Olympics: Mental battle ahead for Adams

By Dylan Cleaver

Of all the ironies surrounding Valerie Adams' apparent misfire yesterday, this one is cruellest: the champion shot putter took herself out of the pre-Olympic spotlight to avoid the glare and drama, but the drama found her.

Adams was near inconsolable yesterday after throwing below her best in the final of the shot put. Her best throw of 20.70m was 54cm short of the personal best she threw at the world championships at Daegu last year and a massive 66cm behind Nadzeya Ostapchuk.

That she and her great Belarusian rival reaffirmed that they are at the top and the rest are still some way behind - Adams' off night was still 22cm better than Evgeniia Kolodko's throw to win bronze - was of cold comfort to her.

Where many people would give their right arm for the opportunity to stand upon a medal dais just one time, whatever the step, Adams' tear-stained distress reflected the fact that not all silver medals are created equal.

The New Zealand Olympic Committee did wrong by Adams in the lead-up, that much is clear. After her event they vowed to put whatever support was available around Adams to help her cope with the disappointment. The uncharitable would note that after the registration imbroglio, their "support" was probably the last thing she needed.

"It caused a little bit of stress," she said. "That's the sort of s*** you don't need to deal with."

So she won't. That will be left to manager Nick Cowan, who could not be contacted yesterday, to mop up.

The incident was regrettable, but was it game-changing?

Ostapchuk came here in the form of her life and even though it is difficult to digest, when she's at the top of her game she can throw further than Adams. It's there in black and white. Ostapchuk has a season best of 21.58m; Adams has a personal best of 21.24m.

To have a chance against the Belarusian in this sort of mood, Adams needed to be at her intimidating, physically imposing best. In her words: "I put my heart out there trying, but it just didn't come together".

"Suddenly something blocked today," said her Swiss coach Jean-Pierre Egger. "I saw it on her face. I've never seen Valerie with such an Egyptian [mummy] face.

"I went to her too late at the end and said 'Valerie, please smile'. She smiled, but I don't know, I must discuss what the problem was with her."

When it came to the performance of Ostapchuk, Adams was happy to acknowledge that "you've got to give credit to her; it's her day".

Egger was more enigmatic in his assessment.

"I would prefer to keep silent on this performance, if you understand me."

We probably do, but the nudge-nudge, wink-wink acceptance of defeat is based more on stereotype than it is evidence.

For her part, Ostapchuk, through an interpreter, put her rapid improvement down to a lengthy rest period last year and the evolution of new training methodology under coach Aleksander Efimov.

The marker has been laid down for Adams. She has signalled her intention to continue on to Rio and, at 27, is young enough to go to Madrid, Tokyo or Istanbul, whichever of those cities is chosen to host the 2020 Games.

She now knows she has to throw further if she is to regain her mantle. Physically, she is a superb athlete, the most imposing looking in the infield. Her battle might be more mental.

Adams has been through a lot in the past four years - a divorce and three different coaches (Kirsten Hellier, who coached her to gold in Beijing was in the stands as part of the Chinese coaching team).

She wanted this victory badly to erase all the difficult stuff.

That's probably why silver seemed like a booby prize.

- NZ Herald

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