Spaghetti dinner launches Olympic career for Texas Longhorns volunteer assistant

Japan 2020

First-placed USA’s Valarie Allman celebrates on the podium with her gold medal after competing in the women’s discus throw event during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 3, 2021. (Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP) (Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)

 

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The path to Valarie Allman’s gold medal started with a plate of spaghetti.

The University of Texas volunteer assistant opened the final Monday night with a throw of 68.98 meters (226 feet, 3 inches.) She then waited through an hour-long delay and around 50 throws by her competition. But nobody could pass her.

As a teenager, Allman was a traveling dancer for the hit show “So You Think You Can Dance.” In search of something greater, the throwers on her high school team in Longmont, Colorado, invited her to attend their annual spaghetti dinner with them. It came with one condition, that she give throwing a try.

“Looking back, gosh darn, that was the best spaghetti dinner of my entire life,” said the 26-year-old Austin resident. She said it was the pasta party that helped her realize she had a knack for discus.

Light on her feet, Allman has a certain rhythm in the ring. That’s from her dancing days, which she’s carried over into the sport.

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“It’s a second-and-a-half dance that you do hundreds of times, and really repetitive, but gosh darn, I do think it’s a dance,” she said. “It’s poetry. It’s grace. It’s balance. It’s powerful. It’s figuring how to do it as efficiently as you can.”

She and her coach, Zebulon Sion, an assistant cross country coach at the University of Texas have steadily built her into a gold medal-winning discus thrower with picture-perfect technique.

“It’s not how she finishes, but what we try to do is, in the middle, collect her energy and release that energy,” Sion explained. “It’s aesthetically pleasing — the lines, the balance, it’s stacked just right and no weird angles.”

To think it all started with a plate of spaghetti!

“Our team is filled with so many incredible athletes, and I am just blown away that I am not only a medalist,” Allman said, “but I am the gold medalist.”

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