Tokyo Olympics: Dame Val Adams turns back clock for Olympics shotput bronze medal

It may be 'only' bronze - but this Olympic medal means more to Kiwi shotput icon Dame Val Adams than any gold she's ever won.

At 36, the two-time champion has turned back to the clock - and Mother Nature - to secure her fourth podium finish, throwing 19.62m for third place at Tokyo.

These may be her fifth Olympics in a long and distinguished athletics career, but they're also her first as a mother and moments after securing her medal, one of the world's strongest women broke down in tears for her two children watching from home.

"This means so much more than winning gold medals," she told Sky Sport. "I worked so hard to be here today and put myself in the situation to win a medal for New Zealand.

"From the last Olympics to these Olympics, I've had two humans and these two children really inspired me. Throughout the competition, I kept looking up in the stand and imagining them there.

"I just hope to continue to inspire female athletes around the world. If you want to have a kid and come back and be on top of the world, you can absolutely do that."

By the time she finally sees daughter Kimoana and son Kepaleli again, Adams will have been away from home four months and that absence obviously weighs heavily on her.

"This means me to me than winning both gold medals together," she says. "I know my whole family is watching me from my lounge."

After qualifying sixth for the final, Adams moved into a medal position with a 19.49m second throw and consolidated her standing with 19.62m in the third round.

Chinese Lijiao Gong led throughout, eventually extending to 20.58m with her sixth and final effort, while American Raven Saunders promised big things, but just failed to deliver on potential, still good enough for silver with 19.79m.

Meanwhile, Dame Val was intent on staving off challengers for her bronze, with Portugese Auriol Dongmo her biggest threat. Dongmo closed her series with 19.57m and two 19.45m throws, but could not find the extra centimetres needed to usurp the legend.

One of those undoubtedly inspired was Adams' successor-in-waiting - Maddie Wesche - who was quietly building on her resume with a surprise sixth, throwing another personal best of 18.98m.

Arriving in Tokyo with a best of 18.45m, the world junior champion bettered that twice in qualifying and three more times in the final, even wearing sunglasses into the circle for her longest toss.   

"You always want more, but to throw a PB 24 hours later, I'm pretty happy with that," she says.

"Just having fun and relaxing, I made it here and you've got to enjoy every moment."

With the best seat in the house, as Dame Val wove her motherly magic over an Olympic shotput competition, Wesche - at 22, the youngest in the field - has plenty of time to deliver on the lessons learnt.

"It's pretty cool," she says. "You don't see these moments a lot in real life, especially during a pandemic, but to be here and witness that is something special."