Aussie discus star Stevens overcomes odds to make fourth Olympics

Sydney (AFP) –


Former Australian discus world champion Dani Stevens qualified for her fourth Olympics Sunday as she battles back from a serious injury that threatened to end her career.

The 32-year-old joins current javelin world champion Kelsey-Lee Barber in spearheading Australia's track and field squad after winning a record 14th national title in Sydney with a throw of 62.74 metres.

Stevens, who was fourth at the Rio Olympics in 2016, has been a fixture in the world's top half-dozen female throwers for years.

But her Tokyo plans were thrown into disarray when she needed surgery last year for nerve damage in her throwing arm after an accident in the gym, with the Games' postponement for a year due to the pandemic a blessing in disguise.

"This team has been the hardest one to make and the one I'm most grateful for. It's really special to know I'll be there in Tokyo," said Stevens, who won the world title in 2009 and claimed silver eight years later.

"I'm looking to be in personal best shape for me, and that Olympic medal is the one that I don't have so I would love to walk away with it from Tokyo," she added.

"Every Games I've been to has been so different -– from Beijing to London to Rio there's so many changes, and as athletes we're used to adapting to each situation.

"We know Tokyo will be really different, but we're just going to do everything we can to prepare."

Javelin star Barber, who won the worlds in 2019, secured her spot on the Olympic team last year. She finished second at the Australian Athletics Championships over the weekend to Kathryn Mitchell.

Other qualifiers include Rohan Browning, the first Australian man to make the Olympic 100m since Athens in 2004, and high jumper Nicola McDermott, who on Sunday became the first Australian woman to clear two metres.