Dame Valerie Adams sets record straight in a new documentary

NZ/Tongan sports champion and role model Dame Valerie Adams
NZ/Tongan sports champion and role model Dame Valerie Adams . . . “my documentary really brings people into [my] journey and takes people throughout that journey from the very start.” Image: Transmission films/RNZ Pacific

REVIEW: By Susana Suisuiki, RNZ Pacific journalist

One of New Zealand’s most celebrated athletes is opening up her on life journey on the big screen.

Double Olympic shot put champion Dame Valerie Adams’ feature documentary, More Than Gold, is centred around the Tongan/Kiwi’s preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

However, the film touches on Adams struggles with balancing her role as a mum as well as memories involving hardship, loss and relationships.

From penning an autobiography, to championing many causes, Adams said that the timing felt right to do a documentary, especially with how her sporting career had been in the media for years.

“It’s a way to tell your whole story,” she said.

“What the media tells or how they write your story is from their perspective or what you’ve told them but it’s not exactly what truly goes on behind closed doors or what’s happening in one’s life.”

“My documentary really brings people into that journey and takes people throughout that journey from the very start.”

Being a role model
Dame Valerie’s impressive sporting resume includes competing at five Olympic Games earning two golds, one silver and one bronze medal in the shot put.

She has won 17 New Zealand shot put titles and was awarded the Halberg Sportswoman of the Year for seven consecutive years from 2006.

The video trailer of the documentary.                               Video: Transmission Films

Of Tongan and English heritage, Dame Valerie was born in Rotorua but spent some of her childhood in her mother’s home country Tonga. Eventually, Adams and her family returned to New Zealand where she remained in South Auckland for the rest of her adolescent years.

When asked if she ever felt pressured to be a role model once she started succeeding as an athlete, she said it’s an automatic responsibility.

“Where I come from, my upbringing — all the stigma behind South Auckland — I think it was just a natural progression into that role, and I do take some type of responsibility to make sure I do set a good example and that I am a role model to the young women and also young men that have the same upbringing as I do.”

“At the end of the day it’s up to them to grasp whatever talent or passion they have and be prepared to work for it because the world is bigger than South Auckland — but you never forget where you come from.”

Two-time Olympic shot put champion Dame Valerie Adams
Two-time Olympic shot put champion Dame Valerie Adams announced her retirement on 1 March, 2022. Image: Marika Khabazi/RNZ

Be comfortable with the uncomfortable
It was important to Adams to be authentic in her film as she wanted audiences to understand the sacrifices she undertook to pursue her sporting dreams.

She said the film will resonate with all people whether they are athletes as there are many relatable themes, especially towards the youth.

“There’s a lot of challenges that people face in life and there’s a lot of challenges that youth face in life as well,” Adams said.

“Society is hard, society is mean sometimes and quite difficult, but I want them to know that they are loved but also to inspire them to set some goals and look for something bigger and better.”

“I really just want to share my life so that people can see the nitty-gritty parts of it, the raw parts of it, the trauma but also seeing you work through all of that.”

“Someone gave me some really good advice a few years ago and it was ‘you gotta be comfortable with being uncomfortable’ — and in life you’re going to be put in uncomfortable situations so you’ve gotta train your mind to say you’re cool being here even though you’re not, and work through those awkward situations because it’s going to you make you a more confident and stronger person.”

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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