Athletics: Adams set for mantle of sporting greatness

Valerie Adams. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Valerie Adams. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
If Valerie Adams wins her third Olympic shot put gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, she will become one of the greats of New Zealand sport, and not just of athletics.

Only three New Zealanders - Peter Snell, Ian Ferguson and Paul MacDonald - have won three Olympic gold medals, but none has done it in the same event.

Adams (28) has the chance to become the first to do it in the same event at three separate Olympic Games.

But thoughts of another Olympic campaign were not at the front of Adams' mind when she was in Dunedin yesterday to promote her book, Valerie, written with Phil Gifford.

The Rio de Janeiro Olympics is the long-term goal for Adams but there are other targets to achieve before then. There are two more world championships and the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014.

"It is another four years before Rio and that is the long-term target," she told the Otago Daily Times.

"It is a goal of mine. It is just a matter of making sure the body is still in one piece and I'm still mentally into it. Right now it is what I want to do but I will just take each year as it comes.

"But first and foremost on my mind are the world championships in Moscow next year."

The greatest woman shot putter in the history of the Olympics is Tamara Press (Soviet Union), who won gold medals at the 1956, 1960 and 1964 Olympic Games.

Adams wants to win in Rio but not because of the record achieved by Press.

"She is not someone I look up to," Adams said.

Press competed in the days when drug taking was commonplace, especially by athletes from the Communist bloc.

The world women's shot put record has been held by Natalya Lisovskaya (Soviet Union) since 1987, at 22.63m. She won the Olympic title in 1988 and the world title in 1987 and 1991.

She is also suspected of being a drug cheat. Her world record is 1.39m more than Adams' best of 21.24m.

Adams knows how difficult it will be to beat the world record in the modern era where there is strict drug testing.

"It is not my goal to beat that distance," Adams said. "My goal is to better myself as an athlete."

Adams has a strong opinion about drug cheats and believes they should be banned for life.

"We put in a lot of hard work and train day in and day out. We do it cleanly. When someone drug cheats, they should be banned for life. That's my take on it."

Adams felt the sting of drug cheats at the London Olympics.

Nadzeya Ostapchuk (Belarus) won the gold medal on the day but was later disqualified when she tested positive.

In the book, coach Jean-Pierre Egger explains how he told Adams what would happen at the Olympics.

"You will see that she will not start in Europe, she will not go outside her frontiers, to avoid doping control. She will come to the Games charged with drugs."

Adams was relieved when Ostapchuk tested positive and was stripped of her gold medal.

"She took a substance that enhanced her performance. It was unfortunate that she wasn't caught beforehand.

I'm glad that justice has been served."

Adams leaves for Switzerland in three weeks to train with her coach. She spends nine months of the year there.

"It is hard. That is the biggest heartache for me when I am away, being away from New Zealand, leaving my family here," Adams said.

"But it is part of my life's journey and what I have to do and what I choose to do."

The Olympic champion was pleased by the support she has had from fellow New Zealanders after the Olympics.

It was an emotional time for Adams when she stood on the podium and received the silver medal at London.

"I felt disappointed," she said.

"I felt I'd let everybody down.

"It was great to know there was so much support and so much love from the public. It's been overwhelming for me."

Adams grew up in South Auckland and has been an inspiration to people in the region since becoming Olympic champion.

"I've been very busy and haven't had time to go back this time. If I get time to go back I like to spend time with my family. That is so important to me.

"But there is so much talent to be harvested in South Auckland. It is just a matter of getting the right people and the right resources in place."

Adams has enjoyed the experience of travelling around the country promoting her book.

"I've been to places I've never been before such as Mosgiel, Balclutha, and Gore. It's been very educational. My geography is getting better."


Valerie Adams
At a glance

• Age: 28.
• Home: Auckland.
• Event: Shot put (personal best 21.24m).
• Coach: Jean-Pierre Egger.

• Olympic Games, gold medal 2008, 2012.
• World championships, gold medal 2007, 2009, 2011; bronze medal 2005.
• Commonwealth Games: Gold medal 2006, 2010; silver medal 2002.
• World record: Natalya Lisovskaya (Soviet Union) 22.63m (1987).

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