Report27 Feb 2021

Adams rolls back the years with 19.65m shot put victory in Auckland


Valerie Adams in action at the Sir Graeme Douglas International (© Getty Images)

New Zealand’s two-time Olympic shot put champion Valerie Adams produced a stunning return to form to post her longest throw for five years with a 19.65m effort at the Sir Graeme Douglas International, a World Athletics Continental Tour Bronze meeting, on Saturday (27).

The 10-time global champion, now aged 36, is a bona fide icon of the sport and tonight she returned to her vintage best, unleashing four throws in excess of 19m.

Adams, who recently relocated from Auckland to Christchurch to come under the coaching guidance of Dale Stevenson, had steadily improved in her three previous competitions this year, and two weeks ago in Hamilton powered the 4kg shot out to 18.68m.

But few could have predicted quite this level of performance from Adams, who after matching her previous season’s best of 18.68m in round one, launched the shot out to a massive 19.65m in round two – to coincidentally match the world-leading indoor mark of Portugal’s Auriol Dongmo.

After allowing herself a clap of joy following this throw, the Kiwi then proved it was no fluke by firing the shot out to 19.31m in round three, 19.14m with her fifth attempt and an 19.36m effort to complete a satisfactory night’s work.

Not since 28 August 2016 in Bad Kostritz, Germany – just two weeks after winning Olympic silver in Rio – has Adams produced such a lengthy competitive throw. It was also her first throw beyond 19 metres for three years.

“I am absolutely ecstatic, I’m so happy,” an emotional Adams said. “The smile is not going to go away any time soon. Taking the time to move down to train in Christchurch has all paid off. Today was a great day!

“I definitely feel like my old self again. After my last three competitions, I went back and studied my own videos from when I was at the top of my game to remind myself of what it felt like. I had a massive training session this week to emphasise that feeling and I was able to execute it.

“It was a post-two-babies PB,” she added. “To be able to do that and back it up with consistent throwing is massive. Hopefully, this will inspire mums that they can perform in sport after having kids.

“And for others who doubted me, hopefully this stops that. I’ve basically confirmed in my brain, physically and mentally, Tokyo is now on. All of that hard work and being away from my family has paid off.”

Behind Adams, world U20 shot champion Maddison Wesche posted a season’s best effort of 18.12m for second.

It was also a successful night in the shot circle for Adams’ training partner Tom Walsh, who ended a sequence of four straight defeats to Jacko Gill to beat his fierce domestic rival.

In a competition that ebbed and flowed, Walsh took a first-round lead with a 20.90m effort, only for Gill to strike back in the next round with a 21.05m performance.

Walsh extended his best to 20.95m in round three, and followed it with a huge foul in the fourth round, but was elated to fire the 7.26kg metal ball to a season’s best of 21.60m in round five to reclaim the lead.

Gill – who in each of his past two meetings has thrown PBs of 21.52m – responded well with a 21.44m put, but today it was to be Walsh’s day.

“It felt okay,” said Walsh of his fifth-round throw. “It was much better than the first few rounds, although it blew through my fingers, it hurt like hell. But it was a nice feeling to get something behind it because the first three rounds were no good.”

On Adams’ performance, he added: “I had an insight that she was worth 19m plus tonight. It was good to see my training partner throwing well. It was her furthest throw in five years and she’ll be over the moon with that. She’ll be a handful to deal with in training on Monday!”

Elsewhere, Hamish Kerr, who last week claimed sole ownership of the New Zealand men’s high jump record with 2.31m in Wellington, maintained his winning streak with a best of 2.28m.

The 24-year-old Christchurch-based athlete then moved the bar up to 2.33m to have a dart at the automatic Olympic qualification mark – but despite a narrow miss at the first attempt, he was denied a second national record in seven days.

Zoe Hobbs maintained her status as New Zealand’s premier sprinter to take victory in the women’s 100m final in 11.45 (0.3m/s). The 23-year-old, who earlier this season set a PB of 11.35, enjoyed another good outing in the heats with a wind-assisted 11.36 (2.5m/s).

Georgia Hulls, partner to Kerr, finished second in the women’s 100m in a PB of 11.64.

The eagerly-awaited 100m showdown between New Zealand’s two quickest men saw race leader Tiaan Whelpton’s (PB 10.30) race come to an abrupt end at 70m with a hamstring problem.

Following Whelpton’s injury, his rival and good friend Eddie Osei-Nketia eased to victory in a wind-assisted 10.46 (3.2m/s) ahead of his training partner Joseph Millar (10.69).

Camille Buscomb once again demonstrated her middle-distance dominance with victory in the women’s 1500m in a time of 4:15.25 – 2.60 seconds clear of nearest pursuer Katherine Camp.

Steve Landells for World Athletics

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