Adams maintains position as most prominent

23:44, Jan 04 2013

Shot put supremo Valerie Adams continued to be New Zealand track and field's standard bearer on the world stage in 2012 with another Olympic Games gold medal and a prestigious international accolade.

The 28-year-old was anointed women's athlete of the year by the influential Track and Field News magazine - the first thrower in 32 years to win the award.

Adams attracted 17 of the 35 votes for No 1 and finished 21 points ahead of Britain's Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis, a darling of the crowd at London 2012.

The 1.93m south Aucklander - the reigning world champion and 2012 Diamond League series winner - towers head and shoulders above her shot put rivals, literally and metaphorically.

It's hard to imagine anyone beating Adams without chemical assistance - as Belarus's Nadzeya Ostapchuk had when she threw further than the Kiwi in the Olympic final.

Adams' Swiss coach Jean-Pierre Egger knew the score when he said, enigmatically, after Ostapchuk received the gold medal: "I would prefer to keep silent on this performance, if you understand me."


It took a drugs test to flush out the truth - Ostapchuk, who had recorded a consistent series of 21m throws in her native Belarus in the lead-up to the Olympics, had been using metenolone, a banned substance.

Adams got the gold medal she first won at Beijing in 2008 but she was understandably embittered at missing the elation of a podium presentation in London where her cheeks were streaked with tears at receiving her silver medal.

She had to settle instead for a ceremony at the Cloud on Auckland's waterfront in September on her return home from her Switzerland training base.

Fitter, leaner and hungrier under Egger's tutelage, Adams threw further (20.70m) in London than she did in Beijing (20.56m) - quite a feat considering she was still recovering from discovering the New Zealand Olympic Committee and an Athletic New Zealand official had left her name off the official entry list.

In her 2012 autobiography, Valerie, Adams roasted NZOC chef de mission Dave Currie for hanging track and field manager Raylene Bates ouyt to dry for making the mistake. She claimed Currie had reneged on a deal not to name Bates at a press conference. Adams insisted she and Bates, "who does so much for the sport", were still friends.

While Adams is the world's shot put supremo, Jacko Gill remains a star in the making in the same discipline.

The Aucklander, who turned 18 late last month, won his second junior world championships title in Barcelona in July with a champion record throw of 22.02m.

Gill had earlier decided to withdraw from consideration for the London Olympics to focus on the junior event after he was not automatically selected under Athletics New Zealand's criteria.

He said he could not "focus my training with even the smallest doubt of selection", especially given the different weight shots used for the junior (6kg) and Olympic (7.26kg) events.

Gill copped some criticism in the media for his decision but it may prove a prescient one.

He will still be only 21 but with four more years' weight training under his belt, at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

If Adams' belated gold medal in London was the highlight of the Kiwi track and field year, Beijing silver medallist Nick Willis' 1500m failure was the greatest disappointment.

Willis, bidding to be New Zealand's first repeat Olympic track medallist since Peter Snell in 1960 and 1964, finished third in the faster of the two semifinals but faded to ninth in the medal race.

New Zealand's former Olympic champion John Walker said in a TV3 interview that Willis should have won the race or at least finished in the top three but was "beaten by bunnies . . . guys that are not even in his league".

Willis said he was "sorry for letting New Zealand down" and felt the hot pace of his semifinal might have taken its toll.

The 29-year-old vowed he would be back for the 1500m - a young man's event - in Rio and would resist a switch to the 5000m.

Papakura's Kimberley Smith finished 15th in the women's marathon in London but in October won US$100,000 (NZ$120,000) as the top performer in a three-race (5km, 10km, half marathon) conducted in 2012 by the Boston Athletics Association. Smith's hopes of winning the New York Marathon in November were dashed when it was cancelled after a violent storm.

Javelin thrower Stuart Farquhar qualified for his first Olympic final at his third attempt but finished ninth despite having the second-best throw - a personal best of 86.13m - in the world in the lead-up to London. Decathlete Brent Newdick, like Farquhar a Commonwealth Games silver medallist, was a creditable 12th in his Olympic final.

Former Whanganui 1500m runner Lucy van Dalen - the bolter in the Kiwi Olympic track team after several years on the United States college circuit - was 11th in the semifinal at London.

But she, her sister Holly and Commonwealth Games double medallist Nikki Hamblin, who missed London through injury, provide future promise in the women's middle-distance ranks.

The curtain fell on the career of Beijing Olympian Rebecca Wardell.

Her brave bid to qualify for London after leg surgery following a dramatic injury at the 2010 Commonwealth Games ended when she blew out her hamstring at a meeting in Europe.

Fairfax Media