Laulauga Tausaga Q&A: National title, Iowa and what the future has in store

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Iowa junior Laulauga Tausaga, better known as Lagi, has had a schedule packed with interviews following her national championship in the discus event that came last weekend in Austin, Texas.

Tausaga became Iowa’s first ever champion in a throwing event and sat down for an interview to talk about how she got to Iowa and what the future has in store for her.

Mike OBrien: National Champion, Laugy Tausaga has that title hit you fully yet?

Laulauga Tausaga: Kind of but then in a sense no. During the competition, it was like I did something and then after it was like, I’m just a regular person at the end of the day.

MO: Just a regular person, national title, that’s all it felt like afterwards?

LT: No, there was a bunch of excitement. It’s just that for some reason I was believing that I was going to feel completely different, I don’t know if I was thinking I’d turn into a power ranger or something but I was feeling like I was going to come out the other end feeling completely different. I felt excitement but I still felt like Laugy so I was like okay, it’s an amazing honor, I was like and this is cool but I still feel like me.

MO: Well your postgame comment was, or your press conference comment was one of the best I think I’ve ever heard. So I think everybody is wondering what flavor of ice cream does a national champion go for afterwards.

LT: Oh there’s so many, especially from Coldstone, great place.

MO: So you mix two then right? Or do you just go for the one flavor there?

LT: I have to rotate them so it’s between cotton candy, marshmallow and then the best vanilla, just French vanilla it’s perfect. It doesn’t need anything added to it.

MO: No toppings at all?

LT: Yep.

MO: They got all those at Coldstone, they have the whole buffet and nothing?

LT: Nope, I just tell them two scoops nothing else.

MO: Explain to me what the entire week and weekend experience was like for you.

LT: So you know we landed in Austin and that whole week I was completely nervous and I was struggling the week before getting there because I had taken quite a fall when it came to shot {put} and not qualifying for Austin. And so coach told me, sat me down and was like you know what he was like we may have not done all that we wanted to do but we have a legit chance of getting a title. And so I bought into what he said and was like fine like I’m going to make sure that this is going to be amazing, like this is going to be the best week of practice I can possibly have so every day I went out. I had amazing practices, things were like lifting up all together and I was like this is it. The Friday leading into the competition I had one last practice and it completely was the worst practice of the week and I cried, because I was like what are we going to do? And coach was like your fine you know you had a couple big throws in that mix, he was like it just took us a little bit longer to get going and then Saturday comes and I’m off the walls. I’m like okay you need to breathe you need to be calm like because I know I have a chance but I don’t know like everyone else has had amazing practices I’ve seen these girls throughout the week I was like it’s anybody’s ballpark. And so I guess it was just more of a wait and see what was going to happen type of week where it’s like your putting everything out there but you’re not trying to hype yourself up way too much, so I was just very happy that I got to come out on top.

MO: What’s the experience like just in the national, you’ve been in so many big meets whether it be Big10 or Drake Relays. You’ve been there before the past couple years but I just got to imagine it’s an entirely different environment at a neutral site like that with an enormous crowd at a national championship event. What’s the atmosphere like there as an athlete different to say throughout the rest of the season?

LT: The energy is completely charged, so everybody is watching you, and so your nervous about that and then you’re at a big meet which means these are girls that are completely amazing you know they’ve got the marks, they’ve got the consistency and so you’re not just going against people who like you know you have the opportunity to beat. No, you have to put a gamble out, you have to say maybe I can and maybe it’ll happen or maybe it wont and so when you have that thing like going on in your mind like it just adds such a nervous energy to you and the way that you use that energy determines how you throw. You have either let it break you down or you can hone in on it and use it to help you throw further.

MO: 7th place as a freshman, 4th as a sophomore and then this year obviously coming out on top. What was different for you mentally going into that one?

LT: I think one of the things was we didn’t have rain, so Eugene {Oregon} is an amazing place but the rain and the hail, I’m the type of thrower where when that starts to happen that I start to mentally start to get broken down a little bit so I didn’t have that. And another thing was I was just having such an amazing year coming out of indoor, I had a couple throws over 60 {meters}, had some over 61 so I was like you know what, you have the opportunity to come in and actually you know throw that here at this place and it actually happened and I got to PR and it’s really hard for me to PR right after a meet where I’ve already done that so it just showed my maturity in the event.

MO: To do that on your second throw, I think I’ve seen a couple quotes from whatever articles, but when it left your hand did you know that was the one?

LT: I did, me and my coach we had been talking about certain things that you know I needed to execute within throws to be able to throw that far and as soon as it left my hand I was like I did something right. Like I felt exactly what he told me to do. I didn’t catch all of it but I knew I caught something, and so as soon as it left my hand, I was like that’s it, that’s the one, were doing it and I didn’t even check what it was cause my eyesight is bad and the board was completely far away, but I was screaming, I was like yeah! And then coach saw it and I was like okay so like I’m not over here making a fool out of myself, I just, it’s just a feel thing like when you’re coming off the back of the ring and you’re getting ready to let it fly like there’s something that sometimes clicks and says this is the one and that was one for that moment.

MO: So that was the one but you said you didn’t even get it all? You still had something left in there, I don’t know how that’s possible, yet you still won a national title but you still had some left? How does that work?

LT: So sometimes you know you can feel when you’ve kind of especially with balance, it’s a big thing for me as a thrower and I just felt like I was kind of off-balance or that I didn’t execute the way that I wanted my legs to go. But like, it was on the right track to do that but I didn’t get all of it done and me and coaches looked over the film and he was like there’s so much there and I was like I believe you there’s just so much that I had and I just wish that I was able to kind of build that up throughout the competition because the second throw won, but you know there was about four more rounds where I could’ve done something more and I guess I was just so excited that I wasn’t able to execute what I wanted to do.

MO: I’m sure you’ve been asked this many times before, I don’t know about media members, but how does a woman from Spring Valley, California end up in Iowa?

LT: When I was being recruited by the former coach here Andrew Dubs, he had told me to come on a visit and I was like what’s in Iowa? You know a lot of people when I committed even said like she’s going to Idaho, and I was like sure. So I was like I don’t want to take a visit, I don’t know and he was like just come for a visit. I came and met the team and I met the coaching staff and I realized that like it’s a smaller school and these people have more of a family vibe and that’s what I needed if I was going to be away from home because I was so close to my mom and I was like I don’t know if this homesickness is going to rock me or not and it obviously has. I love Iowa and so for the team, it was a big thing for me for them to welcome me into their arms and be like you know from now on we got your back and it’s gotten better with each person that we’ve added to the team with recruits and like I felt a connection with the people who have left and so there’s that big community of that past and new and present ones that all come together to make you feel like you can have a home away from home.

MO: Three years later, you feel like you made the right choice?

LT: I really do believe I made the right choice. It’s an amazing school, there’s no better fans than Hawkeye fans I really believe that. You know it’s amazing to walk around any part of Iowa, be that Des Moines or if I go home with a friend to a small town and they’re like yeah we read about you and they’re like we appreciate what you’re doing and I’m like thank you so much. Like I feel like a celebrity but at the same time I was like don’t treat me any different like this is amazing thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to like read something about me or about our track team and like just putting in all the support that they have over the years that I‘ve been here or the years past.

MO: That throw was 16th best in the world that’s right? And you’re only a junior, so now entering your senior season what does the future have in store for Iowa’s national champ?

LT: So with every year, I tell myself that it just has to be better. I’m not asking for like dramatic results but I’m asking like of myself like we need to make sure that we keep building because once I feel comfortable like that’s when I’m going to plateau and so I need to keep being on my toes. So the goal for me is to you know obviously extend my personal best in all the events I have done at Iowa, but I want to leave a lasting impression as I leave my next year with people behind me who can take up you know my spot. So I really like to invest in my teammates as well, I learn a lot from them. I tend to pick and choose the things that I like about their technique and kind of add it to mine and it’s amazing because the smallest person or the person that seems like they haven’t contributed anything is actually a big part of my success and I appreciate everything that they have done and the coaches have done to help me get this far.

MO: Dream about the Olympics ever?

LT: You know its next year, feeling pretty confident that I can get to trials you know I want to be able to see if I can compete with the girls on this very big stage, and see what goes from there. It’s definitely in my sights right now but I’m kind of just trying to focus on PAN-AMs and U.S. Championships this year, and it’ll definitely be a precursor to what can happen next year.

MO: But as athletes obviously, before you get there, most visualize it first and you’ve gone to that step already visualizing yourself at that stage

LT: It’s pretty cool, I think about it a lot. I talk about it to my coach about the possibility cause he’s very honest. He’ll tell me is either a yes we can or a no we can’t and that’s the great thing about it is he goes there’s a no we can’t right now but there so much room for us to be able to turn that into a can. And so we have talks as much as possible, sometimes I’ll irritate him in the car ride when he’s tired, I’ll be like hey what do you think of this or he’ll be like what do you think of this? I’m like okay so you know we’ve put a plan in place to say that its very likely that I’ll be able to you know put myself in a position to be on an Olympic team or to even be on this world championship team so I’m kind of glad to see if like things do work out the way that we have them on paper and the way that we’ve spoken about them.