Valerie Adams could not hold back the tears as she reflected on the end of her era as Olympic shot put champion. As she struggled to get the words out, she spoke of her disappointment at letting down the people of New Zealand.
Adams had to be consoled throughout an emotional chat with the media after being well beaten into the silver medal position by Belarus star Nadzeya Ostapchuk in the Olympic final this morning (NZ time).
The defeated ended a run of 24 straight victories by the New Zealander stretching back over two years. She has won three world championships, two Commonwealth golds and the Olympic crown from 2008, but could not sustain her excellence in her third Games performance.
Adams had started the final promising enough, sending her first attempt out to 20.61m, to take an early lead in the competition. Ostapchuk's first put of 20.01m barely hinted at what was to come.
From there it was all the power-packed Belarusian as she nailed four straight throws over 21 metres – 21.31, her winning effort of 21.36, 21.15 and 21.32 – to take the firmest of grips on this competition.
That left Adams needing a personal best to reclaim her gold, and it was a feat even beyond her formidable grasp as she rather unravelled as the competition played out.
Adams fouled on her second attempt, nailed 20.70 on her third – better than her winning effort in Beijing – but then red-flagged on her fourth and fifth puts as neither came out of the hand with her usual fluency.
That left Adams needing something special with her final throw, but the rabbit was nowhere in her hat as she could manage just 20.24m, burying her head in her hands as it became clear this was not to be her day.
"It just didn't feel right today unfortunately. It just didn't come together," said Adams, who had to gather herself before coming to speak to New Zealand's media posse.
"I put my heart out there trying but unfortunately I walked away with a silver. It was Ostapchuk's day – that's life, it's sport."
Adams said she was bitterly disappointed with herself, but she never found the spark she needed to compete with the Belarusian who has made a massive improvement just in time for the Games.
"It wasn't a Val's competition," she added. "My aggressiveness just wasn't there like it used to be. I left my heart out there trying to find the aggressiveness in me and it just didn't come together."
The 120kg Kiwi, however, did express her anger over the administrative foulup that had seen New Zealand team officials fail to enter her for the event. All was resolved with some hasty last-minute calls, but it may have contributed to Adams being below her best on the day.
"It caused a little bit of stress - that's the sort of shit you don't need to deal with," she said. "But my manager will deal with it."
Adams added she had been "humbled" by the support she has received from her fellow New Zealanders, but had to wipe away tears when she spoke of feeling like she had let them down.
"I'm just very disappointed in myself. I just really wanted to give them more, and give it more. I trained really hard, I've been in Switzerland for such a long time. I tried. I can't say I didn't try.
"We won a silver medal and we have to be happy with that."
But Adams' face told a vastly different story indeed.
Russian Evgeniia Kolodko took the bronze with a best throw of 20.48.
- Fairfax Media