Valerie Adams is one of New Zealand’s biggest stars. We tell you exactly why she deserves the latest of her many titles: 2014 World Athlete of the Year.
To date, the 30-year-old has put together an unbeaten streak of 56 shot put competitions stretching back to August 2010. In that time she has secured a dizzying seven international titles; two world outdoor, two world indoor, one Olympic, one Commonwealth and one Continental Cup.
“To come out of the year being untouched and unbeaten has been absolutely fantastic,” says the shot put queen of her remarkable season.
“I have 56 competitions now unbeaten and I hope to continue that feat as long as possible, but until then I’m still enjoying it.”
Adams has had to endure niggling injuries during her prolific winning run: in September 2013, she had surgery on her knee and ankle. In September this year, she had ops on her left shoulder and right elbow. Yet she has still won with a mark beyond 21 metres three times and over 20 metres 51 times.
She set four area records – one outdoor at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, and three indoor at the 2012 World Indoor Championships in Istanbul and 2012 and 2013 Zurich Weltklasse meets – and won 22 Diamond League events over five continents. The cumulative total of all her winning throws is 1147(ish) metres.
“I have really had to bide my time and concentrate on my training because of the injuries I was carrying,” she says.
“In saying that, I was still able to hold the floor down and be able to compete to the best of my ability on the day.”
Gold at the Sopot indoors in March this year was Adams' seventh world title
Adams has put New Zealand back on the sporting map, winning competitions in 23 countries on her current streak. The Kiwi star is the first from her country to win the prestigious World Athlete of the Year award.
Other firsts to her name include winning her shot put event at the Olympic Games in Beijing to become the first New Zealand athletics gold medalist since John Walker in 1976. She is also one of just four women to win world titles at youth, junior and senior levels.
“I think at the end of the day celebrating the season that we’ve had – of being unbeaten and winning titles along the way – is the icing on the cake and I’m just very humbled to make World Female Athlete of the Year, it’s really great.”
She has overcome hard times
Born to a Tongan mother and English father in New Zealand, Adams grew up in the ghettos of Rotorua. Her mother passed away in a South Auckland Hospice the morning after she watched the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games opening ceremony on TV when she was 15-years-old.
“I remember on the 15 of September, I was watching the opening ceremony on the lounger next to her and it was the best sleep she had had and the most amazing thing I had watched on TV.
“I had always dreamed about going to the Olympics one day and at this very moment I watched it and thought ‘oh my God, one day I want to be there’. When I woke up the next morning my mother had passed away, so it was a very tough moment for me, but I think a very crucial one.”
Lighting up the London 2012 medal ceremony
Who you callin' tall?
The 6ft 4inch Kiwi comes from a family built for sport. Four of her brothers are between 6ft 5in to 7ft, so she has learnt to embrace her lofty stature.
“If they have a problem, take a picture. It’ll last longer,” she says of men who are puzzled by her size.
“Sure, people are going to have a look and you have rude people out there, but what the hell, they have small man syndrome and can’t handle it.”
A wicked sense of humour
When asked about the most random thing she's ever thrown, she laughs.
“Babies,” she says.
“We used to play in the pool when my niece and nephew were babies and we used to shot put them for people to catch. It was like the kids were getting a roller-coaster ride for free.”
We’ll stick to the big dipper.
Tasting the Glaswegian air at this year's Commonwealth Games
Doing it for the kids
When she’s not training or competing, Adams likes to inspire children through sport. She recently participated in Athletics New Zealand’s ‘Get Set Go’ fun day in Auckland to encourage underprivileged children to keep active.
“I’m all about giving back to the sport, giving back to the country that I love, but also to the community that I was brought up in.
“I was brought up in the ghettos of New Zealand and it was a very hard place. But you can make it. If you work hard and put your heart and mind into it, anything is possible.”