Seema Antil threw 62.60 metres, her best in more than seven years, to reach the ‘A' qualification standard for the Olympic Games at the University of California (Irvine) Spring Break meet at Irvine, US, on Saturday.
The 28-year-old Haryana athlete joins another discus thrower, Krishna Poonia, among nine Indian qualifiers in athletics for the London Games.
Seema had been training in California under coach Tony Ciarelli on a sponsorship from the Mittal Champions Trust (MCT) for the past six months.
Seema opened with a 62.60m, fouled the next and then passed her four subsequent attempts.
The MCT quoted her coach as saying that having achieved what they were looking for (Olympic qualification) in her first competition of the season, there was no necessity to strain further.
Americans Lindsey Spencer (51.39m) and Deja Watkins (48.89m) took the second and third places.
The ‘A' qualification mark being 62.00, and with Poonia, Commonwealth Games gold medallist having already achieved it (62.25m at Portland, US, October, 2011),
Seema had to aim for that standard which will allow India to enter two athletes in discus.
Harwant Kaur, who has competed in the past two Olympics, could be India's third entry in the event if she also is able to reach the ‘A' standard before July 8.
“I am feeling good, I feel I could have thrown the discus over 64m today (Saturday) but my coach would like me to save those throws for the Olympic Games. I am now looking to keep improving and achieve my target of a medal at the Olympics.
“I am thankful to the Mittal Champions Trust for having faith in me and giving me the opportunity to train with the best coach in the world. It is because of them I have managed to hit a distance of 62m after seven years,” the MCT quoted Seema as saying.
The MCT CEO, Manisha Malhotra, said the coach had taken pains during the past few months to correct Seema's technique and the results were showing. Seema is scheduled to compete next in a meet on April 15. A World junior championship bronze medallist in 2002, Seema is the National record holder at 64.64m, registered in Chennai in June, 2004. She has a better mark (64.84m) achieved in Kiev the same year but that was not ratified as a record.
Seema also had a 63.10m and a 62.18m in Kiev in 2004. Apart from these marks, Saturday's was her best.
That she only had a season best of 51.45m last year came as a surprise since she had recorded above 58m most of the preceding years, though never living up to her early promise.
She won the silver in the 2006 Commonwealth Games and took the bronze at home in 2010 when the Indians swept the discus medals with Poonia and Harwant finishing 1-2.
Missed 2004 final
She narrowly missed entry into the final of the 2004 Olympics, finishing overall 14th in the preliminary round with an effort of 60.64m.
Seema's result in the World junior championship in 2000, when she won the gold, was disqualified due to an anti-doping rule violation (stimulant) and she was absolved of another doping charge (steroid) in 2006 prior to the Asian Games in Doha which she eventually skipped. She married former athlete Ankush Poonia in February last year.