OPINION: A drugs cheat robbed Valerie Adams of that incandescent moment when she should have stood atop the medallists' podium, her national anthem playing, her country's flag ascendant, a two-time Olympic champion for all the world to see.
The moment is lost and it cannot be recreated.
It can, however, be replaced in some significant, resonant way. So it now falls to New Zealand to find its own way to honour her as the true champion she is.
The great field athlete was a picture of hurt and mortified dignity accepting a London silver that was laden with disappointment given how emphatically and reliably she had been beating her rival Nadzeya Ostapchuk in the years beforehand.
The watching world was presented with the illusion - in fact the lie - that Adams was an outperformed silver medallist.
We cannot redirect the world's focus back to any corrective ceremony, at least not on the scale with which the lie issued. But there's no inherent inadequacy in that.
Adams remains, unassailably, a patriot. It will reach deeply into her when the day comes that she stands at home, embraced by her country, to receive that rightful gold.
That day may be a long time coming. New Zealand chef de mission Dave Currie has warned. When Nick Willis' Beijing bronze was upgraded to silver in similar circumstances, it took more than a year for the medal to be wrested from the cheat and provided to him.
For her part, Ostapchuk has, in Currie's memorable words, "gone back to the wilds of Belarus" from which she is making defiant and aggrieved noises.
As befits a shot-put cheat, her lies land with a dull, disregarded thud.
You must be a complete idiot, she says, to take doping just before the competition. Granted. Or someone who has been outperformed time and time and time again and sees no alternative.
Ostapchuk's declaration she had tested clean three times before the Olympics is at very best trivially true. She's recorded the clean tests in Belarus, her home and the home of the notorious drug cheat Ivan Tsikhan. By contrast, the tests she bombed were conducted with Olympian impartiality.
Adams has been on a ridiculous rollercoaster ride. After the galling distractions of having her entry forms mishandled, and the distress of failing to claim gold, she kept her suspicions - they may even have been certainties - about her opponent from the public, perhaps in the belief that in the cat-and-mouse game between cheats and testers, this was one case where the cheat had evaded detection.
And then, almost cinematically, she learned of her restoration to champion status while driving alone on a Swiss road, with nobody to share the moment with.
In terms of experience, you'd wish better for her than that. In terms of drama, however, this is surely a case where her true status is all the more vividly to be remembered.
Had she simply detonated a winning throw, on cue, as widely expected, then she would still have been feted the length and breadth of the country. But not with this amount of empathy behind the admiration. Having been so outrageously assailed, still to emerge victorious, is a story long to be remembered and retold.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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