Famously dubbed as “New Zealand’s Golden Girl”, Valerie Adams is a shot putter from New Zealand, a four-time World champion, and one of the only nine athletes to win the World championships at the youth, junior and senior level of an athletic event. She is also the proud winner of two Olympic Gold medals, and a three-time Commonwealth champion. Tall, strong and well-built from a young age, she actively participated in sports as a school girl. With the guidance and support of a Physical Education teacher in her school, she went on to smash records at the regional junior athletics day as a 13-year-old. She harbored dreams of making it big as a sportsperson and trained diligently in preparation for her future career. As a young teen she met former javelin thrower Kirsten Hellier who became her coach for the next 11 years, helping the girl in perfecting her technique and guiding her to her first major win in World Youth Championships in 2001. From there Valerie went from success to success, clinching several gold and silver medals on her way. She has made her country proud with her glowing achievements as an athlete and became the first Kiwi to be named the World Athlete of the Year, in Monaco, in 2014.
Childhood & Early Life
She was born on 6 October 1984 in Rotorua, New Zealand, to a Tongan mother, Lillika Ngauamo, and an English father, Sydney Adams. Her father, who once worked with the Royal Navy, settled in New Zealand after service. Her father had been in several relationships and had a total of 18 children with five women.
Three of her brothers, including the NBA basketball player Steven Adams, also became professional sportsmen.
She was tall with strong arms and participated in the sporting events held at her school. One of her Physical Education teachers recognized her potential and encouraged her sporting interests.
She met the former javelin thrower Kirsten Hellier in 1998, and Hellier agreed to coach the teenager.
A tragedy befell the girl when her mother became ill with cancer. Valerie left school for three months to live with her mother in the hospice as she struggled with the disease. It was the year 2000 and as the mother-daughter duo watched the Sydney Olympic Games, Valerie was deeply inspired to become a successful athlete. Her mother died shortly afterwards.
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She became active on the sporting circuit and registered her first major win in 2001 when she clinched the title in the World Youth Championships with a throw of 16.87 m. Within a year she cemented her reputation as a rising sporting star by becoming the World Junior champion, throwing 17.73 m.
She participated in the 2002 Commonwealth Games where her throw of 17.45 m won her the silver medal, inspiring her to do even better in the future events. She also participated at the 2003 World Championships at the age of 18 where she finished fifth.
She was eagerly looking forward to her first Olympics in 2004, but unfortunately had to have an appendectomy just weeks before the competition. Still she took part and finished seventh.
She finished second at the World Athletics Final in 2005, losing the gold to Nadzeya Ostapchuk. Later on Ostapchuk’s drug test sample from that event was retested and found to be positive, and thus her results were annulled and Valarie was promoted to gold.
She had a great year in 2006 when she won the gold medal in the Commonwealth Games where she broke the 20-year-old Commonwealth Games record of 19.00 m with a throw of 19.66 m.
She won her first World Indoor Title in Valencia in 2008 with a throw of 20. 19 m. She also qualified for the final in the Beijing Olympics with a throw of 19.73 m, on her first attempt, and went on to win her first Olympic gold medal with a throw of 20.56 m, a personal best.
In 2009, she won the World Championship in Athletics in Berlin with a throw of 20.44m, beating German Nadine Kleinert and Chinese Lijiao Gong.
She had been coached by Kirsten Hellier since 1998. She decided to end this partnership and appointed Didier Poppe as her new coach in April 2010. However this partnership ended shortly afterwards and Jean-Pierre Egger took over as her coach in late 2010.
She won the silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics, losing the gold to Nadzeya Ostapchuk. However, when Ostapchuk failed two drug tests, her results were cancelled and Valerie was named the gold medalist.
At the 2013 World Championships games in Moscow, she won another gold medal—her fourth one—surpassing Astrid Kumbernuss for most gold medals by a female shot putter. The next year she won the gold medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, where she was also New Zealand's flag-bearer.
Awards & Achievements
She was named New Zealand's Sportswoman of the Year for seven consecutive years, from 2006-2012.
She was bestowed with the Halberg Supreme Award in 2007, 2008, and 2009 in recognition of her astonishing sporting achievements.
The ‘Track & Field News’ magazine presented to her the Women’s Track & Field Athlete of the Year in 2012 and 2013.
Personal Life & Legacy
She married Bertrand Vili, a discus thrower from New Caledonia in 2004. The marriage however ran into trouble a few years later and the couple divorced in 2010.