I would have loved to beat Dani Samuels and win gold: Poonia

Poonia, who is now training in Ukraine and is a top medal prospect in track and field event, told PTI that she is primed to reach her peak form in the upcoming Games starting Sunday. "I would have loved to win a gold in presence of Dani (Samuels). I had been looking forward to competing against her. She is the reigning world champion and she won bronze in 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games. But this year she has not crossed 62m and so I thought I could beat her in Commonwealth Games," said Poonia, who had career-best performance of 63.69m which she cleared in a competition in California in April.

Asked if she thinks it right for top athletes to pull out of the Commonwealth Games, citing one reason or the other, Poonia said, "I would not want to comment on whether it's right or wrong to pull out of the Games. But certainly a top-class field is always welcome though I am not saying it is no longer top-class now.

"Dani's form has not been that good this season. She threw just 61.34m in the IAAF/VTB Bank Continental Cup in Yugoslavia early this month and may be that could also be one of the reasons behind her decision," she added. If Poonia wins a gold, she will be the first woman Indian athlete to win the yellow metal in the Commonwealth Games and the discus thrower said she was targeting a distance of above 64m.

"I am looking to throw anything above 64m and I think that should be enough to win a gold. I think I can go beyond Seema Antil's 64.84m also. I am in my best shape now."
Poonia's main rivals would be defending champion Elizna Naude of South Africa and former world champion Beatrice Faumuina of New Zealand.

Naude is the season's leader among Commonwealth athletes with a throw of 64.49m ahead of Poonia while Beatrice, the 1997 World Championship gold medallist and 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games winner, is third with season's best of 61.11m.

"My main rivals are from South Africa and New Zealand. One is the defending champion while the other is former world champion. In discus throw the competition is very tough. The winner will be decided by a few centimeters," Poonia said.

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