Valerie Adams’ historic fourth successive World title in Moscow was unquestionably the performance highlight of the New Zealand athletics year. In his own words his Swiss coach Jean-Pierre Egger talks through her glorious success in the Russian capital.
After a good winter’s training Valerie started to experience some knee pain in May which threatened to jeopardise her entire season. It was a big concern according to the man they call JP.
“I was anxious about the knee problem, because it was the first time she had experienced a problem there. The ankle injury also came more into the picture. It became a big point of interrogation. What should we do? Fortunately, Lou Johnson (Valerie’s physio) had the chance to work with Valerie in Switzerland and she worked on her very quickly. Valerie made it to compete at the Eugene Diamond League meeting just ten days after she was barely able to walk. The Chinese girl (Gong Lijiao) threw very well there over 20m (20.12m), but Valerie won the competition with 20.15m. To me, this confirmed she was in very good shape. It was a test. This performance was perhaps better than the performance in Moscow.”
Nursing knee and ankle injuries, JP realised Valerie’s training had to be managed very carefully should she reach Moscow in shape to retain her title. Digging deep from the well of his past coaching experience he devised a formula which he hoped would work. Werner Gunthor, the three-time former World shot put champion whom JP had coached, provided a prime example of how injury adversity could be overcome.
“Werner suffered a major injury to his back and required a disc operation. Yet he managed to win two of his world titles (in 1991-93) after surgery. Valerie (after Eugene) had a good competition - much better than what we thought was possible. This gave me confidence. To make this same journey we needed to make a change. She could not do deep squats, which are really important for leg strength. The injuries meant she was not as dynamic in her leg work during the glide.
She was not attacking the board as she normally would. So we worked with lighter shots – throwing with 3kg and 4kg shots rather than 4kg and 5kg. Mentally, it would be good for her to throw a good distance rather than train one metre further down.”
The plan was working. Valerie after nearly a month ways from competition threw a season’s best and world leading throw of 20.88m in Ostrava in late June. She maintained her astonishing unbeaten streak with wins in Paris, Luzern and London – her last victory in the British capital coming with a 20.90m effort. JP and Valerie arrived in Moscow in good heart.
“It was a very interesting period for me as a coach. I am normally a little bit nervous as a coach before a big competition. I was the same as a competitor. I always felt that tension. Yet in Moscow I was not nervous. I was very confident. Valerie was throwing very fluently with good movement in her legs. The last thing I said to Valerie (before the final) was ‘make a party for us.’
Valerie did make a party as she cruised to her a fourth straight world title, unprecedented for a women athlete. She led the qualifiers with 19.89m and dominated the final leading from her first round throw with 20.41m. She never relinquished control. Producing the three longest marks of the final – a third round 20.88m as the gold medal winning distance - the Kiwi cruised to victory and then lit up the medal ceremony by unveiling a message on each hand daubed in black marker pen which read ‘Happy Birthday JP’ on one hand and ‘Thank You Moscow’ on the other.
“Moscow was easy for me (as a coach). I had a great angle to watch the action in the stadium. I had celebrated my 70th birthday some days before the final and it was a fantastic moment. To see her birthday message on the medal podium was an indescribable moment for me.”
Yet another gold medal pocketed by the New Zealand thrower - the duo then shared an embrace in their hour of yet victory. She then reaffirmed her complete dominance in the event by ending her season with victories in Stockholm, Zurich (with a season’s best and world leading throw of 20.98m which was also an Oceania indoor record of 20.98) and Berlin. She ended the season boasting a perfect 13 out of 13 record - her unbeaten streak now stretching back 42 competitions to Zurich 2010. Valerie underwent surgery in September on knee and ankle. However, JP is confident for the future.
“After the problems she had this season her average (winning throw) of 20.67m was a very high performance and I know if we find the possibility to do more dynamic work on the legs and feet and mix that with work she has done in the past then 21m is a big possibility this season. However, our goal is not to, say, throw 21.70m. It is absolutely not the performance. It is about the mind and body feeling good. The performance will then follow. Many people must have a goal, but these can only be achieved if your body and mind are well. This for us is the most important thing.”