Athletics: Chocolate medal nice touch before real thing

By Michael Brown

Valerie Adams is now unbeaten in 30 events dating back more than two years.  Photo / Mark Mitchell
Valerie Adams is now unbeaten in 30 events dating back more than two years. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Few athletes have had their Olympic journey played out in public as much as Valerie Adams. APNZ's Michael Brown caught up with her on the eve of her return to New Zealand to finally claim Olympic gold.

Recently Valerie Adams' coach, Jean Pierre Egger, held his own medal ceremony for his pupil at a dinner party at his home in Switzerland and presented her with a custom-made chocolate medal on a home-made podium before singing the New Zealand national anthem in both English and Maori.

It was a nice touch and there were tears - there have been plenty of tears from Adams over the course of an emotionally taxing last six weeks - but it won't compare with how she will feel when receiving the real Olympic gold medal at The Cloud on Auckland's waterfront on Wednesday.

Next week's ceremony won't make up for not getting it in the Olympic Stadium in front of 80,000 people in London, but it will go some way.

Adams still has the chocolate medal, which has a silver fern and No 1 etched onto it. She won't eat it, if at all, until the real one is in her possession and it will end a quest for something that has consumed her for the past two years.

Every single day in that time she has thought of Olympic gold. During every single lift in the gym, she would utter under her breath, "London''. Her move to a spartan training base in Switzerland last year and away from family was all geared towards one goal - winning in London.

When the happy ending didn't eventuate, after great rival Nadzeya Ostapchuk produced a series of throws beyond 21m to emphatically claim gold, Adams' world fell apart in a very public way.

"It was hell,'' the 27-year-old recalls. "It was stressful. I was very, very upset and depressed. I wanted to give more. I felt so disappointed and felt like I had let my country and family down. I also disappointed myself and my coach because I knew how much better I could have been. On the night of the competition, my dreams were shattered, taken away from me.''

That pain lasted seven days before Ostapchuk tested positive for an anabolic steroid and was stripped of the gold medal. Her coach has come forward and taken the blame, saying he spiked her food with drugs without her knowledge, but few believe him. It's almost laughable because, in the sophisticated world of drugs in sport, he used a 1980s excuse for using a 1980s drug.

Adams still harbours some bitterness - that might take some time to dissipate - but has the outcome she wanted. It has all taken a considerable toll and she collapsed a day before the final Diamond League meeting in Zurich recently. Almost incredibly, she went on to win that competition in a new meet record.

"Everything just came to a head,'' she says. "I tried to keep it going straight after London but the body wanted to slow down a bit because it was getting a bit full-on.

"We have gone through the highs, the lows and gone back up to the highs again. It hasn't been the easiest year of my career, that's for sure. But one thing I know is that, as an athlete and someone part of a team, we succeeded and regardless of all the hoo-ha. We remained unbeaten, even after what happened.''

She is now unbeaten in 30 events dating back more than two years - Ostapchuk, of course, beat her _ and on the verge of eclipsing the world athletics record of 32 consecutive wins set by German discus thrower Robert Harting.

Success is something that keeps her motivated and, after a break in New Zealand to "rest the mind, body and soul'', will throw herself back into training at the end of next month. A record fourth world title is in her sights, along with the 2014 Commonwealth and 2016 Olympic Games.

"I think my motivation is running high,'' she says. "I still believe there is more in me as an athlete and I can throw further. That motivates me. The people in my support crew and my coach motivate me. I know we can still continue to try to be the best in the world. I'm still here and I'm still going to keep going. I love my country that much I will go through another four years of pain. It's all going to be worth it.''

Ostapchuk could well return to competition in that time. She is facing a one-year ban but the IAAf and WADA could insist on a harsher sanction.

Adams clearly holds little respect for the Belarusian and even joked during the week about being willing to jump in the boxing ring against her for a charity event and that she might insist on the medal being sterilised before receiving it because it was tainted.
The circumstances around the London Olympics and Ostapchuk's part in it won't go away but Adams is keen to move on. "I don't want to waste any more time or oxygen even talking about her,'' she says.

Receiving the real Olympic gold medal might help.

- APNZ

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