Shelbi Vaughan came; she saw; she competed. For now, that will have to be enough.
The Texas A&M discus thrower, who recently turned pro, finished 29th in qualifying. The top 12 throwers among the 34 competitors advanced to Tuesday’s finals.
“I’m one of the youngest in the field,” Vaughan said. “I’m 21, about to be 22 — that’s really exciting — and just being here at a young age, I have a long career ahead of me, hopefully, as long as I stay healthy. Wearing this jersey with the USA across my chest is a blessing. It’s unbelievable. Not a lot of people can say they’ve done that. I’ve done it a couple of times but never at this level. It’s the Olympics. It’s the highest stage you can get.”
Vaughan, a Mansfield Legacy graduate, was supported by her family who stood out in the stands at Olympic Stadium with their pink, “Throw Princess” T-shirts. She had her cheering section back home in Azle, too, at a watch party.
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Wearing this jersey with the USA across my chest is a blessing. It’s unbelievable. Not a lot of people can say they’ve done that.
Her hometown of 11,334 gave Vaughan a sendoff on her way to Rio.
“Coming from a small town, it’s great,” said Vaughan, tearing up. “It’s amazing.”
Vaughan was one of only three Texans in competition at Olympic Stadium on Monday.
Phyllis Francis, who trains in College Station, got fifth in the most exciting race of the night. Francis ran a 50.41 in the 400-meter dash, which was won by Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas. Miller dove at the finish line to beat American Allyson Felix, crossing in 49.44 to Felix’s 49.51.
“Maybe I should try that,” Francis joked. “I saw it on TV, because I was looking up. I was gaining on her, but I was also running out of track. So I was like, ‘Well, darn it.’ She dove, and I said, ‘Oh, my gosh, she dove. Holy smokes.’ ”
Former University of Texas standout Ashley Spencer ran the second-fastest qualifying time in the 400 hurdles with a 55.12.
A downpour delayed competition for 30 minutes Monday night, making it tough on the throwers between the delay and the wet conditions.
Twenty-three of 50 throws in the first group were fouls, and only eight throwers in the field of 34 met the automatic qualifying mark of 203 feet, 5 inches.
“It just shows you these conditions were very hard for everybody,” Vaughan said. “It was just hard to go out there and get a good throw honestly.”
Vaughan didn’t even know her round of competition had started and nearly accidentally passed on her first throw. She happened to look at the scoreboard, while sitting on the bench, and realized it was time.
“They didn’t give us any warning,” Vaughan said. “It was a little hectic at first for me. I just threw my clothes off, went up there, grabbed a discus and threw. It was just terrible.”
In fact, for only the second time in her career dating to high school, Vaughan hit somebody. The discus landed out of bounds, hitting the foot of a photographer.
“I’m really sorry about that,” she said.
Her last two throws went for 174-11 and 153-3, well short of her career-best of 211-8 and her season-best of 199-3.
Vaughan has a long way to go to catch the top throwers in the world, including Cuba’s Yaime Perez, who led qualifying with a 214-6 throw, and Croatia’s Sandra Perkovic, the world’s top thrower with a 232-6 season-best.
But as the second-youngest competitor in the field and among the least experienced internationally, Vaughan leaves with Olympic experience if nothing else.
And back in Azle, Vaughan will receive a welcome home befitting an Olympic champion.
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