Valerie Adams ahead of the 2014 IAAF Diamond League meeting in Birmingham (© Jean-Pierre Durand)
With two Olympic, four world, three world indoor and, now, three Commonwealth Games titles to her name, you could easily assume Valerie Adams would take victory at the Sainsbury’s Birmingham Grand Prix for granted on Sunday (24).
After all, it would be her 55th consecutive win; a streak of victories going back more than four years – which also includes five victories in the IAAF Diamond League this season for an unassailable 16-point lead in the Diamond Race – but Adams is doing nothing of the sort.
After having knee and ankle surgery last autumn, and a nagging shoulder problem throughout 2014, the 29-year-old New Zealander today described this as her toughest year yet.
“This year has been very challenging for me mentally and physically and in all sorts of ways because of the injuries I’ve had,” she said.
“Four years unbeaten is a very long time. It takes a lot out of your body and you have to be very strong to do this, to go out every competition and put yourself on the line with winning the only thing that’s acceptable.
“And this year has been much closer. I mean, the girls have been closer to me. It’s been tough.”
Those ‘girls’, including Germany’s new European champion Christina Schwanitz, and USA’s Michelle Carter, will be trying to break the New Zealander's stranglehold over the event once again at the Alexander Stadium.
After recent defeats for Sandra Perkovic and Renaud Lavillenie, two of the sport’s other famed win-streakers, such an outcome is not out of the question, although Adams remains motivated to keep her run going.
“For as long as I can dominate the event I am going to continue to do so because that’s what I spend all this time busting a gut for,” she said.
“It was a big deal to me to pass 50 in a row in New York. I was fourth after four rounds there, so I had to pull that out against the odds.
“It’s been wide open at times this year. There have been opportunities for the others, but no one has taken it.
“So for now I’m going to do all I can to stay unbeaten to the end of the season. It’s going to be tough, but I’m going to do my best to do that.”
Not that Adams is targeting Ed Moses’s record of 122 straight wins. Not yet, anyway. “More than 100? No, he can relax,” she said.
“I know it’s going to come to an end one day. Hopefully not this year, touch wood, but when it does I’ll know that I’ve done everything I can to be my best.
“I’m now the hunted, whereas I used to be the hunter, so someday some young thrower will come along and beat me.”
It’s just unlikely to happen in Birmingham tomorrow.
Kirani James is another athlete ready to pick up his IAAF Diamond League campaign after adding a Commonwealth title to world and Olympic crowns when he raced in Glasgow three weeks ago.
James has dipped below 44 seconds in his past two IAAF Diamond League outings and lowered his Central American and Caribbean record to 43.74 in Lausanne on 3 July, though the young Grenadan star shrewdly shrugs off the inevitable questions about his chances of breaking Michael Johnson’s 15-year-old world record.
“I think I have a 10-year window to think about that,” said James, who turns 22 on 1 September.
“I’m not even 22 yet so I still have a lot to learn and a lot of time to work with, so that’s not something I’m thinking about in the short term. For now, I’m just working on being consistent.”
Currently third in the Diamond Race, James revealed that tomorrow’s race will be his last of the season, one in which he expects to be pushed by Botswana’s Isaac Makwala, an IAAF Diamond League winner in Monaco, plus Great Britain’s 2014 European gold and silver medallists, Martyn Rooney and Matthew Hudson-Smith.
He will then return to the University of Alabama, where he is a part-time business studies student.
So there will be no repeat, this year at least, of his epic encounter with USA’s LaShawn Merritt in Eugene when both ran under 44 seconds, although he is already relishing the prospect of meeting the world champion again in 2015.
“Having the rivalry with LaShawn is great for me and for the sport,” said James. “For the sport to go forward we need to see match-ups and rivalries like that.
“LaShawn going sub-44 too generates a lot of interest in the sport. It was the first time we had two guys under 44 together (for a long time) which is great for the event.”
Another sub-44 performance tomorrow would be a fine way for James to end the season.
Matthew Brown for the IAAF