Luke Adams: One of NSW’s finest ever athletes
Without doubt Luke Adams (Bankstown) has complied one of the most impressive international records in race walking, including two Olympics, four World championships, three Olympics, 15 Australian teams over 11 years.
Particularly outstanding is the three Commonwealth Games silver medals, but on the world stage his six top 10 finishes at Olympics and World Championships are superb. Additionally Adams has never failed to place outside the top 10 at any of his World Championships or Olympics.
Aged 34, Adams is still going strong in an endurance event where athletes reach their peak in the 30s. We take this opportunity to interview one of NSW’s best athletes.
ANSW: How did you start in athletics?
Luke: I began my love affair with athletics at the age of four years with Ryde Little Athletics at Dunbar Park. From that year on I never missed a season.
ANSW: What events/sports did you do in your teens?
Luke: In athletics; I always competed in every event except the pole vault as it wasn’t really offered as an option and did so every year right through until the end of high school. But I did start to focus on the endurance events, running the 800,1500, 2000m steeplechase and 3000m as well as the high jump. I started walking in high school as well. I played cricket and soccer until the last two years of high school when it became apparent I needed to focus my energy on athletics to reach my lofty goals.
ANSW: You went to the World Juniors at 17 years, but it would be another five years before you represented Australia and a further four years (aged 26y) before you made an Olympics or World Championships. What were the challenges in this period? Did you consider quitting? What advice do you have?
Luke: The biggest challenge during this period was quite simply injury. I think all the years of getting kicked in the shins and so on in soccer from a very young age pre-disposed me to some serious shin injuries and then once one thing breaks down everything seems to get unbalanced. It became a very hard road to get back to an injury free status. I even had a qualifying time for the Atlanta Olympics in 96’ but injuries prevented my real progress into the world senior ranks. Before the Sydney Olympics I had surgery on my shins to rectify compartment syndrome. The surgery forced me to rush my preparations for the Olympic trials. I competed, narrowly missed the team then broke down again and had to go under the knife again.
Other challenges to me during these years were typical for a teenager becoming a young adult in a big city. Chasing girls and having a good time and wanting to do all the things your friends were doing was always a big temptation that often got the better of me. Burning the candle at both ends became my motto.
Did I consider quitting? Absolutely. Not making the big senior teams and being injured all the time while trying so hard was very disconcerting. I think I came close to stopping many times but somehow I hung in there. Actually, I remember an NSWIS talk that was arranged for athletes with former world beating stars of the sport speaking to us. On this particular occasion I think it was Ralph Doubell and John Walker speaking to us. John offered some advice that night whicht really helped me. He talked of his career and the various highs and lows but pointedly he talked of his ``injury riddled’’ periods and said if you hang in there through the injured periods, sooner or later you’ll get a run of no injuries and that would be the time for you. I walked away from that night with the hope of things to come, burning with ambition.
Another thing that helped me through this time was the big decision to move away from my family and friends in Sydney and the many distractions the city held for me. I moved to Canberra and started training with the best Australian walkers who were very serious and professional in their approach to the sport making them among the best in the world!
I also can’t forget the biggest supporters of my career, my parents. Without their support my athletics career would have been short-lived.
ANSW: Six straight top-10s at an Olympics or Worlds is amazing. How have you been so consistent?
Luke: A number of elements are important here aside from the obvious – being highly motivated and very dedicated. The most important element I’d say is being professional. I am competing against guys who have been selected out of all their peers at a young age to pursue race walking and have trained very hard for years with every resource at their disposal. The only way to compete with such professionals is to become professional yourself in every possible way. I did have help however. After two years in Canberra I was offered an AIS scholarship. The scholarship gave me the resources I needed to train professionally. Persistence at all times is also vital.
I also had the fortune of being coached in my early years in Sydney by Yvonne Melene. She believed in me and really laid the foundations for my athletics career.
ANSW: And to that Commonwealth Games 20km walk in Delhi and the rock on the road?
Luke: Well it was a purely horrible moment for me after setting the pace throughout the entire race, making all the right moves and breaking the entire field. I had resisted easily the one attack Jared Tallent had made during the race at the 14km mark. He turned around after 17km and saw that he couldn’t break me so he slowed considerably and moved aside to let me lead yet again. I put in a little teaser surge initially and then with 2.3km to go launched a big attack. I walked away from him instantly opening up a lead and then out of nowhere I hit the blob of concrete and stumbled to the ground. I hit it quite hard and the shock and concern of injury really threw me. Just as Alberto Contador rode past Andy Schleck in the Tour De France this year when Schleck’s chain came off giving him the winning break, so too Jared took his chance and surged away from me at this unfortunate time, opening up a winning margin that he retained in the final lap.
So naturally I felt robbed of my chance for gold in Delhi.
ANSW: What are your goals over the next few years?
Luke: Athletically speaking I’m currently putting the training plan together for the next two years with the major goals being the Olympics in London in 2012 and the World Championships in Daegu next year. I will prepare for both the 20km and 50km events and assess my best strategy to win either or both of these events at both Championships. My goals are set at the highest level possible, now it’s time to go and achieve them.
ANSW: Thanks Luke for your time and best wishes for the next few years.
David Tarbotton and Ron Bendall for Athletics NSW
Image: Luke Adams with coach Craig Hilliard and physio Stan Garland in St Moritz
International Record: Luke Adams
1994 World Junior s 10,000 metres Walk 24th 44:09.59
1999 Race Walking World Cup 20 km Walk 55th 1:30:11
2001 Universiade 20 km Walk 10th 1:28:02
2002 Commonwealth Games 20 km Walk 2nd 1:26:03
2002 Race Walking World Cup 50 km Walk 29th 4:07:08
2003 World Championships 20 km Walk 5th 1:19:35
2004 Olympic Games 20 km Walk 16th 1:23:52
2004 Race Walking World Cup 20 km Walk 14th 1:21.24
2005 World Championships 20 km Walk 10th 1:21:43
2006 Commonwealth Games 20 km Walk 2nd 1:21:38
2006 Race Walking World Cup 20 km Walk 18th 1:22:11
2007 World Championships 20 km Walk 7th 1:23:52
2008 Olympic Games 20 km Walk 6th 1:19:57
50 km Walk 10th 3:47:45
2008 Race Walking World Cup 20 km Walk 7th 1:19:15
2009 World Championships 20 km Walk 18th 1:22:37
50 km Walk 6th 3:43:39
2010 Commonwealth Games 20 km Walk 2nd 1:22:31