Golden reward continues to drive Adams
Dame Valerie Adams is very much the headline act of a 15-strong athletics team named yesterday for the Tokyo Olympics as she in all likelihood brings the curtain down on one of the great New Zealand sporting careers at the age of 36, and mother to daughter Kimoana and son Kepaleli.
She has already won three Olympic medals in the shot put – golds in 2008 and 2012 and silver in 2016 – and is a real chance at adding to that haul in Tokyo as part of a Kiwi athletics team that at present is the third largest to be sent to a Games (behind the 18 who went to Atlanta in 1996 and 16 to Munich in 1972), but could yet grow between now and the selection cutoff of June 22.
For Adams, these postponed Olympics truly will be something special, and not just because she will join Barbara Kendall as the only New Zealand women to have competed at five Games. She will also line up after having those two beautiful children during the cycle, which is something she is rather proud of.
‘‘Anybody that’s had children ... obviously you guys haven’t had children, but you guys have children,’’ she says to the two males quizzing her.
‘‘It’s completely different, let me tell you. It does come with its challenges and for me it was the physical challenge because pregnancy does things to your body which are crazy ... and also my age.
‘‘ I’m 36 now, and I’ve had two kids by C-sections. My first child, after six months I was at the Commonwealth Games, and won a silver medal. So it was, ‘cool, let’s have another baby and try for the Olympic Games’.
‘‘But to come back and qualify for my fifth Olympics after having two children I think is a triumph, not only for myself but for female athletes around the world.
‘‘It’s different for female athletes: if they want to have a baby, a lot of sports will frown on them and push them into retirement, whereas, quite frankly, ‘have a break, have your children and come back to sport. You can do it’.’’
So that was the serious stuff. But she was mischievous as she reflected on joining this group of 15, alongside fellow evergreen and also pending five-time Olympian in Nick Willis (the first Kiwi male athlete to achieve that feat).
When it was suggested the Tokyo Games were ‘‘Covid-pending’’, she shot back: ‘‘Why do people say Covid-pending? It’s going ahead. Let’s just say it’s going ahead ... Covid-pending my a…, Tokyo is going ahead, people.’’
What she did make clear was that she was heading to the Games with one goal in mind: ‘‘My goal is to go to Tokyo and freaking smash it, and come home with a gold medal ... it’s going to be a very hard task, but I’m up for the challenge.’’
That included, she confirmed, heading off with Dale Stevenson’s throws squad in May for a European preparation that will see the group based in Germany, and taking the Covid vaccine.
‘‘I’m getting the vaccine tomorrow. I am pro-vaccination, and hopefully most of our athletes get it. For me it’s about not only keeping myself safe but everybody else safe. It’s the least we can do to make these Games go ahead.’’
Adams will have plenty of likeminded company in Tokyo. Nineteen-year-old Connor Bell (discus), Lauren Bruce and Julia Ratcliffe (hammer), javelin thrower Tori Peeters (subject to a 62m throw by month’s end in Australia), high jumper Hamish Kerr, and fellow shot putters Jacko Gill, Tom Walsh, and Maddison-lee Wesche round out the record eight-strong field contingent.
On the track 1500m runners Sam Tanner and Willis and 5000m/10,000m exponent Camille Buscomb will strut their stuff, while Malcolm Hicks and Zane Robertson (marathon) and Quentin Rew (50km walk) complete the squad.
Five of the 15 (Bell, Kerr, Peeters, Wesche and Willis) have been picked without having achieved automatic standards, but have world rankings likely to allow them to take part. Others, such as injured pole vaulter Eliza Mccartney and 10,000m runner Jake Robertson, will have to post Olympic standards between now and June 22 to be added.