If one was to write a book on Lisa Adams' life so far, the words adapt and overcome would feature heavily.

The 27-year-old was diagnosed early in life with left hemiplegia, a form of cerebral palsy that affects the movement and growth of muscles on the limbs of one side of her body, but she has not let that affect her love for sport.

Last year the Rotorua Daily Post published an article about her overcoming her disability to play premier rugby with the Waikite women's team. Since then she has made history in physical disability rugby league (PDRL) and given para-athletics a go - winning the shot put and discus at the New Zealand Track and Field Championships at the weekend.

Last month she became the first woman in the country and the world to play PDRL nines on the world stage, at the Rugby League Commonwealth Championships with the New Zealand men's squad. They finished second and she was also selected to be the New Zealand flag bearer for the event.


While playing with and against men was a daunting prospect, the younger sibling to New Zealand sporting heroes Valerie and Steven Adams hoped her efforts would create awareness and inspire more physically disabled athletes into the sport.

"It was different, it was the first time I had played with other physically disabled people. It was hard to transition, but it was all good. I thought it was weird that I was allowed to play, being the only girl, but I liked it. It was cool.

"I think what was cool was more than half the people there didn't know PDRL existed and heaps of people actually liked watching the games. I'd like to see it grow and get more girls involved if possible," Adams said.

Lisa Adams made an impact in her first season of rugby for Waikite last year. Photo / File
Lisa Adams made an impact in her first season of rugby for Waikite last year. Photo / File

The Rotorua Daily Post article about Adams playing women's rugby, published in August last year, attracted the attention of Paralympics New Zealand who approached her about getting involved.

After having a go at shot put and discus she travelled to Melbourne at the start of this month to get internationally classified as a para-athlete. While there she ended up competing in the Victoria Para Track and Field Championships. She proved to be a quick learner, finishing third in both the discus and shot put and, in her first official competition, breaking the New Zealand para shot put record.

But the aspect of her first competition she was most pleased with? Not swearing.

Related articles:

5 Aug, 2017 11:02am
4 minutes to read
12 Aug, 2017 1:58pm
2 minutes to read
10 Mar, 2018 6:00am
2 minutes to read
11 Mar, 2018 2:28pm
3 minutes to read

"You're not allowed to swear, you get a yellow flag. So that was the hardest thing. I have a really foul mouth and I was trying not to drop F-bombs. It's just out of frustration at myself, but I had to try not to use foul language."

She proved it was not beginners luck at the weekend when she competed at the New Zealand Track and Field Championships and claimed New Zealand titles in both disciplines.

Being the younger sister of one of the world's most successful shot putters comes with some pressure to perform, but Adams said Valerie had helped her out.

"She's fully on board with it, she's been real supportive. She ended up coming down here a couple of weeks before Melbourne and we had a little session in my sister's front yard. She helped me with my technique and it's tailored to what I can do. I can't fully swing my other arm like they do.

"I'm really appreciative, because she's busy as, but she's hard-out supportive."

The instant success has not gone to her head. Adams remains as humble as ever.

"I don't even consider myself an athlete really. It sounds weird when people call me that. I'm just the same old Lisa. I'm not even wearing matching jandals."

She has now set her sights on the 2020 Summer Paralympics in Tokyo and is in the middle of organising a training plan to try to make it happen.

Paralympic Open Days

Acc and Paralympics New Zealand are teaming up to provide free open days about para sport opportunities and one is being held in Tauranga on March 25.

There will be a chance to chat with para athletes and coaches and find out how you can get involved.

Where: ASB Bay Park, Tauranga
When: March 25