Valerie Adams at the 2013 New Zealand Championships (© Getty Images)
Valerie Adams tweeted a picture this week of the gap – or rather the lack of a gap – between her knees and the back of the seat in front on her flight from Moscow to Stockholm. It was surely the only time New Zealand’s mighty shot putter has been uncomfortable during a fortnight in which she has become the first woman to win four successive titles at the IAAF World Championships in Russia before following up with victory in Stockholm’s 1912 Olympic stadium by more than a metre from her nearest competitor.
“I’m 6ft 4in, so I don’t usually fit into many economy flights,” she said. “But it was only two-and-a-half hours, so it wasn’t so bad.” Now Adams is not a character who is ever afraid to tell it straight – but she is also philosophical enough, at the age of 28, to try to find the upside in any situation.
She exhibited the same stoical tendency when asked whether she felt that, as a uniquely successful shot putter, rather than, say, a uniquely successful sprinter such as, say Usain Bolt, she got less than her fair share of attention.
“It is what it is,” she responded. “You just deal with it. At the end of the day you are out there competing to your best, although it can make a big difference if you have a crowd cheering you.”
Unbeaten streak continues in Stockholm
Adams, who threw 20.88m in Moscow, 36cm shorter than the personal best she achieved in winning the previous World title, looks almost impossible to beat at the moment and she secured her 40th consecutive competition victory in Sweden with a third-round throw of 20.30m.
That extended her Diamond Race lead to 16-12 over the woman who finished second in Moscow and here – Christina Schwanitz of Germany – who threw 19.26m. Adams, seeking to better the stadium record of 20.57m she set in 2011, produced an effort which looked at least in that vicinity but it was one of three fouls with which she concluded the contest. Nevertheless, she is pretty content with her season so far.
“Winning gold in Moscow was the foremost goal for me, and I was happy to throw 20.88m,” she said. “I went into Moscow unbeaten in 38 competitions so there was so much pressure on me. So I enjoyed the moment on the podium that I didn’t have in London.
“There was a lot of emotion when I stood up there. Even though the stadium was nearly empty, it was great to stand there with the anthem playing and the flag flying, knowing how hard I had worked and to put my little old country of New Zealand up there among the huge countries, because we are a country of only four million people. So to be able to be competitive with the rest of the world is a pretty big deal for us.”
Moscow victory a birthday gift for coach
Adams added that she felt a “real sense of history” while competing at the Olympic Stadium in Moscow, because that was where her coach, Jean-Pierre Egger, had competed during the 1980 Games at the age of 37.
“He is 70 now, and this year my gold medal in Moscow was pretty much his birthday present,” Adams said. “We have an arrangement that is working really well for both of us now – he comes over to see me in New Zealand from January until February/March, and then in March I go with him to Switzerland and stay until the main European season is over. It is a long commitment but it works. We are going to do whatever we can to get to the 2016 Rio Olympics.”
21 metres the goal before season ends
In the meantime, Adams is looking ahead to her two final competitions of the season – the IAAF Diamond League final in Zurich, and the ISTAF Berlin meeting.
“I will be trying to surpass 21 metres,” she said. “I’m in shape to do it. And now that I am a bit more relaxed maybe I will be able to do it. Little things make a big difference out in the field. You train for perfection – but sometimes it’s hard to come across.”
Adams is not the only member of her family to be making waves in world sport. Her 19-year-old brother Steven, youngest of 18 siblings, has just been picked for NBA side Oklahoma City Thunder.
“The little thing’s doing really well!” she said, adding with a grin: “But seriously, I’m really proud he’s coming off the Adams tradition.
“He’s done pretty amazing for himself. He’s 7ft. I’m sure he has a bigger problem with planes than me!”
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF