In the second media teleconference to mark the beginning of the 2015 IAAF Diamond League, world and Olympic shot put champion Valerie Adams spoke to the press on Friday (8) from her training base in Magglingen, Switzerland.
The IAAF athlete of the year has endured a difficult winter in which she has undergone surgery twice. Adams has not yet committed to any IAAF Diamond League meetings but hopes to compete in one or two of them before the IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015.
Adams can lay claim to being the most successful athlete in the history of the IAAF Diamond League, having notched up a record 24 victories over the past five seasons of the series.
A four-time winner of the Diamond Race, the 30-year-old from New Zealand has amassed more Diamond Race points (126) than any other athlete.
Here are some of the highlights from today’s teleconference.
How have things been going training-wise and what are your competition plans?
It has been a pretty hard and slow process. I had double surgery about six-and-a-half months ago, which was very successful but the road to recovery has been a little bit longer than I had anticipated. Saying that, I had two surgeries and in one of them they had to turn the ulna nerve around. So far, so good. I’ve been here for two weeks and every week there’s progression so I can’t be too hard on myself.
Competition wise, I know this is a question that lots of people will want to ask me. The answer is I have my plans in my head but I’m going to make sure I’m ready before I announce anything. I’m not going to be competing in Shanghai or Oslo as I feel I won’t be ready to compete there yet. I don’t want to come out and start competing at 80%; I want to make sure that I’m 100% ready.
I’m not doing Shanghai or Oslo, but there are five more Diamond League meetings (with the women’s shot put) so I’m hoping to do two of them and some other competitions before the World Championships.
We’re not in a situation where we can rush ourselves, but we do have time on our side. We’ll do whatever we can to hopefully compete in July, but we won’t know until we get there.
What does it mean for you to compete in the IAAF Diamond League?
It’s very important; it gives us an opportunity to regularly compete against our opponents in high-level competition. These opportunities weren’t really there when I started track and field at the high level, but in the past four or five years it has been a great opportunity for us to challenge ourselves with our competitors being there at the majority of the Diamond League events. I think it’s important to showcase our sport this way.
Have you tested out your injury yet in the month or so since you departed New Zealand?
I’ve been able to slip right back into Jean-Pierre’s training schedule. That was something I always had on my mind; I wanted to make sure I was ready for whatever he had coming at me. It’s been pretty good these past three weeks and my body has been getting used to the workload.
So far, we’re both happy. It’s a work in progress and we have to stick to our guns.
The World Championships is a big focus for us this year, but not forgetting that the big goal here is Rio next year. I want to make sure that I’m ready to compete. I need to be confident and ready to rock and roll.
How long did it take you to recover from the hand injury in Morocco last year which was caused by an adverse reaction to a pain-killing injection?
Let’s just say it wasn’t quick at all. The effects of the injection were supposed to last for one or two hours but they lasted 24 hours. That was probably one of the freakiest episodes of my life.
How do you motivate yourself for yet another season of being world No.1?
My hunger for the sport and to win is still there and features highly on my radar. Especially this year with the surgery, I’ve really had to work my mind and my mental state so that I’m ready for whatever is thrown at me.
After having surgery, it has been a very frustrating time, physically, mentally and emotionally. Three months ago, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to throw a shot properly. Now that I’ve been able to do that here, it has given me more motivation to stay on top for as long as possible. These young girls are trying to kick me out, and that’s fine. That’s sport; one day it will happen. But I’m going to fight with every tooth and nail in my body to stay on top.
My other main motivation is my country, New Zealand. It’s a small country on the bottom of the world with 15 million sheep and four million people, so it’s great to represent your country doing something that you truly love.
Rio is the ultimate. Trying to win the Olympics again for a third time is the ultimate goal. People keep asking me what’s going to happen after Rio and I don’t know. I honestly don’t want to think about it right now. I want to make sure that whatever happens, I’ll be there and ready to go, physically and emotionally in the best shape of my life.
Is it difficult, motivation-wise, to start off a season knowing that you’re not quite at your best?
No, you just have to take it for what it is. You cannot control what goes on and how your body responds to things. You just have to work with it. Last year I had to really work hard with injuries and I still managed to stay on top and throw a world lead. I just have to do the same this year and then again next year with more of a hit behind me.
It’s just one of those things; as time goes on, age catches up. But my competitive spirit is still there and I still believe I can crack 21 metres again. I just have to have that self-belief and that work ethic behind me and hopefully we will see results.
It could be a difficult comeback this year, so have you ever thought you might lose one or two competitions?
If you start thinking like that, you might as well retire. In my mind, I’m not going to start competing until I’m 100% ready to give the girls a good run for their money. I do know that one day this winning streak will come to an end. When? I don’t know. But one thing is for sure: I’m not going to start competing until I’m ready. That’s not so much for the winning streak, but more for my confidence and for my preparation leading up to the World Championships.
Looking back on your past competitions, what was the toughest one to win?
Probably the Diamond League meeting in New York last year. I was in a really bad state physically, but I’d had a run of 49 wins leading into it. I was also in the USA and Michelle Carter was in front of me by a few centimetres. I came through and beat her, but it was a tough one. I really had to dig deep for that. It took every ounce of energy out of me.
Has your experience in New York, combined with what you’ve been through this winter, influenced your decisions with regards to your return to competition this year?
I’ve never missed a season since I started track and field, so this year has been a more difficult one. It was hard for me to accept the fact that this is what we’ve had to do. But you’re an athlete and it happens. It’s the first time I’ve had such a challenging time. I’d had a pretty good run up until the end of last year but I couldn’t handle it any more without undergoing surgery.
Was there any point where you thought that you might not come back?
It was very difficult. First it was my throwing arm and then it was nerve pain, which is something I’d never experienced before. The pain kills you.
I did have thoughts and doubts a week or two after surgery. I’d lost the feeling in my ring finger and pinky on my right-hand side for a long time, to the point where I couldn’t even pick up my phone. That scared me and I had to really dig deep during my rehab to recover from this one.
Track and field is one thing, but my life was another thing. Not being able to live life as normally as possible, doing really simple things, that really freaked me out because I had no strength in my hand whatsoever. But as time has gone on, my confidence and my trust in my hand has come back. I’m pleased to have got through that really dark period.