Shot putter Val Adams aims for rare Olympics treble
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) New Zealand shot putter Valerie Adams commands a place among the most elite companies in world athletics and yet has the misfortune of not even being the most famous athlete in her family.
Adams will attempt at the Rio de Janeiro Games to become the first woman to win the same individual track and field event at three consecutive Olympics.
Already Adams is one of only nine track and field competitors to have won world championships in youth, junior and senior level, and the only woman to have won four consecutive world championships in the same event.
And yet when she gets together with family, Adams accepts that among her 17 brothers and sisters - the children of her father, Sid - she is only the second best-known outside her native New Zealand.
Her youngest brother, Steven, is center for the Oklahoma City Thunder who - with his wild hair and lavish moustaches - was one of the stars of last season's NBA playoffs. Two other brothers have played professional basketball within New Zealand.
Adams' rise to her status as probably the best female shot putter in history, has not been without injuries, struggle and disappointment.
''All those obstacles I've had to overcome have made me stronger, mentally, physically and emotionally,'' Adams told New Zealand's Fairfax Media. ''A lot of athletes probably would have retired by now because it was a long stretch coming back, but I didn't want to go out like that.
''I knew I had at least one more left in me. I wanted to come back and retire on my own terms.''
While Adams first announced herself by winning the world youth title in 2001 at the age of 16 and further demonstrated her talent by winning the junior title the following year, she has negotiated a career path beset by obstacles and setbacks.
Adams was fifth at her first world championships in 2003, when she was 18, and seventh at her first Olympics at Athens in 2004 when she competed only weeks after an appendectomy.
The most significant early result of her senior career came in 2005 when she won a world championship bronze medal and had her first taste of competition with her contentious rival, Nadzeya Ostapchuk.
That rivalry reached its pinnacle at the 2012 London Olympics when Adams, the defending champion, was beaten into second place by Ostapchuk.
But the Belarussian subsequently tested positive for a banned steroid and Adams was promoted to first place, receiving her gold medal at a ceremony in Auckland several weeks later and denied a proper celebration at the games.
In 2010, Adams split from long-time coach and friend Kirsten Hellier, an unpleasant epidsode in her career which also preceded a winning streak which lasted five years and 56 competitions.
When Adams was finally beaten, at a Diamond League meeting in Paris in July 2015, it was because she was making a tentative return from a double injury which threatened to upset her bid to win her third Olympics gold medal.
Adams had surgery to repair chronic damage to her right elbow and to remove a bone fragment from her right shoulder - the most severe of many injuries in her career.
She struggled on her return and it seemed her lengthy reign as the world's best female shot putter was ending. But with typical tenacity Adams has rallied.
She won Diamond League meetings in Morocco and Rome this year, was second in Birmingham then won again in Monaco in July, throwing more than 20 meters for the first time since 2014. That helped convince Adams that she is on track for the defense of her Olympics title.
Adams will be without her coach Jean Pierre Egger, who injured his knee injury at Monaco, but said ''the bus continues on the Team Adams journey.''
After a difficult year with injuries, she feels the onset of her best form.
''We are getting back our mojo from a couple of years ago and that's something I've missed a lot,'' Adams said. ''It's great to have the feeling I'm able to dominate my training as opposed to it dominating me like it did last year. All these small things help with taking a positive outlook to the event coming up.
''I have goals I want to achieve. People have their expectations but the biggest expectations always come from within.''