When Kiwi shot-put champion Valerie Adams won the gold medal at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, she looked skyward in memory of her mother, Lilika, who had died when she was a teenager.
By that stage, the six-foot-four (1.93m) Rotorua-born Adams was already a veteran New Zealand athlete and ranked second in the world.
Adams would go on to become the reigning Olympic, World and Commonwealth shot-put champions, and New Zealand’s foremost sportsperson - winning gold at the 2006 and 2010 Commonwealth Games, 2008 Beijing Olympics (the country’s second gold in track and field since 1976), scoring an unbeaten 25 consecutive victories at the IAAF World Championships and breaking a slew of world records.
The Kiwi champion’s two wins at the 2010 Halberg Awards represented her fourth "sportswoman of the year" title, and third supreme Halberg Award.
Adam’s early potential was spotted by a PE teacher at her high school in Mangere, Auckland, when she was just a shy, sporty 13-year-old - the tallest in her class, but with good forearms. She went on to smash records at the regional junior athletics day that year.
Now 25 and with a cavalcade of awards under her belt, Adams has famously credited her success to two moments in her life. The first was while watching the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games by her dying mother’s bedside, and thinking she would like to have a crack at it one day.
The other was when she was still a teen, at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens where, much to her disappointment, she finished eighth while still recovering from an appendectomy only weeks earlier.
It was those two moments that prepared her mentally for the challenges and wins that lay ahead.
Path of a champion
Adams had her first taste of gold when she won the World Youth Championships in Hungary in 2001.
She was first again at the World Junior Track and Field Championships in Jamaica the following year, with a throw of 17.73m, and won silver at the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games.
By the time Adams went to the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in 2006, she was ranked World #2 and swept the gold medal with a winning throw of 19.66m.
She went on to beat Belarusian thrower Natalllia Mikhvenich at the Beijing Olympics with a distance of 20.56m, also a personal best.
At the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, Adams again won gold - breaking her 2006 record of 19.66m with a whopping 20.47m throw.
Adams has said that the recipe for her success relies on getting her best throw first, rather than on the final attempt.
She trains using a men’s shotput, with the idea being "if you can move with the heavy weight, it’ll be easier with the lighter [women’s] one".
Valerie Kasanita Adams - daughter of a Tongan mother and English father - was born in Rotorua, New Zealand, in 1984.
Adams was formerly married to fellow sports star, New Caledonian discus thrower Bertrand Vili.
The couple parted in 2010.