Valerie Adams at the press conference ahead of the 2014 IAAF Diamond League meeting in Lausanne (© Giancarlo Colombo)
Having flown a helicopter into Lausanne, world and Olympic shot put champion Valerie Adams was still on a high when she spoke to the press ahead of Athletissima, the seventh IAAF Diamond League meeting of the 2014 season.
Speaking in fluent French and with the pressure off her shoulders after securing her 50th consecutive victory, Adams – who is based in Switzerland for most of the year – is looking forward to competing in front of her ‘adopted’ home crowd tomorrow.
“I’m very happy to be in Lausanne; being in Switzerland is another motivation,” she said. “My coach, Jean-Pierre Egger, is the old coach of Werner Gunthor. JP is 71 years old, he has a big grin and is very lovable. He looks at me not only as an athlete but as a person. He’s like my dad and I love him. Switzerland is very lucky to have him.
“This year has been a very interesting year. It’s a bit of an off year because there’s no World Champs or Olympics. But our goal has always been to win every competition, and tomorrow’s competition will be no different in that respect.
“I set my season’s best of 20.46m in Wellington at the New Zealand Champs. I’d just come back from surgery and I was in pretty good shape. But since coming to Europe I’ve had a setback with an injury to my left shoulder which I’ve been trying to get under control. As an athlete, these things happen; I just have to be prepared.
“My last three competitions, regardless of the performance and my injury, I’ve still won. There have been opportunities for other athletes to beat me, but they never took the opportunity. It comes down to mental toughness; whoever is the best on day will win. The goal is to win and for now I’m still winning.
“In New York, definitely before the competition started I felt the pressure, but to come out of it with a win shows mental strength. There was a big build-up to it being my 50th win and the stadium announcer wouldn’t shut up about it, which made it very difficult for me mentally. But I threw better with each round and never let my guard down.
“It’s great to know that I’ve been in that position and came through to win. It was also great entertainment for the crowd.
“My job is to continue to be the best. One day it will come to an end. But for now I will push and fight like a crazy Tongan woman until the end.”
High jumpers look to excel in Lausanne
The Pontaise Stadium in Lausanne last year played host to Bohdan Bondarenko’s big breakthrough when he set an IAAF Diamond League record of 2.41m. The world champion returns to the meeting this year, alongside the four other men who have jumped 2.40m this year.
Talk of world records is now relatively muted as both the athletes and fans patiently await the day when Javier Sotomayor’s 1993 mark of 2.45m is beaten. With so many talented jumpers around, the focus now is simply on the competition.
“I love the public and the stadium in Lausanne, it’s a very good track,” said Bondarenko, who improved to equal the European record of 2.42m when winning in New York last month. “I love the strong opposition in Lausanne.
“I don’t know what height I’ll open at. I’ll see how I feel tomorrow,” added Bondarenko when asked about his approach for tomorrow. “Maybe I’m a little lazy. It’s very hard to do a lot of jumps in one competition. How the other guys do it, I don’t know.”
World indoor champion Mutaz Essa Barshim won in Lausanne two years ago and will be keen to gain revenge on Bondarenko after finishing second to him in New York, despite also clearing 2.42m for an Asian record.
“I competed here two years ago and jumped an Asian record of 2.39m,” said Barshim. “I always look forward to competing here and the crowd is great. And they have great chocolate so I like being in Lausanne.
“The competition between us makes you push harder. Like in our first meeting, I jumped 2.37m but wasn’t in the top three. The key is to keep pushing each other. You never know when the world record will be broken. It could be tomorrow or it could never happen.”
After jumping 2.40m in his first competition of the outdoor season, world and Olympic bronze medallist Derek Drouin hopes that he’ll recapture that sort of form in Lausanne.
“I jumped pretty high early in the season. It’s nice to get it out of the way,” he said. “Unfortunately in Rome I had a problem with my back and I was fortunate to be able to jump at all. But I’ve been working on that and my body is feeling better now. Hopefully, I can get back to the heights I jumped in April and May.
“Being the underdog is definitely something I used to my advantage in my first couple of years as a professional. I don’t mind being the underdog and I can certainly live with it.”
Blake wants to surprise the fans
His season is yet to truly get going, but double Olympic silver medallist Yohan Blake is aiming to shock a few people in Lausanne when he lines up for his first IAAF Diamond League 200m race for two years.
“It’s always good to be in Lausanne,” said Blake, who set his 100m best of 9.69 at this meeting in 2012. “It’s a fast track and the conditions are normally good. The people and fans are really good. I just want go out and have some fun.
“I’m feeling really good. I like to surprise the fans. In Nassau I was running really well. I messed up in New York, but the season’s going fine so far and I just want it to continue.
“I like the 100m because it’s short and spicy, but I’m stronger in the 200m. I’m really comfortable in both of them.
“We decided not to run at the Commonwealth Games. My focus is to get back to the number one spot in the world over 100m and 200m and to get back to running fast times in every race.”
James spurred on by great rivalry
The men’s 400m is expected to be one of the most exciting races of the evening as Olympic champion Kirani James takes on world champion LaShawn Merritt.
“It’s always convenient when you have someone like LaShawn in the lane in front of you so that you can gauge what he’s doing,” said James. “But as long as you have a lane, you have a chance. So it really doesn’t matter for me.
“If the meeting record (43.66) happens, then it happens. First and foremost, the main thing is that we go out and put on a good show for the fans.
“My main focus for this year is the Commonwealth Games. It’s an opportunity to represent your country on the international stage and my season has been planned around that.
“I went to Scotland a few years back. I was being interviewed by a local journalist and they mentioned that I should try the local dish called haggis. This time when I go back there, I want to try it.”
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF