Bunch, Lewis-Smallwood showing talents at Worlds

WCIA -- We're still three years away from the next summer Olympics, but every year the best track and field athletes compete at the World Championship. This year, two central Illinois natives are ready to showcase themselves in London.

At 18 years old, Dani Bunch's state title winning throw went  49 feet 10.5 inches. Today, Bunch's throws have a hard time staying inside the pit.

"People are kind of shocked. I have people coming up to me and asking me, 'Were you actually supposed to throw that far or was it kind of a fluke?' 'I am like, 'No, I have been training for this," Bunch said.

The Mahomet-native set a personal record at the USA Track and Field Championships in June. Her throw of 64' 5.5" earned Bunch a second place finish and a spot on the USA National team. She has the second best throw in the world in 2017.

"It is sinking in. I got my gear, I got my luggage for the trip because we are going to go over two weeks early. We got our flights booked. So, everything is kind of like happening," she explained.

Bunch's journey to Worlds wasn't easy. She got hurt before the Olympic Trials, missing her shot at Rio and dream to be an Olympian. The former Purdue shot putter turned her attention to an often unforgiving career. 

"It has been very difficult because this is a hard profession," she added. "There is no income really in this. It is all based on how you perform. But with my performance this year I am finally able to worry less about living and being stable, and focus on my actual career." 

A career with a bright future at just 26 years old. 

"Now that I have had the season that I have had this year, it is even more confirmation that I should be continuing this, obviously until the next Olympics and then possibly after," Bunch said. 

Continuing on toward her ultimate goal of throwing at Tokyo in 2020.

Champiagn native Gia Lewis-Smallwood is also in London, throwing the discus. She has the best thrown in the United States in 2017. Lewis-Smallwood missed the 2016 Rio Olympics so the Worlds are even more important for her.
 
"The World Championships on a non-Olympic year is basically our Olympics for that year, it's the biggest meet of the year," Lewis-Smallwood said. "So to be able to go, give my best performance, do the best I can against literally the best track and field athletes in the world is pretty special so I'm getting ready to do my very best work and hopefully be victorious."
 
She throws on Friday August 11th.
 

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