Valerie Adams becomes a Dame: It's up there with gold medals

By Andrew Alderson at Government House in Auckland

Dame Valerie Adams offered a simple message after her investiture at Government House in Auckland today.

The honour celebrated her services to athletics.

"I hope this opens many doors to inspire our Pacific people, and lets them know it is possible to do what you've got to do and get reward for it.

"This would be on a par with winning an Olympic gold medal. It was an emotional ceremony because it's so meaningful to the country, my family and myself as a proud Kiwi.

"I don't think you can stop giving or helping at community, school or church level. That's my duty now. I'm helping out a discus thrower and another couple of girls who are trying to lose weight. The best thing you can give someone is your time, and my schedule is allowing for that."

Adams has ruled out competing at August's world championships in London.

She has turned her attention to next year's Gold Coast Commonwealth Games if she can get a "second wind of energy", with the option open to compete at the Tokyo Olympics.

With the retirement of coach Jean-Pierre Egger, Adams is being mentored by strength and conditioning coach Angus Ross and Athletics New Zealand high performance manager Scott Goodman.

"It's been a good time to look after myself and give my body some TLC," she said. "It's the first time in four years I haven't had surgery post-season."

In September, Adams hinted that starting a family with husband, Gabriel Price, might also be a priority.

"It has always been a goal, and I think motherhood would be fantastic," she told the Herald at the time.

The double Olympic shot put champion was anointed by Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy before Price and a number of family and friends.

Dressed in a pink gown wrapped in a Tongan ta'ovala (the traditional mat around the waist), Adams was welcomed by staff into the venue.

She identified herself as "the one in high-vis".

Adams has built an enviable CV, but the recognition of a damehood was as much about throwing a 4kg ball as it was about her impact on historically marginalised Pacific Islanders from South Auckland, where she grew up.

Her feats have instilled belief in her community and beyond, something also acknowledged by her appointment as a Pacific Islands sports ambassador.

At 32, Adams is one of the youngest appointments as a dame or knight.

New Zealand-born but UK-based Naomi James was 29 when recognised for becoming the first woman to sail single-handed around the world via Cape Horn; a 33-year-old Edmund Hillary was knighted in 1953 after he "knocked the bastard [Mt Everest] off"; Susan Devoy was made a dame in 1998 for services to squash; and Richard Hadlee appeared on a scorecard as ''Sir'' for the second and third cricket tests against England in 1990 during his farewell series.

Bulldozing barriers is nothing new for Adams.

She is the only woman to win four consecutive athletics world championships in an individual event; set a record 56 straight victories at international-ranked meets from 2010 to 2014; and was the first female thrower awarded the world governing body's ''athlete of the year'' title.

Adams even shattered the gender divide in Tonga. She became the first woman matapule (chief) of Houma, the village of her late mother Lilika. She was bestowed with the name Tongi Tupe Oe Taua, to acknowledge the impact of her sporting feats.

At Rio she literally came within a stone's throw of New Zealand Olympic immortality. After recovering from a raft of injuries and surgeries, she dreamed of becoming the country's first athlete to win gold medals at three consecutive Games.

American Michelle Carter pushed Adams to silver in the competition's final round.

Adams first sampled shot put as a reluctant 13-year-old at Southern Cross Campus in Mangere East. One of her old shoes is now presented as the school's pinnacle sports award.

Adams' mother died when she was 15, but not before making her daughter promise she would do everything possible to fulfil her talents.

Her appointment as a Dame is proof she is keeping her word.

- NZ Herald

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