Valerie Adams began today within a stone's throw of Olympic immortality in Rio.

She dreamed of becoming New Zealand's first athlete in 108 years of competition to win gold medals at three consecutive Olympics.

Adams delivered 20.42m with her second throw, her personal best for the season by 23cm. She looked to have chosen the ultimate time and place to resuscitate her dream.

Despite those best efforts, and having recovered from a raft of injuries and surgeries in the last two seasons, she took silver, falling 21cm short of American Michelle Carter.

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Carter produced the throw of her career, a personal best thunderbolt of 20.63m with her last heave of the competition.

"She's either on or off," Adams said. "She can come out on first throw or last throw and throw a big one. Congratulations to her."

"I rushed (the two no throws). I wasn't patient enough.

"I fought to the end. The three-peat was my goal but that's the reality of sport. I've got to celebrate it - my third Olympic medal. I'll take it and run. It was tough and intense."

Adams referred to the long battle coming back from shoulder and elbow operations.

"I didn't know if I would contest this. It has been a long road," she said.

"I had to give it my all," Carter said in response. "Valerie is a great competitor. But it's never my goal to just try to beat her - my goal is to do my best."


The woman known in New Zealand as 'Val', or 'Our Val' to those feeling particularly familiar, personified concentration. Any competitor who locked eyes was presumably left rubbing their retinas having felt the burn. Unfortunately the barren stadium meant too few witnessed what could be the end to a remarkable sporting narrative.

Adams returned to the circle to deliver a final 20.39m as she grasped for composure in the melee.

She collects New Zealand's sixth silver at Rio, five of which have been won by women.

Val Adams. Photo / AP
Val Adams. Photo / AP

The key competitors who threatened to challenge with throws beyond 20m this year - China's Lijiao Gong, German defending world champion Christina Schwanitz and Carter - were initially put in the shade. But Carter was on a collision course with destiny when she stepped into the spotlight for the final time.

Hungarian Anita Marton finished third with a throw of 19.87m.

The 31-year-old's dedication to throwing a 4kg iron ball at the top level for 14 years was unbridled as she accelerated through the circle. She looked back to her best in what might be her final competition.

Adams has often used the analogy about 'driving a bus' as a metaphor of inclusivity to encompass those assisting her sporting ambitions. It was a shame her 73-year-old coach Jean-Pierre Egger was absent due to knee surgery after a recent fall.

Breaking barriers are nothing new for Adams. She is the only woman to win four consecutive shot put world championships, set a record 56 straight victories at international-ranked meets between August 2010 and July 2015, and became the first female thrower to be awarded the world governing body's 'athlete of the year' title.

Adams even shattered the gender divide in Tonga when appointed as the first woman matapule or chief from her village Houma.

However, she was to come up short in Rio.

Adams first came to prominence in 2002 when, aged 17, she won the world junior championship in Jamaica before claiming silver at the Commonwealth Games eight days later.

She made her Olympic debut as a 19-year-old in a den of future dopers at the ancient Olympia stadium, original site to what has become the world's biggest sporting festival.

Adams missed the top eight and the opportunity for three more throws. Four of those ahead of her have since been pinged with doping bans. She has consistently been burdened by that toxic environment.

Eight years later Adams suffered the indignity of 'losing' to Belarusian drug cheat Nadzheya Ostapchuk at the London Games. She had no option but to accept silver on the dais, before later receiving her gold at a ceremony in Auckland. Ostapchuk's four-year ban ends on Monday.

To compound matters, Adams was on the receiving end of bureaucratic bungling by the New Zealand administrators in 2012 which initially failed to see her entered for competition.

Today she went some way towards righting the balance, but fell short of the ultimate.


THE KEY MOMENTS IN VALERIE ADAMS' CAREER


1998:

Meets former javelin thrower Kirsten Hellier who becomes her coach for the next 11 years.

2001: Comes to international prominence by winning the World Youth Championship with a throw of 16.87m.

2002: Wins the World Junior Championship, throwing 17.73m. Goes on to win a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester with 17.45m.

2003: Finishes fifth at the 2003 World Championships, aged 18.

2004: At her first Olympics in 2004, Adams finishes seventh while still recovering from an appendectomy she had just weeks before the competition.

2005: Adams continues to track upwards, winning the bronze medal at the World Championships with a personal best throw of 19.87m. The winner is Nadzeya Ostapchuk. But in 2013 the IAAF reveals that Ostapchuk's drug test sample from that event is positive after a retest. Adams finishes second at the World Athletics Final in 2005 but is promoted to gold after Ostapchuk's results are annulled.

2006: Takes gold at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, setting a new Games record of 19.66m.

2008: Wins her first World Indoor title in Valencia (20.19m). Goes on to qualify for the final at the Beijing Olympics with her first throw, a personal best of 19.73m. Wins gold with a throw of 20.56m, beating Belarusian thrower Natallia Mikhnevich. It's the first Olympic gold medal in track and field for New Zealand since John Walker won the 1500m in 1976.

2009: Sets a new personal best of 20.69m in winning the Grande Premio in Rio. Goes on to take out the World Championship in Berlin with a 20.44.

2010: Ostapchuk looms as an obstacle again. The Belarussian beats Adams at the World Indoor Championships and several other big meets. Adams announces the end of her 11-year coaching relationship with Hellier, joining up with Didier Poppe. Wins her second Commonwealth Games gold medal in New Delhi with a Games record throw of 20.47. Late in the year Jean-Pierre Egger takes over as her coach.

2011: Wins the World Championship, equalling the championship record of 21.24 set in 1987. Also takes out the World Indoor title with a throw of 20.54m, a new indoors personal best.

2012: Wins silver at the London Olympics but is promoted to gold after karma finally catches up with Nadzeya Ostapchuk who fails two drug tests, one a day before the event and the second on the day of the event. Adams receives the gold medal from the New Zealand Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae at a special ceremony in Auckland in September.

2013: Adams wins her fourth World Championship gold in Moscow, passing Astrid Kumbernuss for the most titles by a female shot putter. She undergoes surgery on her on her left ankle and right knee late in the year.

2014: Wins her third world indoor championship in Poland with a distance of 20.67m. Acts as flagbearer at the Commonwealth Games where she wins her third gold. The Games triumph is her 54th consecutive event win with the streak beginning in August 2010.

2016: Wins silver at the Rio Olympics.