Gifford: Winner Valerie Adams miracle worker

PHIL GIFFORD
Last updated 06:16 01/08/2014
Valerie Adams
ROBERT KITCHIN/Fairfax NZ
WONDER WOMAN: Kiwi shot put queen Valerie Adams is so dominant in her sport a gold medal in Glasgow was a mere formality.

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OPINION: Valerie Adams has slept for three hours, rising before 6am to face television interviewers.

She's tired and her back's aching, but in the small bar at the Radisson hotel in Glasgow that acts as the ANZ New Zealand supporters' club she signs autographs, poses for photographs, and, asked to speak to the packed room, assures the fans she will always be thrilled to represent "the country I love."

The night before she's won New Zealand's 600th and her own third Commonwealth Games gold medal at a freezing Hamden Park. (So cold that for the first time ever she wore a thermal while competing, so cold that in the stand you felt the chill through a shirt, a woollen jersey and a wind proof jacket).

Her medal ceremony is the last act of the night, but what could have been an anticlimax is saved by generous spirited Scottish officials who allow Kiwis to move into the VIP section of the stand.

With former Olympic rower, now chairman of the New Zealand Olympic and Commonwealth Games Association, Mike Stanley, presenting the medal, and the crowd so close Adams can pick out and recognise individual faces, there are warm, if slightly surreal echoes of the 2012 ceremony for her at the Cloud in Auckland, when, for the first time ever, an Olympic medal was presented in New Zealand.

The day after the win in Glasgow her coach, Jean Pierre Egger, says that technically Adams has been very good. But on the night, for reasons neither can quite explain, her energy levels are not quite as good as usual.

"Where Valerie competes (Egger lifts one of his huge hands up and with finger and thumb indicates a tiny band at a raised level) there is very, very little between a good throw and a very good throw.  Sometimes every single thing is not 100%. But it is true that if you are one of the other throwers, you will be very pleased to have a distance she throws."

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Tomorrow she returns to her training base in Switzerland. "Back to work," as she says. In three weeks she competes in her last Diamond league event of the season in Birmingham. And then she returns to New Zealand to get her troublesome left shoulder sorted.

She carries the weight of being her sport's golden girl so well, it's easy to not realise how much effort and work it takes to stay ahead of the best the rest of the world can offer.

Coach Egger is a vibrant, charismatic, lively man. But he's not given to bouts of melodrama. How much drive Adams has to keep succeeding is summed up when he struggles to find the right word in English.

That his charge kept throwing so well this northern summer despite her painful shoulder injury is a "mur..ah.. what would you say..yes.. a miracle. But that's Valerie."

                                                            ***

Weirdly, Usain Bolt, who seems to be a pretty grounded, mature sort of man, brings out something like Bieber fever in many sections of the media.

He's literally been the poster boy for the Games in Glasgow, his image beaming from walls all over the city.

The pin-up status was cemented by the press conference when he arrived, where levels of sucking up were so intense there was probably no need to vacuum the room for the rest of the week.

But the pre-pubescent style swooning has taken a nasty turn.

Bolt may or may not have suggested the Games are "shit".

The Times newspaper swears he did, although interestingly no by-line appeared on their story.

Bolt, naturally, turned to Twitter, and snapped: "Journalist please don't make up lies." (I know it's not grammatical, but hey, what do expect from a tweet?).

The media woman for the Jamaica team says Usain is so sweet he would never use the "s" word.

Like giggly kids at an intermediate school, sides have been taken. The head of the Games Association, Michael Hooper, says "We take Mr Bolt at his word (that he did not make the statement)." On the other hand the coach of Scotland's women's hockey team says Bolt has been "hugely disrespectful."

This weekend Bolt runs in the Jamaican 4 x 100 metres relay team. In the pop world they say Justin still has his Bei-lievers. We'll soon find out whether Scotland still has a crush on Bolt.

- Stuff

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