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Athletics: Making sure fate is sealed

Val Adams is taking no chances as she homes in on a fourth straight world title, writes Andrew Alderson.

Valerie Adams. Photo / Getty Images
Valerie Adams. Photo / Getty Images

Valerie Adams fears her drinks or food could be spiked with banned drugs when she heads to Moscow next month for the track and field world championships.

Vigilance has become the watchword for the 28-year-old shot putter who has a clean record in a discipline regularly tainted by the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs.

Adams was initially denied a second Olympic gold by Belarusian rival Nadzeya Ostapchuk at the 2012 London Games. Ostapchuk later tested positive for the banned drug metenolone. Adams was promoted to gold but it left a bitter taste.

Adams also missed the finals by one place at the 2004 Athens Games where the Russian gold medallist Irina Korzhanenko was eventually disqualified for banned drug use.

In December 2012, the subsequent Russian bronze medal winner Svetlana Krivelyova was disqualified retrospectively for the same offence. Ostapchuk was fourth but not promoted.

Adams is wary of vengeance from those with links to the former Soviet bloc: "I hate to say it but I'll be making sure everything that goes into my mouth has been sealed," Adams says in relation to her Moscow journey.

"My coach [Jean-Pierre Egger] and physio [Louise Johnson] are also on to it. You must take responsibility, there's no point taking risks. My job is to be sure I'm safe the whole time I'm there because you never know. In track and field - and my event in particular - there are potential medallists in Russia.

"With water and drinks, you've got to ensure they're sealed at all times. Little things like that could make all the difference and I'm too old for any of that bullshit. You just have to be extra careful."

However, Adams says this year has been largely positive after the trials and tribulations of London: "I tell you, last year was so stressful," Adams says. "That is the nature of Olympic years. It's different for everyone but you tend to be on edge the whole time. I'm more relaxed this year.

"I'm not the face of the Olympics where there's hype every time you compete. It's kind of nice. I don't know what goes on but your body crashes a bit."

Adams sprained her ankle a week before the Diamond League event in Eugene, Oregon, and she's working through a niggly knee injury. Regardless, she and coach Egger have spent time working on her body shape which presents an imposing athletic physique compared to competitors.

"I've just continued the work I've been doing with JP. I've spent a lot of time working on my hip thrusts. It sounds a bit rude ... but that's what we do," Adams laughs. "I've got a lot to thank JP for. He's the man. I love him as a coach and a person. He's really humble and only wants the best for me but doesn't sit in my back pocket. It's great to have that trust but he is always on my case, asking how much I weigh."

Does that mean she goes to the extreme of weighing her food?

"No, bugger off, everything in moderation. You've got to feed yourself properly."

That includes traditional fare cooked by fellow Kiwi (and Swiss resident) Royna Benseman Roserens who is married to Cedi (Cedric from Switzerland). She's the woman known to Adams as 'Mama Bear'.

"She's pretty awesome and does a mean-as roast with kumara and pumpkin. Their place is somewhere I go to yak and chill out. I turn up and slob around on the couch drinking coffee."

In April, Benseman Roserens told the Herald on Sunday the family love having "Aunty Val" over: "My [19-year-old] daughter Rebeka and I need a connection to home and Val's it. She's always welcome for kai. We don't look at her as being famous. Even when we have friends over, we can still be found cackling in the corner on our own wavelength.

"After the Olympics, I gave her a hug and felt her whole body shaking when I dropped her off at her room in Magglingen [at the sports institute in the Swiss Alps]. It was heartbreaking leaving her."

As a result, Adams has settled into her own apartment this year in the town of Biel, a contrast from the monastic existence she endured the previous two European summers. She rents it from Cedric's mum.

"That has been a breakthrough for me," Adams says. "If I'd had to go back to Magglingen, I don't think I'd have stayed because you need to be so mentally tough. There's not much life outside training.

"It was a bit of a prison cell ... hell, really. Last year after the Olympics, I hated it, it was depressing. I lived and slept on the bed with my feet hanging off the end. Walking into my new place, I can't even see my bed. It's got a sofa, a telly, a kitchen and a dining table. People say 'you're excited about that?' I say 'it's like being in heaven'. Now I can chuck my stuff everywhere and do my washing whenever I want. It's like being home."

Adams remains at short odds to win an unprecedented four consecutive world title, despite her performances ranking 23rd on the all-time list with a best of 21.24m at the Daegu world championships in 2011. She continued her world shot put dominance with 20.62m to win the Diamond League meet in Paris last weekend. Her season best 20.88m was set in the Czech Republic on June 27; it is 64cm further than any other 2013 mark.

In the absence of Ostapchuk, Adams' closest rivals this year, American Michelle Carter and German Christina Schwanitz, have recorded personal bests of 20.24m and 20.20 metres respectively. Adams next competes in Lucerne on Wednesday.

- Herald on Sunday

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