Valerie Vili winning in the Bird's Nest (Getty Images) © Copyright
Valerie ADAMS (previously VILI), New Zealand (Shot Put)
Born 6 October 1984
Coached by Didier Poppe
Valerie Adams had a reluctant start in athletics. Being a shy young woman, who was continually picked upon for her height at school, she did not want to draw attention to herself. But, at the age of 14, she was virtually forced to participate by her Physical Education teacher and she broke a regional schools competition shot put record which had stood for 20 years.
In 1998, Adams was introduced to Kirsten Hellier, and together they embarked upon an immensely successful partnership. Hellier quickly realised that the very characteristics that had marked Adams for taunts and mocking (her height and size) were the foundations for success in her chosen event.
Adams was selected for her first representative team to the 1999 World Youth Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland, and finished 10th with a best throw of 12.82m in the final.
Her mother passed away from cancer in September 2000, just after the opening of the Sydney Olympics, and Adams privately vowed to prove herself on the Olympic stage to honour her memory. Those nearest to Adams suggest that this was a turning point in her life as she became more determined to achieve success. Adams turned to Hellier for emotional support, and the coach/athlete relationship became a tighter bond. Adams also moved into the house shared by Hellier and her husband.
In 2001 Adams won gold in the World Youth Championships in Debrecen, Hungary, with a throw of 16.87m. In 2002, she won gold at the World Junior Championships in Kingston, Jamaica, with a throw of 17.73m, almost a metre further than the second-placed competitor. This led to her first senior competition, the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England. The 17-year-old surprised many back home in New Zealand with a silver medal, throwing 17.45m, only 8cm away from the gold.
A creditable fifth place at her first World Championships, in Paris, in 2003, gave her additional motivation to succeed and valuable experience in the lead-up to the 2004 Athens Olympics. However, she was unable to honour the promise she had made to her mother’s memory. Adams was rushed to hospital with appendicitis the week before she was due to leave New Zealand. Unfortunately, during the surgery, there were further complications which put her participation at the Athens Olympics in doubt. However, the highly motivated Adams made it to Athens, but finished a disappointing ninth (later improved to eighth after the Russian gold medallist, Irina Korzhanenko, was disqualified after failing a drugs test).
On her return home, Adams became engaged to, and subsequently married, Bertrand Vili, a New Caledonian discus thrower.
In 2005, Valerie Vili picked up a bronze medal at the World Championships, in Helsinki, and, the following year, at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games, she won the gold medal with a Commonwealth Games record (19.66m).
Vili has improved her PB every year since 1999, and first broke through 20 metres at the New Zealand national championships in January 2006. Her throw of 20.20m was a New Zealand and Oceania Area record.
She suffered her first defeat of 2006 at the World Athletics Final, in Stuttgart, in September, when she was beaten by Natallia Mikhnevich (née Khoroneko) of Belarus (19.81m to 19.64m). However, it was not all bad as she had the satisfaction of defeating both the 2004 Olympic champion Yumileidi Cumbá, and the 2005 World champion Nadzeya Ostapchuk. Vili won the final meeting of the season, the World Cup, held in Athens, with a throw of 19.87m.
2006 ended for Vili with recuperation after an operation to her shoulder. This recuperation and rehabilitation kept her out of competition for most of the New Zealand 2006-07 summer season. She returned to competition to win at the IAAF permit meeting in Christchurch (18.32m), and the national championships (18.84m), before embarking on her quest for World Championship glory.
The 2007 World Championships, in Osaka, were a hugely satisfying competition for Vili. She bettered her New Zealand and Oceania record with a last-round throw of 20.54m. This throw was dedicated to her father who had passed away only a few months earlier. It also secured the gold medal for Vili, although she had to endure a nervous wait whilst defending champion Ostapchuk made one final attempt, which fell short. Vili joined a select group of athletes who have won titles at World Youth, World Junior and now World senior level.
Vili couldn’t repeat her World Championships triumph in Stuttgart at the World Athletics Final (the last international competition of the 2007 calendar) finishing 2nd behind her close rival Ostapchuk, 20.45m to 20.40m.
She has continued to throw consistently throughout the New Zealand summer season, recording victories in 19.24m (John Walker Night - Auckland), 19.72m (Canberra, AUS A-series), 19.66m (Porritt Classic – Hamilton), and 19.78m (Sydney, AUS – A-Series).
She recorded 20.13m to win the IAAF Permit Meeting in Auckland on 19 February 2008. This was a special night for Vili as she was also crowned New Zealand Sportswoman of the Year (for the second year running) and the overall Sportsperson of the Year at the Halberg Awards.
Vili’s last performance before flying to Valencia for the World Indoor Championships was in Brisbane on 28 February, winning the Australian title (19.54m). Her only previous appearance at the World Indoor Championships was in Budapest in 2004, where she was 5th in her qualifying pool and did not make the final.
However, in Valencia it was a totally different result. Vili won convincingly with 20.19m while her rival Ostapchuk could not break the 20m barrier.
Vili had been content to get back into base training before the Olympics. However, she did accept an invitation to compete in the Beijing Olympic stadium nicknamed “The Bird’s Nest” in May. She won easily with 19.41m but believed that the experience of being at the Olympic stadium was invaluable in the lead-up to the Games.
Valerie rounded out her Olympic preparations with a win (20.08m) in Townsville, Australia, where she has been at a warm weather training camp. The same weekend her rival Ostapchuk threw a world leading put of 20.86m. Vili says “I’ll be out there giving it my best and I know my competitors will be doing the same.”
Back in Beijing for the Games, a fired-up Vili stamped her mark on the Olympic final from the very first throw. “I was determined to show all my competitors that I meant business... I was there to win!” Her first throw was out to 20.56m, a new personal best, and was never headed. Arch-rival Ostapchuk was one who did not (or could not) respond to the presence and domination of Vili, only finishing third, well off her best.
Vili competed in Europe after the Olympics and finished off an amazing season with a win in the World Athletics Final in Stuttgart.
Vili started 2009 in a position new to her – that of title defender. This has however not changed her attitude. “I have put in the hard work, and I am there to win”.
The New Zealand Federation brought Ostapchuk to Waitakere in February 2009 to provide Vili with some serious international competition in her home country for the first time. Vili did not show any preferential treatment, given that Ostapchuk had travelled 36 hours to reach New Zealand. In pouring rain Vili defeated Ostapchuk 20.25m to 19.11m.
After another pleasing training block, Vili accepted an invitation to test herself in the South American Grand Prix series in Brazil. She returned home having beaten a number of good Cuban throwers, and another top Belarusian (the silver medallist from the Beijing Olympics Natallia Mikhnevich) and with another New Zealand and Oceania record (20.69m from Rio de Janeiro).
Vili showed she was in no mood to be trifled with in Berlin. Her first throw of the qualifying competition (19.70m) easily passed the 18.50m automatic qualifying mark for the final, and was the longest throw recorded. In the final, hometown favourite Nadine Kleinert started strongly with a personal best of 20.20m, and Vili’s opening throw of 19.40m only left her in 4th place. It wasn’t until the 3rd round of the competition that Vili took the lead with 20.25m, which she subsequently improved to 20.44m to seal the victory.
Vili continued her good form in two meetings post Berlin with 20.45m in Thum and 20.41m in Bad Köstritz, before contesting the World Athletics Final in Thessaloniki, Greece. She dominated the competition recording a new New Zealand and Oceania record of 21.07m, winning the competition by more than 1m. “My personal goal this year was to break 21m and I’m so pleased to have achieved it here,” she declared.
On returning home to New Zealand, Vili has been the subject of many honours. She was voted as New Zealand’s Sportswoman of the Year and overall Sportsperson of the Year for the third year running, a remarkable feat.
Vili started 2010 with a strong performance at the Porritt Classic in Hamilton where she broke her New Zealand resident record of 20.20m with 20.25m. She then readied herself for the World Indoor Championships by competing in the Sydney Track Classic where she improved on her first outing of the season by recording 20.57m.
Vili’s three year unbeaten streak (28 finals from 19 December 2007 to 4 March 2010) was broken at the World Indoor Championships in Doha, with a narrow loss to Ostapchuk. Although Vili set an Area record with 20.49, Ostapchuk upped it with a Championships record 20.85 in the last round.
Upon her return to New Zealand, Vili announced that she would split with her coach of 11 years, Kirsten Hellier. At a press conference Vili choked back tears when making the announcement saying “Kirsten has been so much more than just a coach, she has been an amazing mentor and friend as well. It’s time for me to get some new input into my training”.
After a long period of consultation and reflection, Didier Poppe, the very experienced French field event coach, agreed to become Vili’s new coach. Vili has also recently returned to using her maiden name Adams. With any new partnership there is a settling in period. Aspects of Valerie Adams’ technique have been worked upon, and her results during her first Diamond League season, whilst still consistently over 19.50m, have yet to reach the heights of the previous three years, along with several defeats at the hands of Ostapchuk.
1999 - 14.15; 2000 - 15.72; 2001 - 17.08; 2002 - 18.40; 2003 - 18.93 (AJR); 2004 - 19.29; 2005 - 19.87 (AR); 2006 - 20.20 (AR); 2007- 20.54 (AR), 2008 -20.56 (AR), 2009 – 21.07 (AR), 2010 – 20.57
1999 10th World Youth Championships, Bydgoszcz
2001 1st World Youth Championships, Debrecen
2002 6th World Cup, Madrid
2002 2nd Commonwealth Games, Manchester
2002 1st World Junior Championships, Kingston
2003 5th World Championships, Paris
2004 8th Olympic Games, Athens
2005 3rd World Championships, Helsinki
2005 2nd World Athletics Final, Monaco
2006 1st Commonwealth Games, Melbourne
2006 2nd World Athletics Final, Stuttgart
2006 1st World Cup, Athens
2007 - 1st World Championships, Osaka
2007 2nd World Athletics Final, Stuttgart
2008 1st World Indoor Championships Valencia
2008 1st Olympic Games, Beijing
2008 1st World Athletics Final, Stuttgart
2009 1st World Championships Berlin
2009 1st World Athletics Final, Thessaloniki
2010 2nd World Indoor Championships, Doha
Prepared by Murray Taylor for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2006-2010.