Adams: Up close and personal

AN INSPIRATION: Val Adams talked with young athletes in Addington, Christchurch, yesterday.
AN INSPIRATION: Val Adams talked with young athletes in Addington, Christchurch, yesterday.

Canterbury track and field fans turned out in their droves to see double Olympic champion Valerie Adams last night but they may miss seeing her heave the shot this summer.

Adams - who first broke the 20-metre barrier in Christchurch in 2006 - has been a strong supporter of Christchurch's International Track Meet and was the star at the Chariots of Fire-style meet at Christ's College last February.

She remains a keen advocate of the event and appreciates the close proximity of the spectators to the track and throwing arena.

But Adams said last night she was a doubtful starter for the next Christchurch meet.

"I haven't confirmed my programme with my coach [Swiss-based Jean-Pierre Egger] yet. But, possibly not . . . it's pretty early in the season."

Adams was guest of honour at the Westpac Business Hub in Addington last night to promote her book Valerie, written with Fairfax columnist and former Christchurch radio show host Phil Gifford.

But before the main event, she was quizzed by a clutch of young Canterbury sportspeople and her youthful interrogators - who took turns at admiring her latest Olympic gold medal - didn't want to know about some of the meaty material in Adams' biography.

Her split with former coach Kirsten Hellier, her marriage break-up and the drugs scandal which saw her belatedly receive a gold medal from the London Olympics after Belarussian drugs cheat Nadzeya Ostapchuk was stripped of the title were not initially on their minds.

The first question at the Sport Canterbury-organised forum came out of left field: "How much do you bench [press]?"

Adams laughed, saying this was the "first time I've been asked that by a female".

"Bench isn't the only exercise that's going to win you a gold medal," she said before revealing her personal best was 160kg - and 230kg for the squat.

"I've actually arm-wrestled two guys on national radio and the bench press question has come along quite often. It's such a manly thing."

Adams told her audience she took up shot putting at 14 after playing age-group regional basketball for Counties Manukau, volleyball and rugby at school, as a lock. When she was a 13-year-old third former she "concussed a girl from the seventh form" from the opposition team. The pair collided after the ball was kicked to Adams. "We both fell down, I got up and kept running and she got stretchered off . . . that was my claim to fame in rugby."

She chose shot put because she was good at it and she "liked the individuality of it" and the responsibility that came with it. There was no-one else to blame if she trained or performed poorly.

"I like my 'alone time' and that does help because it is quite a lonely sport . . . I have a lot of time on my own in Switzerland, apart from when I'm training . . ."

Adams, 28, told the group of her progression from 10th place at the world junior championships in 1999 to winning the title two years later and getting a bronze medal at the senior world championships at 19.

Her proudest moments were winning her first Olympic Games gold medal at Beijing in 2008 and coming back to win the world championships "and breaking a record that had stood since 1987" in 2011.

In typically candid fashion, she admitted she had a miserable year in 2010 when her long-time coaching partnership with Hellier dissolved, her marriage broke up and a short-lived coaching relationship with Didier Poppe also fractured.

She was "second in every competition and struggled to throw 20m" in 2010.

When she linked with Egger in Switzerland, she was "a chunky monkey".

"Jean-Pierre told me ‘you've got to lose 15 to 20kg or this training isn't going to work out'."

Adams, who revealed she did "girly exercises" every day to help with injury prevention, did what her new mentor wanted and hasn't looked back.

Passion for her sport and mental toughness gets her through the tough times.

"I've had four black discs in my back, my knee's munted, I've had shoulder surgery, a bunged up elbow, my wrists have gone and a couple of broken ligaments in my ankle. But that doesn't stop me, I'm just one of these maniacs who will just keep going. My pain threshold is very, very high. Sometimes, athletes use pain as a way to get out of training . . . I don't like [that]. Unless I'm dying. Then I won't go to training or my physio puts a stop to it."

Adams also spoke about goal setting and not projecting too far ahead. She said the 2016 Rio Olympics weren't her focus - she was aiming at the Moscow world championships in 2013, "then the Commonwealth Games and then another world championships" before thinking about Rio.

As the youngsters gathered for photographs with the Olympic champion, a parent asked Adams how much further could she throw?

"As long as I can better my PB [her personal best is currently 21.24m], I am quite happy," she said.

"But my first and foremost goal is to win my event; that's how people are going to remember me."

The Press