BEATRICE Faumuina can resurrect her fading discus career if she shows the same fire and passion she showed in Beijing yesterday after her event.
The 33-year-old former Commonwealth Games gold medallist produced an extraordinary performance but in front of media in the bowels of the Bird's Nest, not the throwing circle inside the stadium.
This proud former world champion (personal best: 68.52m 11 years ago) had just crashed out in the qualifying round in 28th place out of 38 after a 57.15m throw, a no-throw and a 54.49 for her third failure in her last three major international tournaments.
A smart strategy would have been to tell the waiting press that she was "gutted and disappointed" at failing to meet her own high standards, that she would work harder and would be back.
Instead she delivered a few, quick jibes at a media pack.
Anyone assuming she was antagonised by journalists would be dead wrong.
The opening question was: "Beatrice, do you have any explanations for the throws you did, or were you satisifed?"
The questioner's tone was polite, non-judgmental.
Faumuina's return gambit was innocuous enough. "Explanations? This is my fourth Olympics, I've trained less than seven months for it and, to be honest, I had a ball out there, it's exciting ... 91,000 capacity ..."
But then her hackles started to rise.
"Regardless of whether you guys write me off, or whatever. You did that last year and (it) not only disappointed myself but my family. But I tell you what, I came back and I'm looking forward to next year. You can't take this moment away from me, no matter how much you write it off."
To be fair to Faumuina, she did admit to deep disappointment at her Beijing bow-out after some prompting. She said she "did not like the feeling" of missing the final. She also spoke passionately about not chucking in the towel and that she wanted a solid, nine-month block of training under new coach Ross Dallow before next year's world championships.
But even that was undermined by a media slap. Asked if she still had the hunger to continue, she said she did. "Sorry to disappoint you all."
To understand Faumuina's reaction you need some context. She still smarts from the criticism she copped over her fourth-place finish at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne and her failure to make last year's world championship final in Osaka after a 55m throw.
She never forgot the jibes at her seeming to show more passion and interest in her Dancing with the Stars dalliance than for her day job of tossing a plate vast distances.
Athletics insiders expressed doubt she could qualify for the Beijing Olympics. But Faumuina proved everyone wrong. She came home to Auckland, enlisted Dallow as coach and biffed the discus 61.73m at Mt Smart Stadium to book her Beijing berth.
Yet despite her world title a decade or more ago, a fourth placing in 2005 and her two Commonwealth Games gold. There remains a whiff of unfulfilled potential about this fabulously physically gifted field athlete.
Faumuina maintains it's not too late, at 33, to scale the heights again, pointing to 40-year-old world champion Franka Dietzsch.
But it's back to the drawing board again. Her career is at a crossroads.
- © Fairfax NZ News