If you saw the 2008 Beijing Olympics or the 2012 London Olympics, you may remember the New Zealand shot putter Valerie Adams for her biceps or height. At 6 ft 4 in and 260 lb, Valerie Adams stands out from the crowd.
As a two-time Olympic gold medalist, Valerie consistently ranks among the best women shot putters in the world. Although she’s won two Olympic gold medals so far, she’s far from done with her career. She will be heading to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in August. In order to prepare ourselves to watch her compete, we compiled five things you may not know about Valerie Adams.
1. The 2016 Rio Olympics will be Valerie’s fourth Olympic Games.
After her Olympic debut in 2004 at the Athens Olympics, Valerie won gold in 2008 and 2012, in Beijing and London. Although she is considered New Zealand’s best ever women’s shot putter and won four world crowns, she considers winning gold at the Olympics her greatest wins.
“The Olympic Games are the pinnacle of your career,” Valerie said. “You train hard, you go through slumps, you cry, you make yourself sick—your entire focus is on the Games. As an athlete, they mean everything to me. That’s why I do what I do.”
2. In April 2016, Valerie married Gabriel Price in the Hamilton New Zealand Temple.
Valerie and Gabriel, who are both 31 years old, have been friends since childhood and knew each other from church. They were sealed to each other in the Hamilton New Zealand Temple. The small temple ceremony was followed by a larger family celebration in the evening.
In traditional Tongan wedding style, Valerie’s bouquet and Gabriel’s lapel flower were made of white rosebuds, which Tongans consider as the most beautiful flower in the world. Valerie also performed the traditional bride’s solo dance, followed by guests pinning money on her as a celebratory tradition.
3. Valerie is one of 18 siblings.
Born in Rotorua, New Zealand, Valerie’s Tongan mother (Lilika Ngauamo) and English father (Sydney Adams) met in New Zealand after his service in the Royal Navy. Sydney Adams had a total of 18 children with five different women. When Valerie was only fifteen years old, her mom passed away, which was devastating for her.
“My mum was everything to me,” Valerie said. “She sacrificed for us and was my inspiration. We grew up strong in our culture. When she died, it was tough for me and my family. But I was determined to make her proud.”
Valerie still practices many Tongan traditions in order to remember her mother. Not only was her wedding inspired by Tongan culture, but her cooking and home life also take her back to her Tongan heritage.
4. Valerie boldly speaks out against athlete doping.
After recent doping scandals in Russia and other shot put events, Valerie strongly shares her opinion about what should happen to athletes caught doping. “I have no sympathy whatsoever for anyone once they have been done. For me it’s like someone who cheats on their spouse. Once a cheater always a cheater. Kick them out and don’t let them back in. That’s my stance on doping. Zero tolerance. Some people are more lenient towards athletes who do this—but not me. I’m very cut-throat because I have been affected by it three times.”
After finishing ninth in Athens at her first Olympic Games in 2004, one of the top eight shot putters was convicted of doping. However, by then it was too late for Valerie to reenter the competition. However, drug testing has also helped Valerie win gold. After failing drug tests, the world champion winner from Belarus in 2005 lost her gold medal to Valerie, who had previously won the silver. No matter how doping affects her, Valerie speaks out against it and promotes zero tolerance.
5. She loves to cook and consume delicious food.
One stop on her Facebook page exhibits her love of good food and cooking. Whether she’s making a loaf of her specialty bread or creating a Tongan meal for the missionaries, her food posts never fail to impress. With Tongan influence, Valerie cooks up a variety of foods, from “Salmon Wellington” to “sapasui, corn, roast kumara, [and] Otai.” Currently living in Switzerland to train for Rio, Valerie shares a medley of different foods that all look delicious and homemade.
Valerie will represent New Zealand in the women’s shot put even for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, starting August 5.