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Valerie has had plenty of rest and convalescing in the past 18 months, following six surgeries, but there’s no stopping her now as she is back in competition mode and in full swing with her intense training programme.
Rio will be Valerie’s fourth Olympics and she’s in training mode to be able to take on the world with her shot put wonder throws. Valerie has a string of accolades; there are too many to list but they include; Athlete of the Year in 2014, twice Olympic champion, four times world outdoor champion, three times world indoor champion, three times Commonwealth champion and four times diamond league winner. Her personal best throw is 21.24 metres.
Valerie has had some time off to recover from nerve surgery to the elbow of her throwing arm. The elbow operation is one of six surgeries the double Olympic champion has had in the past three years.
Valerie now feels that she’s over the hump after a long convalescing process and road to recovery. She’s in ship-shape condition to focus on strength, resilience and throwing those powerful medal-winning throws, with the aim of reclaiming her title as our golden girl athlete. And with the European track and field competitions imminent, her eye is firmly fixed on the Rio Olympics in August, with lots of competitions before then.
In her recent return to the competition circuit in New Zealand Valerie threw some convincing shots at the nationals in Dunedin, then at the World Indoor Championships in Portland she took a bronze medal – so she’s where she should be in the lead-up to the Olympics. “Recovery is a long process but I feel I am over the hump. To think that this time last year I could hardly even pick up a telephone, let alone throw a shot put. Pain is not prominent, although there are some niggles, but I am now an aged athlete, so of course there will be some niggles… I’m pleased I took the year off to get better though.”
While she’s been physically preparing throughout the rehabilitation process, Valerie says mentally you have to just keep focused and your eyes on the goal. The two seem to work in conjunction with each other. She says she’s tired and her body is tired – after 16 years of full-on training, it’s no wonder.
It’s been a long and busy schedule, and we managed to catch Valerie just after a training session, driving to her next appointment in her Toyota Land Cruiser Prado. “I love my Prado, I really do!” Her next few days were busy and varied as she continued her heavy training schedule in New Zealand. On 4 April she married her fiancé Gabriel Price, just before they returned to Switzerland. “Switzerland, Europe is my second home. I have been by myself in Switzerland for the past five years; it will be so nice to have Gabriel there as a sounding block and companion.” In terms of the wedding planning, Valerie had little to do with it, but wanted to get it out of the way before returning to Europe so that Gabriel could accompany her.
So where to from here? “Nothing stops, nothing ever, it’s like a yo-yo. We build up and taper off, and learn what works, what combination of training produces the best results along the way,” and this Valerie indicates will be the drill leading up to Rio and beyond. The Europe track and field competitions start at the end of May and run until mid-September. “You have to make sure that you are on point with the build-up, and you have to keep amped up." And post Rio? “There will still be more track and field events until the season finishes. After then I might take a break and maybe a honeymoon. And have some ‘us’ time.”