The more than 350 people who crowded into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Kaikohe Stake Centre to hear Dame Valerie Adams were given an insight into the life of one of New Zealand's sports champions.

They learned a good deal too, including that Dame Valerie's lunch with the Queen had been awkward, the best part of the Olympics was the food tent, and one did not need to come from ideal circumstances to be a champion.

The double Olympic gold medal shot putter, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was speaking as part of an event organised by the Church to inspire youth and parents in the North.

She and her husband, Gabriel Price, spent the morning working alongside members of the community in Paihia, picking up rubbish from a beach and pulling weeds from a bush track being restored by Project Island Song.

"I think as a society we really need to be there for our youth. It's not a one-man job. It's a whole community. It's a whole country."

That evening she was part of a question and answer session in Kaikohe, saying she felt the need to speak honestly about issues such as the death of her mother, teenage insecurities, infertility, eternal families, and her own personal journey of faith.

"I think as a society we really need to be there for our youth," she said.
"It's not a one-man job. It's a whole community. It's a whole country."

People had not always been there for her. The death of her mother when she was 15 was followed by a period of homelessness, and struggling to find the money to go to school.

But despite her grief, she held on to her dream to go to the Olympics. She'd made that her goal the night before her mother died, and she wasn't about to give up on it.

She rode a little bicycle every day to the facility where she trained for the next two to three years, and made it to her first Olympics at 18, despite having appendicitis surgery before the competition.

That hurdle, and many others, were overcome by sheer determination and hard work on the long road to her first gold medal.

Dame Valerie was raised as a member of the Church, but when her mother died she felt angry with God for taking her away at such a young age, so she went her own way for the next 12 years.

She credited the Plan of Salvation, which teaches that families can be together even after death, and the patient encouragement of her now-husband Gabriel for restoring her faith.
"I understand what eternal life is.


"I understand what eternal families are. I understand the Plan of Salvation," she said.

"And I am grateful to my eternal companion (Gabriel) for giving me that opportunity — I truly am."

She ended with some advice to the young members of her audience.

Growing up, she said, she had hated being tall. Six feet four inches at the age of 12, she had never felt normal. Only when she decided to accept and embrace her height much later was she able to truly love herself.

She told the young people to embrace their unique identity and own who they were, ending with a challenge: reach higher and work harder for impossible dreams.

"Hard work pays off, regardless of what your goals are. Serve a mission, be a pilot, be a lawyer, be an athlete — whatever you want, you decide. I want you to find your impossible and make it possible," she said.

Several attendees said they were deeply moved by Dame Valerie's sincerity and authenticity, and said they planned to start working towards accomplishing their own 'impossible'.

"I never ever forget where I come from. I never ever forget who I am. I never forget my humble upbringing," Dame Valerie said.

"All I want to do is help inspire our kids to be the best they can be. And that's what I feel is my responsibility in serving the Lord."