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Valerie looking forward to a break

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Valerie looking forward to a break after capping a long, hard year with gold in Beijing

Auckland, 08 October: A new athletics season has just got under way, but don’t expect to see Valerie Vili stepping into the shot put circle any time soon.

Fresh from her win at this year’s Beijing Olympics, New Zealand’s golden girl says the last thing on her mind is “doing any throwing for a while. It’s been a long, hard year and now I’m just looking forward to a break.”

The 24-year-old Olympic shot put champion, guest speaker at the Westpac Halberg Celebrity Sporting dinner in New Plymouth tomorrow night (October 9), while relieved “a long, hard year” is behind her, admits “it worked out pretty much as we planned.”

The ‘Royal We’ is reference to the relationship that Valerie has established with her coach of 10 years, Kirsten Hellier, which she acknowledges has become stronger with every year. So much so that Valerie claims she would not have achieved the level of success that she has at such a young age, without the unstinting support and friendship provided by Hellier.

“Kirsten knows me better than anyone. It isn’t just a coach/athlete relationship. We are really good friends.”

Despite a big 2007 where Valerie won the world women’s shot put title in Osaka last year with a New Zealand and Oceania record throw, and then went on to claim the supreme Halberg Award in February, the partnership agreed one big tactical change was imperative this year.

At the World Athletic Championships Valerie left her best until last, with her final throw of 20.54m edging past competition favourite, Nadzeva Ostapchuk (Belarus), to claim the crown. The plan for Beijing was to put her game face on from the start and dominate from the start.

The focus in training in the weeks leading up to the Olympics had been about getting the physical and mental approach right with the first throw. It felt right on the night and her first throw flew out way past her competitors, beyond the 20m mark, to a personal best of 20.56m. The rest as they say, is history.

Valerie continued with four more throws over 20m, while Ostpapchuk found that mark beyond her and settled for 3rd behind another Belarus athlete, Natallia Mikhnevich.

She admits winning the Halberg award earlier this year was "the icing on the cake for the 2007 season, and a real high.” But she says the “buzz from winning Olympic gold,” will take some time to wear off, if at all.

Future plans at this stage remain uncertain, although a defence of her world championship title in 2009 at Berlin will be a priority. And beyond that the defence of her Commonwealth Games title in 2010. “But I’m not looking too far ahead at this stage. I still want to enjoy what I achieved this year.”

The New Plymouth dinner is one of 11 Westpac Celebrity Sporting Functions around the country planned by the Halberg Trust. Other centres hosting Celebrity Sporting Functions include Nelson (October 15), Dunedin (October 22), Invercargill (October 23), Queenstown (October 24), Hamilton (November 12), Wellington (November 14), Tauranga (November 26) and Christchurch (December 5).

All funds raised at the dinner tomorrow will support the work of the Halberg Trust in linking young people with a disability to sport and active leisure in the Taranaki region.


~ Ends ~

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