After winning a hat trick of gold medals at last year’s World Championships, Diana Dadzite found a message under her chair.
It was from the London 2017 volunteers who had helped her throughout the competition, congratulating her on her titles in the shot put F55, discus F55 and javelin F56.
“Congratulations Pinkie!” read the message, written in pink pen. “Well done on your hat-trick win Diana. Love, the volunteers in pink!”
Dadzite, who uses a pink throwing chair in competition, was overjoyed. The message continues to be a source of inspiration.
“It’s the best thing I have in my head,” said Dadzite. “All the volunteers were so great. They left me a message under my pink chair - that was so lovely. That now stays in my garage where I put my car, and all the time when I drive in I see that.”
The secret to success
In fact, since her Para athletics career began at the Swansea 2014 European Championships, motivation has been key for Dadzite.
Finishing fourth in both the shot put F53/54/55 and javelin F56 – including an agonising four centimetres off the bronze medal position in the latter event – provided just the motivation she needed to return to training and come back even stronger.
“I was really nervous and on the one hand I was happy to make it there, but on the other hand I was really sad about the javelin competition,” explained Dadzite, who took up Para athletics in early 2014 after watching her teammate Aigars Apinis win gold at the World Championships the previous year.
“I was doing well in practise, then along came one woman – Marianne Buggenhagen, who is a legend in Paralympic sport – and she beat me with her final throw. Of course that was a great motivation for the next competition.”
Sure enough, Dadzite did throw further at the World Championships in 2015, but it still wasn’t enough to reach the podium.
Once again, the European Championships proved pivotal. Dadzite won shot put F55 gold, javelin F56 silver and discus F55 bronze at Grosseto 2016.
Fuelled by that success, the next stop was the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. It wasn’t long before the Latvian anthem sounded out across the stadium as Dadzite won javelin gold with a new world record to boot.
“After the javelin competition (in Grosseto) I thought in Rio I will show what I can do. For me it’s motivation to stand up and see my flag there and I can show everyone that is my country. I’m proud of where I come from. I remember the first time when I heard my anthem, it sounded so beautiful – you can’t forget that.”
In the spotlight
Three gold medals and another javelin F55 world record followed at the London 2017 World Championships and while she may have managed to keep a low profile going in to Swansea 2014 and Grosseto 2016, there’s no doubt all eyes will be on Dadzite at Berlin 2018.
The 32-year-old, who commutes between her home in Latvia and training with German coach Siegfried Wegener in Germany, prefers to stay out of the limelight at home - but she is prepared for the extra attention she will receive this time around.
“I have a lot of friends in Germany and also there is a bit of pressure. Everyone thinks if I did so well in Grosseto I need to do it also in Berlin. It’s pressure, but I will do it for fun.
“It will be great, because some people will come watch from around Germany and from Latvia there will be people too. That will be amazing. I want to show that I’m still at the top, I’m still practising hard, I don’t sit at home.
“I want to make the sport so popular, so that people can be excited by it and realise it’s not as easy as how people might think."