Valerie Adams lived up to her billing as one of the warmest favourites in the World Championships by clinching a hat-trick of World titles and did so in style by equalling the championship record thanks to a humdinger of a final round throw.
With the gold medal in her pocket and the pressure lifted the giant New Zealander found the distance she has promised all season to fire the metal ball 21.24m – to match the same distance as Soviet Natalya Lisovskaya achieved when she snared this title in 1987.
Adams then punched the air in delight and sprinted out of the back of the circle mysteriously picking up a piece of paper and pointed at it and bouncing up and down in a jig of joy.
Behind, Nadzeya Ostapchuk of Belarus, who struggled to find her absolute best, took a second World silver with a best of 20.05m and 0.03 back in bronze was Jillian Camarena Williams, who plundered the USA’s first ever medal in this event.
Yet really this was all about Adams and it is worth evaluating her success in statistical terms. Besides setting a new personal best and an Area Record it was also the widest winning margin at 1.19m in the history of this event and the longest throw outdoors for 11 years. She also claimed a hat-trick of World titles – to match the achievements of the German great Astrid Kumbernuss - and the Kiwi also became the first woman in history to claim an IAAF World Championship Shot Put medal in four successive editions (she also won a bronze in Helsinki 2005). Given the fact she is still just 26 the potential for more records being broken in future seem imminently possible.
Yet looking back on her 21.24m throw it is hard to imagine that in the first half of the competition she was struggling to find her form and looked vulnerable to defeat.
Adams had opened with a sloppy 19.37m and it was Lijiao Gong of China who held the lead after the first stanza by just 0.01 from Camarena-Williams with 19.64m. Ostapchuk was third (19.58m).
The second round saw Adams and Gong both foul while Ling Li – who is coached by Kirsten Hellier, the woman who formerly guided Adams – catapulted up the leader board into the gold position with 19.71m.
It was in round three, though, the shape of the competition changed as the quality stepped up a notch with two familiar faces and one rising star.
Adams finally found her range with a 20.04m effort to take control and Russia’s Yevgeniya Kolodko, the European Under-23 champion, improved her personal best by a full 0.45m to post 19.78m to briefly move into silver. She was quickly relegated to bronze, though, as Ostapchuk advanced to 19.87m.
Round four saw Camarena-Williams the early leader come back into the medal frame in spectacular fashion as she produced a stunning 20.02m – the second longest throw of her career – within a whisker of the gold.
Yet Adams slammed the door firmly shut on anyone with any pretensions of challenging for gold when she fired the metal ball out to 20.72m with her fourth effort which all but the title.
The penultimate round saw more flip-flopping in the race for the minor medals. Gong briefly usurped Ostapchuk and moved into bronze with 19.97m only for Ostapchuk to respond with 20.05m to leap two places back up to silver.
The final round was all about Adams’ throw and in another nice touch she is now a three-time World Shot Put champion just like her mentor, the Swiss Werner Gunthor, who won the men’s World title in 1987, 1991 and 1993.
Steve Landells for the IAAF