VALERIE ADAMS
Olympic athlete
1984

New Zealand's most successful female athletics champion

Valerie Adams' success has been as much about throwing a small, metal ball astonishing distances, as it has been about inspiring young New Zealanders. Particularly those from South Auckland, where the double Olympic champion grew up.

Adams' feats have instilled belief in her community and beyond. Her chutzpah is among the threads helping New Zealand weave a more cosmopolitan cultural tapestry in the 21st century.

Bulldozing barriers has been key to Adams' legacy.

She is the only woman to win four consecutive athletics world championships in an individual event and she set a world-record-equalling 107 straight victories at international-ranked meets from 2007 to 2014.

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Adams shattered the gender divide in Tonga when appointed the first woman "matapule" or chief of Houma, the village of her late mother Lilika. She was bestowed with the name Tongi Tupe Oe Taua, to acknowledge her sporting feats.

At the Rio Olympics, she 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 but dropped 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 and records soon started tumbling.

The school's Māori motto "inā te mahi he rangatira" translates to "by deeds a chief is known".

Today, one of her old shoes is presented as the school's pinnacle sports award.

Adams was 15 when her mother died, but not before she promised to do everything possible to break the shackles of a difficult childhood and fulfill her talents.

Adams' achievements on the world sporting stage and beyond are proof she kept her word.