s Pacific Association. She serves as our athletes’ chair.

Our association provided a training grant to help her prepare for the Olympics. She also won $1,700 in first-place money in the Pacific Association Grand Prix competition, which included the association championship meet at College of San Mateo.
It was a pleasure to see the region’s athlete support program pay off in gold. It may be the only American victory in a throwing event at these games.

San Francisco native and College of San Mateo sports information director Fred Baer is covering his ninth Olympic Games as a journalist and is providing The Examiner with a behind-the-scenes view of the Beijing Games.

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