Associated Press

BEIJING – Cal Poly graduate Stephanie Brown Trafton won the gold medal in the women’s discus Monday night at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing and became the first gold medalist from Cal Poly after posting a mark of 212 feet, 5 inches.

“Someone told me that I was coming to the Bird’s Nest to lay a golden egg,” she told reporters. “That’s what I tried to do.”

Brown Trafton’s gold, her first in international competition, gave the United States its first gold medal in the event since 1932. It hadn’t even medaled in the women’s discus since Leslie Deniz won a silver in 1984.

“I’m just so thrilled that mine was gold and I got to represent my country,” Brown Trafton said. “Every Olympics, anything can happen.”

Yarelys Barrios of Cuba took the silver at 208-9, and Olena Antonova of Ukraine the bronze at 205-4.

Brown Trafton, a 2004 graduate in engineering, completed her gold standard with her first throw and waited through 47 tosses by 11 others before she could relax.

“All through college, and even when I was coming up, my first throw has always seemed to be my best throw,” said Brown Trafton, a three-time All-American at Cal Poly. “That was definitely the strategy here tonight. No one else stepped up and I was able to pull off the upset.”

It was indeed an upset. The 28-year-old Arroyo Grande native entered as the 16th seed, but had the No. 1 throw in Friday’s qualifying round, at 205-11 ¬.

At the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, she failed to advance to the final round by finishing 11th in the first of two prelims groups, at 192-1.

In a newsletter given to American fans in Beijing, Track and Field News editors commented on Brown Trafton’s win, “A surprise? YES. Brown Trafton was only third at the (U.S. Olympics trials in Eugenes, Ore.), and has never won a U.S. title, and when she led the qualifying (in Beijing), we tended to think it was a very pleasant fluke. We didn’t even have her mentioned in our (medal prediction) form sheet.”

Added track fan Manuel De Anda from Oakland after watching Brown Tafton in Beijing, “I don’t even remember her in Eugene. what a surprise.”

Some speculated a light rain that dampened the field at the start of the discus throw may have actually helped Brown Trafton’s chances.

“The rain may have been a godsend because the slippery (discus throwing) ring caused difficulties for the rest of the field,” the Track and Field News editors wrote.

Interestingly, Brown Tafton’s affiliation with San Luis Obispo has caused some confusion and earned her a new nickname in Beijing. “SLO” is the Olympic abbreviation for Slovenia, earning Brown Tafton the nickname “Stephanie from Slovenia” – although her U.S fans who’ve given her the moniker clearly know she’s from the California coast.

Brown Trafton is the third Cal Poly graduate to medal in Olympic competition, following Gina Miles and Karen Kraft. Miles won a silver in equestrian eventing last week, and Kraft won a silver in pairs rowing in 1996 before collecting a bronze in the same event in 2000.

Other Cal Poly alumni who competed in Beijing include Sharon Day, who took 12th in the qualifying round of the women’s high jump and will not compete in the final round; and baseball player Jimmy Van Ostrand, who, along with Team Canada, was eliminated from the medal round after the team posted a 1-6 mark. Cal Poly senior Mark Barr will swim for the U.S. at the Paralympic Games which begin Sept. 6, also in Beijing.

Journalism professor George Ramos contributed to this Mustang Daily special, reporting from the Olympic Games in Beijing.

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