Valerie Adams is used to fuss.
Wherever the double gold-winning Olympic medalist goes, there’s always someone who’s bound to recognise her- being 1.93 metres tall and all, she’s not hard to miss- but amongst the media scrum today at Manurewa College, Valerie took a back seat to someone else.
Fifteen-year-old aspiring shot-putter Freedom Nathan was given a training session of a lifetime when Valerie turned up to offer some tips and tricks.
Freedom, who is blind, spent almost the entire day with Valerie, and says she’s got some pretty jealous family and friends at home.
“At first I was pretty nervous about all the cameras being here, but it probably helps I can’t seem them!” she giggles, as Valerie roars with laughter next to her.
“But today has been totally amazing. To hang out with Valerie has been incredible. My family, they’ve supported me all the way, they’ve supported me through everything I’ve done, so I think they’re happy for me!”
Valerie joined in with other disabled students for a game of Goalball, a Paralympic sport where competitors cannot see- instead they listen for a bell inside the ball to figure out where it is in the court, and use their entire bodies to block shots.
“When I first heard about it I was really nervous, and when I played it, I sweat more concentrating on listening for the ball than actually playing it!” Valerie grins.
“But I really enjoyed it. It was pretty brutal, it’s a lot harder than it looks,” she says, gesturing to an already bruised knee.
Valerie certainly wasn’t afraid of getting involved in the game, and had more than one cameraman jumping out of the way of her ferociously flung goalballs.
The event, which was organized by the Halberg Disability Sport Foundation, then saw Valerie help Freedom with her shot put technique, and in the space of a few minutes, already increased her distance by more than two and a half metres, much to the delight of both Freedom and the crowd of students that had gathered to watch.
“Freedom, she’s awesome,” Val says. “I have massive respect for athletes like her, and this is what it’s all about- helping kids like her.”
Freedom’s hoping to make the 2016 Rio Olympic team, and with Valerie as her mentor, she reckons her goal just got a lot more achievable.
Despite the craziness of last year, Valerie says there will be no slowing down in 2013, with meets and competitions already dominating the calendar, but she is back from her base in Switzerland this week for the Halberg Sports Awards, which will be held on Thursday night.
“It’s the icing on the cake, really,” the Sportswoman of the Year nominee says. “2012 was an awesome year for Kiwi sport, so I’m ready to celebrate it.”
About Kelly Bertrand
“I started at the Weekly after a two-week internship in 2011, which was part of my journalism studies. Basically, I hung around and annoyed people long enough to land a job as a staff writer, and I’ve been here ever since. I’m lucky enough to get to write stories ranging from the Kardashians through to the Queen, but my real passion is telling the stories of New Zealand’s sporting stars. Sometimes I can’t quite believe it’s my job to hang out with All Blacks and Silver Ferns! I absolutely love working at the Weekly, and feel really privileged to be part of this 83-year-old Kiwi institution. I’m also fond of Instagram, coffee and animals dressed as humans!”more of this author