Sports minister joins in the 'Val-Gate' fray

SIMON PLUMB IN LONDON
Last updated 05:00 12/08/2012
Valerie Adams
IAIN McGREGOR/Fairfax NZ
NO CONSOLATION: The NZOC has pledged to review its handling of the administrative errors that affected Valerie Adams' Olympic shot put title defence, which resulted in a silver medal.

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Minister for Sport Murray McCully has intervened in "Val-Gate" and will host a Beehive meeting this week to try to get to the bottom of the London Games blunders that impacted on Val Adams' gold medal campaign.

McCully will host a meeting involving Adams' manager Nick Cowan and representatives of the New Zealand Olympic Committee, and possibly also Athletics New Zealand, to discuss what went wrong and how to improve processes and relationships between elite athletes and administrators.

The sports minister called into "Kiwi House", to console a crestfallen Adams the day after she failed in her bid to defend her Olympic shot put title.

Adams took the silver medal behind arch rival Nadzeya Ostapchuk of Belarus in a one-sided final where she failed to fire except for one strong put.

Not long before meeting McCully, Adams gave an emotional interview to Fairfax Media where she revealed that mistakes around registering her for the start of her event led to further complications on competition day.

She had not been able to get into certain parts of the stadium, and there had been delays around supplying her naming competition bib.

The same day McCully visited Kiwi House, the NZOC held a press conference where long-serving chef de mission Dave Currie, in the role for the last time, named Athletics NZ official Raylene Bates as the administrator who had erred by not correctly completing paperwork related to Adams' starting confirmation.

Adams was seen hugging a contrite Bates after the shot put final and it has become apparent she bears the Dunedin-based official no malice but believes the NZOC should have had better procedures in place to find the error earlier. It's also believed the paperwork error is not the only interaction with the NZOC that caused Adams concern.

The reigning world champion is thought to be frustrated at her dealings with the NZOC in both the lead-up to and during the Games themselves. McCully is likely to be provided further details of that.

He has also intervened before on Adams' behalf. When Adams was having difficulty with Athletics NZ around her desire to operate her programme independently of its coaches, McCully got involved and cleared the way for her. Adams repaid him with strong international results.

A similar McCully intervention in a row involving former world champion canoe sprinter Ben Fouhy and his national sports organisation didn't end as successfully for the sports minister.

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But that has not lessened his resolve to act in the interests of an elite athlete if he believes they are being handicapped by their national sports organisation.

McCully now has the difficult task of determining whether the New Zealand Olympic Committee has let down Adams, to what degree, and what should be done about it.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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