From drug cheats to bureaucratic bungling, shot putter’s march towards gold has not been an easy one.
Valerie Adams celebrates after winning gold in the women’s shot during the XX Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Photo / Greg Bowker
If you are a New Zealand Olympics fanatic scribbling out a “Dear Santa” list for the Rio Games, this sentence presumably features somewhere near the top.
“Please allow Valerie Adams to enjoy a clean shot put competition.”
Martin Luther King Jr once thundered from the lecturn that we must “refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt” in relation to civil rights.
The same applies to Adams’ shot put flights. Four travesties highlight why you should have this dream when she enters the circle this morning.
1. Adams suffered the indignity of “losing” to Belarusian drug cheat Nadzheya Ostapchuk at the London Olympics. She had no option but to accept silver on the dais, before later receiving her gold at a ceremony in Auckland. Ostapchuk’s four-year ban ends on Monday.
2. As a 19-year-old at her maiden Games in Athens she missed the top eight and the opportunity for three more throws.
Four of those ahead of her have since received doping bans. Adams has consistently been burdened by this toxic environment as she charts a course to become the country’s first gold medal winner at three consecutive Olympics.
3. To compound matters, Adams was on the receiving end of bureaucratic bungling by NZ administrators in 2012 which failed to see her entered for competition. Fortunately that appears to be resolved at Rio.
4. The 31-year-old is one of two female shot putters who have won back-to-back Olympic titles. The other was Soviet Tamara Press in 1960 and 1964. Yet Adams, with access to the wonders of modern sports science, remains 23rd on the all-time distance list. Her 21.24m best was set at the 2011 world championships in South Korea. The world record of 22.63m, set by Soviet Natalya Lisovskaya at Moscow in June 1987, remains 1.39m beyond her reach.
Adams has been candid in support of the IAAF’s decision – unlike the International Olympic Committee – to place a ban on Russian athletes after evidence of a systemic doping programme was revealed.