2013 is off to a great start for 15-year-old student Freedom Nathan.  The talented para-shotput athlete enjoyed a day of personal coaching with Valerie Adams yesterday.

The world shot-put champion is back in Auckland this week for the 50h Westpac Halberg Awards, and visited Manurewa High School in support of the Halberg Trust’s work with disabled athletes.

Freedom Nathan is determined to reach her goal of competing at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, and the visit from Adams was a real boost.  And it seems the learning went both ways – Adams admitted Nathan’s visual impairment gave her a new respect for coaches of disabled athletes.  “''You have to really get Freedom to feel the throw, the starts and the push, as opposed to trying to show her which is obviously a lot easier.''

The training session was a huge success for Nathan, who managed to double the 2.5 metre Paralympic qualifying mark with a throw of 5.24m at the end of the day.  “She’s my sporting hero and an amazing role model too,” said Nathan, who described Adams as “awesome” to work with.

During her visit to Manurewa High School, Adams pulled no punches when she took part in a game of Goalball – a paralympic sport for visually impaired athletes.  Competitors listen for a bell inside the ball to figure out where it is in the court, and use their entire bodies to block shots from entering their goal area.

“When I first heard about it I was really nervous, and when I played it, I sweat more concentrating on listening for the ball than actually playing it!” Valerie grins.  “But I really enjoyed it. It was pretty brutal, it’s a lot harder than it looks,” she says, gesturing to a bruised knee.

See TV3’s interview with Adams and Nathan here:  http://www.3news.co.nz/Valerie-Adams-turns-coach-to-support-para-shot-putter/tabid/415/articleID/286413/Default.aspx

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