I talk to A LOT of people in my job as a radio announcer and it's very rare to find someone who is super intelligent, an excellent public speaker, exceptionally funny AND has been a world beating athlete for the last 20 years! I guess that's why she's a dame!
I was lucky enough to get on stage with her at a VIP event just before she spoke to thousands of intermediate kids for the opening ceremony of this year's Anchor AIMS Games.
When I asked Dame Val (yup I feel like we are friends now ... this may be a one-sided feeling, but I'm rolling with it): "How was it growing up with 17 siblings?!"
She talked about her dad being an Englishman and her mum, a Tongan, being one of "the many roses he fertilised" after he got off the boat from England. So much so that she had two brothers that played on the same basketball team for years and only found out after they retired from it that they were actually brothers!
When I asked her if she knew Nadzeya Ostapchuk was a drugs cheat during the actual competition at the 2012 Olympics, Valerie, after giving a brilliantly detailed answer about all of the signs being there that she was on drugs then followed that with: "I wanted to do the cough test on her, but even my big hands weren't enough to cup her — ... "
Well you can imagine the rest!
Finally I asked her about her husband and the amazing support she'd received to be able to have a baby in October and then win silver at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, a mere six months later in April (after a C-section no less). She responded with how most people assume he'd be tall like her, but he's shorter and smaller than her ... "but everyone is the same height when they're horizontal!"
I like where ya head's at Val!
If you ever get a chance to see Dame Valerie speak, you owe it to yourself to be there and be amazed!
Stoked she took some time to come to the Bay and pass on her knowledge and superb view on life with the kids who will follow in her footsteps ... though those are literally the biggest women's shoes I've seen, so they'll have their work cut out for them!
Will Johnston is host of The Hits 95FM Day Show. Live and local from 9am-3pm, every weekday in the Bay of Plenty.