Athletics: Dame Valerie Adams guiding sister Lisa toward para shot-put glory

Even after eight world titles, three Commonwealth Games gold medals and two Olympic crowns, Dame Valerie Adams is still learning new shot-put lessons through younger sister Lisa.

The sibling combo has enjoyed an incredible month, with Lisa Adams surpassing her F37 para world record three times under the guidance of her heavily pregnant coach. That's something Dame Valerie has never come close to achieving in her own illustrious career.

Two of those performances came at Thursday's Sir Graeme Douglas International Track Challenge in Auckland, where Lisa, who has a form of cerebral palsy, tossed 14.52m and 14.47m with the 3kg orb - more than half a metre further than the global mark held by German Franziska Liebhardt.

They followed a 14.13m effort at the national championships in Christchurch two weeks ago.

There's still doubt whether her achievements fit the criteria to be ratified as world records. Athletics NZ, which has only recently assumed control of the programme from Paralympics NZ, will submit the paperwork and hope for the best.

In the past, that might have grated on Dame Valerie, who has never shied away from a stoush with officialdom. Remember the fuss over her botched London Olympics entry?

But standing on the other side of the fence - so far - she's remained calm and perhaps pacified by the massive smile on her sister's face.

"The para system is very complicated, so I have to get my head around that," Dame Valerie explains patiently. "She couldn't claim it [at the nationals] because it needed a world para-official something something…

"It's a different world, and you have to really learn and understand how it works.

"There are different classifications for different events. My head is still processing, but tonight is a different competition and hopefully we can claim it."

So, is that frustrating for her?

"No, not at all, because I have confidence that she will do it again."

Lisa Adams, 28, has competed in athletics for just a year, after previously playing rugby and rugby league. She received her para classification last March and threw 11.38m at last year's edition of the Douglas Challenge.

"She's very new to the sport," says Dame Valerie, 34. "She's very green, so what do you concentrate on?

"You concentrate on everything - being an athlete, training in the gym, in the circle technically, professional athlete-type demeanour, how you approach things…

"Today she's being drug-tested for the first time, so that's a whole new world for her. I was drug-tested for the first time at 14, but she's had a kid, so she'll be fine."

There's probably no-one in New Zealand better qualified to teach those things than Dame Valerie, but even with a clean slate to work with, the athletics legend has had to rein herself back as a coach.

"Lisa actually reminds me of me as an athlete," she says. "She's real stubborn, very, very driven… she doesn't take no for an answer and takes every challenge that comes her way.

Lisa Adams in shot-put action
Lisa Adams in shot-put action. Photo credit: Photosport

"I've had to modify a little bit of her training, but also learn the ropes of having a para athlete. It's not the same as having an able-bodied athlete, where you just chuck everything [at them] and they're good to go.

"This is not the same, but it is what it is and you have to work with it - it's been really fun."

For her part, Lisa Adams seems to have a good grasp of the process and responds well to advice.

"We try not to box it too much in a session," she says. "We always have one or two work-ons in training, then go to a competition and 'bake the cake' with everything.

"It's more about not over-thinking everything and me not over-analysing.

"In competition, she's my coach first. We're pretty good at defining that personal-professional relationship - training, gym, throw circle, she's all coach."

World records and medals still mean very little to Lisa Adams at this stage of her career. She simply hopes to compete at the Paralympic world championships at Dubai in November.

"I'll throw the best I can," insists Lisa Adams.

By then, all going to plan, her coach will have a second baby in tow and will be back competing towards next year's Tokyo Olympics.

"Someone said to me, 'do you want to compete, are you jealous or are you tired of watching?'," smiles Dame Valarie. "To be honest, I'm very comfortable with where I am at the moment.

"It's been a great journey and very different being on this side of the [fence]. It's not as stressful, but you do feel and compete with the athlete on the field.

"But at the end of the day, they've got to do it. I'm only here to help her and guide her, and she's still enjoying it.

"She threw well tonight and had a good back-up, so she can have dinner tonight - and a ride home too."  


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