With Back to Wall, Tuufuli Makes Team USA

July 28, 2015

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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.


IOWA CITY, Iowa — Reno Tuufuli wanted to end on a good one, and when he did, it created a new beginning.


Tuufuli uncorked a personal-best 193-9 (59.06m) on his final discus attempt at the USATF Championships on June 28. His sixth and final throw followed five “terrible” efforts, but by saving his best for last he jumped five spots on the leader board and qualified to represent Team USA at the Pan Am Junior Championships on July 31.

“I was nervous the first five throws,” Tuufuli said. “On my sixth throw I tried to calm myself down. I took a deep breath and focused on what I needed to do. I slowed things down in my mind and gave it all I had.”

A native of Las Vegas, Tuufuli had a lot left to give at the national qualifier. He redshirted his first year on the University of Iowa campus, competing in just one discus event during the outdoor season. He hit the USATF qualifying standard at the Musco Twilight meet in May, again on his sixth and final attempt (182-9 ½,55.71m).

Tuufuli altered his technique after the Musco meet. He was attempting to shake the bad habits that he got away with in high school but were detrimental to his performance with the larger college implements.

The idea, according to UI assistant coach Andrew Dubs, was to create a longer flight path.

“We were looking for body control, body awareness, some orbit, but maintaining control with that orbit because sometimes he could get out of control,” said Dubs. “The last six weeks heading up to the championships he started practicing well. I knew he was going to have a chance.”

The first five throws at the national qualifier were reminiscent of the old Tuufuli, but the final throw was a reflection of his recent training.

“I cleared my mind a little bit and kept doing what I’ve been doing,” Tuufuli said.

“He finally relaxed a little bit on the sixth throw,” Dubs said. “It was the one throw all day that he somewhat stayed level and the result speaks for itself.”

A qualifying mark was the end game for Tuufuli, but he is admittedly just as excited about the process and transformation.

“It all probably came together about a month before the actual qualifying competition,” he said. “I kept building from there, and I’m turning into the athlete I’m supposed to be.”

Tuufuli enters the Pan Am Junior Championships in Edmonton, Canada, as the second-seeded American. Payton Otterdahl of North Dakota State owned the top mark at the USATF qualifier (196-9, 59.98m).

It is the second time in three years Tuufuli is competing for Team USA on the international stage. He won the discus title at the 2013 U.S. Youth National Championships and placed seventh at the World Youth Championships in Donetsk, Urkraine.

This time around Tuufuli is chasing a medal, and this time he will have a cheering section.

“My mom is coming,” said Tuufuli. “She did not make it to my last international meet so it will be nice to have her there.”

Dubs will also be in the travel party to maintain a business approach.

“We’re going to go for the gold, so to speak,” Dubs said. “It’s going to take a lot of hard work and it’s not going to be easy. No one is going to give it to anybody, but it is certainly the goal.”

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