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Valerie Leaves Best to Last at Athletics Worlds

Valerie Leaves her Best to Last at World Athletic Championships


Valerie Vili ,
Reuben
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Valerie Vili accepting her ‘Sportswoman of the Year’ award presented by Kiwi Captain Reuben Wiki (behind) at the 2006 Westpac Halberg Awards.

Media Release

Valerie Leaves her Best to Last at World Athletic Championships and Now It’s ‘Bring on Beijing’

20 September 2007: Like most top athletes, Valerie Vili pays little attention to other track or field events going on inside the stadium as she goes about her business. Any interruption can result in a loss of focus and concentration.

So the 22-year-old Commonwealth Games champion was understandably aggrieved when during the women’s shot put final at this year’s World Athletic Championship in Osaka last month, officials decided to hold up the sixth and final round to complete the heats of the women’s 100m. It left the young Kiwi, in second place at the time, “in a not very positive space.”

However Valerie, guest speaker at the Westpac Halberg Celebrity Sporting Function in Nelson next month, now believes the unexpected interruption could have been a blessing in disguise. It gave her time to slip across and get final instructions from her coach Kirsten Hellier who encouraged Valerie to “go out and do this one for dad,” who passed away in May this year.

With the sprints out of the way, the large crowd was able to zero in on the final round of the shot put and Valerie says she felt their energy. “We became the focus of attention and that really lifted me. I was feeling a lot of emotion, but also very charged up and suddenly felt I had nothing to lose.”

The rest, as they say, is history. Valerie popped out her final throw to 20.54m, further than in any other competition, winning the title and setting a New Zealand and Oceania record in the process. It was, she says, a moment she will always treasure.

It also lifted Valerie, already a world class athlete, to another level. She joined Beatrice Faumuina, who won the women’s discuss in Athens 10 years ago, as only the second New Zealand athlete to win a world athletics title.

Having won the world youth shot put title in 2001 and the World Junior crown in 2002, the win in Osaka took her into very elite company, joining hurdler Jana Rawlinson (Australia) and pole vaulter Yelene Isinbaeva (Russia) as only the third athlete ever to win a world title at youth, junior and senior level.

Just a week ago Valerie followed up that World Championship performance by again beating Nadzeva Ostapchuk (Belarus) into second place at a meeting in Italy. Her last competition in Europe before returning home will be in the IAAF World Athletic Final, in Stuttgart this Sunday (September 23).

One of her first engagements back in New Zealand will be the Westpac Halberg Celebrity Sporting luncheon at the Trafalgar Park Pavilion in Nelson on October 12. She says her visit to Nelson will be another first and something she is really looking forward to. “It’s a place I’ve heard a lot of goods things about.”

She is looking forward to a break after a big year and before she sits down with coach Hellier to plan the summer programme and then the business of her Beijing Olympic bid.

After finishing eighth at her Olympic debut in 2004 at Athens the 2006 Westpac Halberg ‘Spotrtswoman of the Year’, now with World Championship crown behind her, can look forward to 2008 with confidence.

The Halberg Trust has planned a total of 11 Westpac Halberg Celebrity Sporting Functions around the country, which started in Auckland on August 10 with the 1987 All Blacks tribute luncheon at Eden Park and will finish in Wellington on November 2. Other keynote speakers confirmed include Sydney Olympic rowing gold medallist Rob Waddell, 2007 World Single Scull Rowing Champion Mahe Drysdale and 2004 Athens gold medallists Georgina and Caroline Evers-Swindell.

Tickets for the Nelson Westpac Halberg Celebrity Sporting Function are available from Tony Thomas, Sport Tasman on 03 546 7910 or contact office[at]halberg.co.nz.


ENDS

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