Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Athletics: Adams a shot of inspiration

Champ has no real competition and can't be beaten but hopes her presence boosts others.

Val Adams cast off any demons she may have had at the world indoor champs in Poland by winning gold. Phot / AP
Val Adams cast off any demons she may have had at the world indoor champs in Poland by winning gold. Phot / AP

Valerie Adams already has 12 national titles under her belt, but for New Zealand's reigning queen of the shotput circle a 13th title this weekend will mean just as much as her first all those years ago.

Unbeaten in her last 45 outings, Adams is aiming to extend her phenomenal run in this weekend's national track and field championships in Wellington.

If the TAB had odds on the women's shotput final tomorrow afternoon - as they have decided to do for the highly anticipated men's event, which will feature Tom Walsh and Jacko Gill - Adams would be an unbackable favourite.

There is no one in New Zealand likely to get within 5m of the four-time world champion, but Adams still considers it more than worth her while to turn up and defend her crown.

"I think nationals are one of those things you've got to count and take real pride in having those national titles under your belt," said Adams, who travelled from her training base in Switzerland specially to compete at the nationals.

"There is no competition, let's be honest, but for me it's about showcasing what we do. If we can inspire one or two athletes that are competing to continue in the sport then that's a really good outcome. And I really want to be here not only to support the sport, but the athletes as well - there's a lot of athletes trying to qualify [for the Commonwealth Games] this weekend."

Always one of the star attractions at nationals, this year Adams is likely to be overshadowed by the Walsh v Gill battle for the men's title, following her event. But the 29-year-old is quite happy to share the limelight and is excited to see such a high level of interest in the sport that has been her life for well over a decade.

She's also pleased her event will be the "curtain-raiser" so she can relax and watch the fascinating rivalry in the men's field unfold with the pressure of competing out of the way.

"For them it's going to be a great rivalry - it's one of the best competitions we've had at nationals since I've competed anyway. It's going to be great," she said.

"At the end of the day may the best man win. You can be the most amazing athlete outside of the shotput ring, but if you can't bring it into the shotput ring then whatever you're doing isn't working."

Following this weekend's event, Adams will return to Switzerland to make sure she can bring it to the shotput ring during the upcoming Diamond League season in Europe and the Commonwealth Games. After a full-on week of family, media and sponsor commitments, Adams admits she is looking forward to getting back to Europe where there aren't the same outside pressures. There she and her coach Jean-Pierre Egger can plot the next six months ahead, during which she hopes to consolidate a few technical elements with her throwing and possibly chase a new personal best - although she is not putting too much pressure on herself to do the latter. Her key focus will be maintaining her dominance at international level.

"Staying unbeaten for as long as possible is my ultimate goal. It's not tiring, but it's still challenging because every time you go to a competition you've got to bust a nut, because every one is trying to beat you and you're trying to stay on top," she said.

"So that's the challenge, and it's not only a challenge physically, it's a challenge mentally. The more you win, when that day comes that you do get beaten it is going to hurt even more. So the pressure does ramp up every time you compete."

If there was ever a time when Adams' impressive record looked slightly more vulnerable, it was at the world indoor champs in Poland this month, where the two-time Olympic gold medallist made her international comeback following off-season ankle surgery. Initially it looked as if it would be touch and go whether Adams would be advanced enough with her rehabilitation to compete at the worlds.

But, determined not to be sidelined for long, she approached her rehabilitation the same way she does any event - an absolute refusal to be beaten.

"I'm an impatient person and I'm very stubborn, so when they gave me something to do and they wanted me to achieve it over the week, Valerie will go home and do it, and she'll be back in 24 hours and she'll show you that she can do it," said Adams.

"I was pretty lucky to be able to go to world indoor champs and be able to recover from this a lot quicker than I thought I would."

Her rivals too were surprised to see her back in action and in such strong form so quickly, the injury failing to blunt that famous Adams swagger.

"As soon as I started throwing I could see their demeanour changing. I could see that they realised it is going to take a lot more than that to be able to push me over."

- NZ Herald

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