Valerie Adams towered head and shoulders above everyone else, literally and figuratively. The Olympic shot put champion from New Zealand is 1.96m tall and none of her opposition has ever recorded a throw close to 20m. Yet, on Saturday evening, she knew that the biggest competition came from within herself rather than her opposition.
The 26-year-old came out with flying colours, exorcising some demons along the way, as the two-time world champion nailed the Commonwealth Games 2010 Delhi gold medal with a new Games record to boot.
The win here could rate as high as the 2008 Olympic Games gold in Beijing. For most part of what she called the longest season of her career, she struggled to find top form. She had also parted ways, first with her coach of 10 years, Kirsten Hellier, in March and, as recently as August, with her husband Bertrand Vili.
Like she did in Beijing with a put of 20.56m, she decimated all opposition with a stupendous opening effort of 20.47m that easily broke her own Games mark of 19.66m set in Melbourne four years ago. She could have easily passed all her throws while Cleopatra Brown (Trinidad & Tobago) and the others fought for the silver and bronze.
Instead, she competed with herself and came up with a superb series of throws – each over 20m. “The first throw was really good and I just tried to keep going for the rest of the final. I focussed on competing and throwing hard,” she said. “The standard in the Commonwealth is not so high but I didn’t just want to win… I wanted to set a good mark.”
It is this single-minded pursuit of excellence that makes champions like Valerie Adams such fascinating case studies in mental strength, including goal-setting and the focus retention irrespective of the quality of competition, not to speak of the ability to focus on the moment, the task on hand.
She changed coaches earlier this year, tearfully parting ways with her mentor and coach Kirsten Hellier but clear that she needed new inputs in training to get better. She teamed up with France’s Didier Poppe and, in the time since then, faced a number of defeats at the hands of her arch-rival Nadzeya Ostapchuk (Belarus).
On Saturday night, her series read 20.47m, 20.39m, 20.08m, 20.31m, 20.44m and 20.14m and was reminiscent of her showing in Beijing. Indeed, she ensured that she had her own moment of glory. Valerie Adams had well and truly driven any ghosts that may have roamed in her mind earlier this year.