For Valerie Adams, the hard part is over, and it’s time to get back to doing what she does best: winning.
For more than five years and through 56 competitions, the New Zealander has remained unbeaten but on Saturday evening in Paris, she may face her toughest test yet.
Not alone will the Olympic champion attempt to continue her winning streak against a loaded field – including Christina Schwanitz, Lijiao Gong, Michelle Carter and Natalya Mikhnevich – but she will do so having returned to action from a prolonged absence following double surgery last year.
On Friday, Adams was equal parts apprehensive and excited about her return to competition, but remained confident of a good showing when she takes to the throwing circle in the Stade de France.
“Tomorrow will be a very big day for me,” she said. “Training has been going pretty well but I really don’t know what’s going to happen. We’ll see who steps up. I still have the competitive edge but it’s been a very long time since I’ve competed so I’ll be interested to see what happens.”
Adams underwent double surgery last September on her left shoulder and right elbow and at several points during a rollercoaster comeback, she questioned whether her shot putting days were behind her. At one point, Adams lost all feeling and strength in one of her fingers, but she has worked tirelessly on an extensive rehabilitation programme over the last nine months to get herself back to full strength. In the end, it was her love of the sport and her desire to be back doing it that helped her through the tough times.
“You deal with these things all the time,” she said. “I love what I do and I love track and field with my heart so that obviously plays a big part in my motivation and my drive.”
The 30-year-old admitted that with the advancing years, she has been forced to adapt her training and warm-up to account for the wear and tear on her body.
“As time goes on, things deteriorate just a little bit, but you adapt and go on,” she said. “We’ve managed to get through the hard times, but we’ve a lot of work to do. I’m ready to start and looking forward to tomorrow.”
Though Adams is still confident of victory in Paris, she made it clear that the sole focus of the season was the World Championships in Beijing. Right now, nothing else matters.
“I have to take things at my own pace. Winning a Diamond League is important but it’s not the most important meeting of the season; that’s the World Championships.”
Beyond Beijing, Adams has her sights already trained on the Olympics in Rio. Beyond that, she says, her body may well cry surrender, though she hopes it will grant her one last season in 2018.
“The biggest goal is Rio and then I’ll re-assess beyond that,” she said. “My dream is to get to the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games [in 2018] and retire after that. Obviously, that’s just a hop, skip and jump from New Zealand so it would be fantastic to be there.
“The body should not give up before the mind. I’ll keep pushing forward till my body says no more. I’m still enjoying what I do. I still have a smile on my face, and that’s half the battle.”
And with the hardest part of the battle already won, it’s time for Adams to once again go to war with her rivals. Few, if any, do it better.
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