Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Rio Olympics 2016: Valiant Val still Kiwi hero

Silver win and gracious defeat sign of a true-born champion.
Valerie Adams of New Zealand celebrates during the Women's Shot Put Final on Day 7 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Photo / Getty Images
Valerie Adams of New Zealand celebrates during the Women's Shot Put Final on Day 7 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Photo / Getty Images

She may have had to settle for silver in Rio, but Valerie Adams can still count herself one of New Zealand's greatest ever Olympians, Kiwi running champion Sir John Walker says.

Adams came agonisingly close yesterday to becoming the first New Zealander to win three consecutive Olympic gold medals in the shot put final - and the only woman to win successive golds in the same event - but was pipped to gold by American Michelle Carter on her final throw.

She may have headed to Rio gunning for gold, but after an injury-plagued three years, silver was still a stunning achievement, something recognised by thousands of Kiwis who flooded Adams' social media accounts with celebratory messages.

Talking to the Herald on Sunday, former Olympic champion runner Walker said Adams' name was now written in Kiwi Olympic legend despite her second placing.

"She's a truly gracious sports person and a lot of others could take a leaf out of her book and actually be a lot more graceful," he said.

"In my books she's up there with our greatest ever."

Walker praised Adams for not making excuses for not winning gold, although she did have legitimate grievances.

That included a long rehab from career-saving surgeries.

Her coach Jean-Pierre Egger also didn't make the trip to Rio after requiring knee surgery.

"She hasn't had a sweet year, has she?" Walker said.

"The fact that she dropped those three [throws] made me wonder whether she was 100 per cent, and she didn't have her coach there which was perhaps something of a handicap for her. But she didn't use that as an excuse - she didn't blame anybody.

"[But] I saw the smile on her face and the gratitude she showed for receiving a medal for New Zealand." Adams had been comfortably leading the pack with her 20.42m second throw - her personal best for the season - before Carter produced a career-best 20.63 thunderbolt to knock Adams from top spot.

Adams' basketballer brother Steven was among those to praise our silver medal hero, expressing his delight at her medal efforts on Twitter. "Very proud of you @ValerieAdams84 !!!"

Adams' efforts will be immortalised on a new limited-edition set of stamps set to become available soon.

"Featuring Valerie on a stamp is all the more special to us because she is a New Zealand Post ambassador and has represented us at so many junior sport and community events.

"We are very proud of her achievement in Rio," said NZ Post's head of stamps and coins, Simon Allison.

Adams' was the second silver to be sealed by New Zealand yesterday.

Genevieve Behrent and Rebecca Scown claimed second spot in the women's rowing. The pair started slowly but pulled into third over the middle 1000m before sprinting past Denmark in the final 500m.

- Herald on Sunday

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 24 Oct 2016 19:22:26 Processing Time: 744ms