Tokyo: Discus thrower Kamalpreet Kaur produced one of the best performances by an Indian in the Olympics, though in a qualifying round, as she made it to the finals of the Tokyo Games after finishing second here on Saturday.
The 25-year-old Kaur, competing in qualification B, sent the discus to a distance of 64m in her third and final attempt to be one of the only two automatic qualifiers for the final round, the other being American Valarie Allman (66.42m).
The final will be held on Monday.
The Indian ended ahead of defending gold-medallist Sandra Perkovic (63.75m) of Croatia and reigning world champion Yaime Perez (63.18) of Cuba. Perkovic qualified at third and Perez at seventh.
But veteran Seema Punia made an exit after finishing sixth in qualification A and 16th overall with a below-par best throw of 60.57m.
National record holder long jumper M Sreeshankar, who was on verge of missing the Olympics due to dip in form, failed miserably as he finished 13th in qualification B and 25th overall out of 29 competitors with a below-par best effort of 7.69m.
Those who touched 8.15m or at least 12 best performers from the two qualification rounds made it to the final.
The 22-year-old Kerala athlete, who had jumped 8.26m in March, was cleared at the last minute by Athletics Federation of India (AFI) for the Olympics after he came up with a best effort of 7.48m during a "fitness trial" just days before departure for Tokyo.
Sreeshankar's performance may raise hackles of the AFI which had warned that it will take action against athletes who do not perform well in the Olympics.
In discus throw, Kaur began with a 60.29m effort and then improved it to 63.97m before her third throw of 64m. Every competitor gets three throws.
Those who touch 64m or at least 12 best performers in the two qualifying rounds advance to the final.
"Olympics is a big occasion. I was feeling nervous before the throw. But after the first throw I felt better. By the third throw I was confident and that is why I touched 64m mark," Kaur told PTI after the qualification round.
"I think I will be confident during the final. I feel I can better my personal best (of 66.59m) and win a medal for the country. That is my sole target now."
The Punjab athlete has been in impressive form this year as she breached the 65m mark twice recently.
She threw 65.06m during the Federation Cup in March to break the national record and become the first Indian to breach the 65m mark.
Then in June, she bettered her own national record with a throw of 66.59m during the Indian Grand Prix-4 to sit at world number six.
"She (Kaur) does 67-68m during training. Today during the qualification she was a bit slow while making the turn. With a faster turn she can gain momentum and increase the distance and win a medal in the final," her coach Rakhi Tyagi said.
Tyagi could not accompany Kaur to Tokyo as her name was not in the long list submitted to the Olympics organisers months ago. The AFI tried hard to get her accreditation but was not successful.
Season leader Jorinde van Klinken of Netherlands failed to make the final round cut with a modest throw of 61.15m.
She has a season's best of 70.22m while Allman is second best this year at 70.01m.
Punia, who had booked a last minute Olympics berth, was way below her season and personal best marks.
She fouled her first throw and had 60.57m and 58.93m in her next two attempts to make an exit from what would be her last Olympics.
The 38-year-old Haryana athlete had made it to the Olympics on the day of qualification deadline with a throw of 63.72m during the National Inter-State Championships in Patiala on June 29.
She has a personal best of 64.84m, a performance she produced way back in 2004.
She returned to action only this season after appearing for the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta where she won a bronze.
Punia has been training outside the national camp, mostly in Russia and neighbouring countries. She had come to Tokyo with her personal coach Alexander Sinitsyn who was with her in Jakarta.
It was the veteran discus thrower's fourth Olympics. She has never qualified for the final round.
She made her Olympic debut in 2004 in Athens where she had a best throw of 60.64m. In 2012 and 2016 Olympics, she had disappointing performances of 61.91m and 57.58m.
Punia has won laurels for the country in the Commonwealth and Asian Games.