Elation as Val gets her gold

By Michael Dickison

Supporters erupt as Governor-General places medal around emotional Adams' neck.

Arms shot into the air under the rolling blue canopy of the Cloud.

"Now I know, I can believe 100 per cent, that I am the Olympic champion," said Valerie Adams, New Zealand's belated gold medallist for winning the shot put at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

"This is more than I expected," Adams said pulling out a tissue from her pocket as her eyes flushed red.

She thanked New Zealand "for your love and support".

"I do this for you, and I do this for our country."

The medal ceremony last night at the Cloud, on Auckland's waterfront, was the first time an Olympic gold medal had been presented in New Zealand.

"Valerie, tonight we've reconvened the audience of 4.5 million New Zealanders," said Governor-General Jerry Mateparae, who placed the medal around Adams' neck.

"On behalf of all New Zealanders, I congratulate you," he said as the crowd applauded.

Rows of seats lined the full length of the Cloud, filled with 2500 supporters.

The podium was at the far end, looking over the vast crowd.

"We've followed her as she did her big throws. And now it's a privilege to be able to be with her getting her medal," said Debbie Anderson, from Albany. "Just amazing to share with her all the hard work she's put in."

The Governor-General told Adams it was a "modest ritual" that he hoped would make up for missing out on the medal on the world stage.

Adams was awarded gold after Belarusian rival Nadzeya Ostapchuk was found to have taken a banned substance at the Games.

Last night, 14 of our other Olympians stood behind Adams on the stage.

The MC yelled, and the crowd erupted in a roar.

"We love you Valerie," someone yelled.

It was the sixth gold medal for New Zealand at the London Games, a total of 43 golds won since we first competed in London in 1908.

"Just speechless," said Adams' half-sister, Makere Brown, part of a big family who had flown in from around the country.

"My baby sister, she held herself so well ... she really does deserve it."

Fireworks exploded above the Waitemata Harbour after the short ceremony, the staunch crowd gathering around Adams in the cold night.

The gold medallist spent a generous amount of time posing for photos and signing autographs.

The first supporters to arrive last night - perhaps Adams' biggest fans - had left Hamilton at midday, seven hours ahead of the ceremony.

"My baby loves Valerie. It's just awesome seeing her finally get her gold medal," said Alva Staples, with her 11-year-old daughter, Jade, who wants to take up shot-putting herself.

"I told work this morning I'm going to go pick up my baby and I'm not coming back for the day. Because something like this isn't going to happen again," Ms Staples said.

"And it didn't matter if we didn't get tickets. We were going to come up anyway. Nothing was going to stopus.

"We're going to stay in Auckland for the night to enjoy the celebrations."

A small group watched the ceremony on a big screen outside, coming down to Queens Wharf even without tickets.

Elissa and Zabrina Flowerday, aged 5 and 11, said they were the only ones from Patumahoe School to be here.

Adams was their "favourite", said Zabrina. "We do athletics at our school and none of us can actually throw it."

"It actually is pretty amazing," said the girls' father, Bruce. "An Olympic medal [ceremony] in little New Zealand."

The ceremony featured a rendition of Stand Tall, the song chosen out of a public competition to represent New Zealand's Olympic campaign.

Adams said she did not know what it would be like waking up this morning. But it would be a time to rest her mind and body, having just arrived back in the country yesterday morning.

"Just living a normal life again for a while," she said.

- NZ Herald

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