Strength Through Adversity: An Interview With Adriane Wilson, Part 1
I thought I knew what intensity was until I recently spoke with Highland Athletics Women’s World Champion Adriane Wilson (maiden name Blewitt). In less than a ten-year period, Adriane has placed in the top ten at the Olympic trials for shotput twice (once in 2004, and again in 2008), battled a cancer diagnosis, and taken the title of Women’s World Champion in Highland Athletics for three consecutive years. Add to that her recent wedding, and you’ve got one busy and accomplished lady!
Adriane's love of sports began at a young age. She was raised in an active family that encouraged her to try new sports and activities. “Growing up, my parents were extremely supportive, so when we wanted to try something new, they were all about, ‘Let’s go find out how you do it!’” Perhaps that explains, to some extent, Adriane’s wide array of athletic abilities. Her mom and dad met on the rifle team in college, and Wilson credits her parents as well as her sister for a lot of her athletic interests during childhood. “I have one older sister, and she was always paving the way for me. She did softball; I did softball. She started track and field; I started track and field. I really have my sister to thank for that. She was definitely more interested in sports at first, and I just followed!” Adriane went on to earn seven national titles in college track and field, as well as six runner-up honors.
In fact, right now Adriane’s primary focus is on the June Olympic shot putting trials. She’s been there before, but under slightly different circumstances. In Fall 2003, just before the 2004 Olympic trials, Adriane was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma, “That kind of side-tracked everything. I had to take six months for chemo, and go through all that horribleness. But I was able to still train.” And train she did. Adriane worked with her college coach, Jud Logan at Ashland University, who also introduced her to Charles Poliquin of the Poliquin Strength Institute. Adriane trained once a month with Poliquin during the last half of her chemo treatment, and she was still able to qualify for the Olympic trials. “During my training I was able to make it through going through chemo, and still lifting, still throwing...the distance of my throws wasn’t quite where it needed to be, but considering all that was going on, I was very happy with how it was going."
Adriane had a lot of support to help get her through this difficult period. “I was always surrounded by people who supported me and pushed me along. I know they were concerned, but they never showed that they felt bad for me. It was always, ‘You have a goal. You have to work harder and push through.’ And that was one of the reasons I was able to work so hard. I don’t think anybody really made me feel like I wasn’t doing well.” Adriane was still in college at the time, and being with her teammates kept her motivated and optimistic. She also did her chemo treatments near her family, about 100 miles from her college campus, which helped her stay focused. “I was able to kind of separate the awful chemo part by saying, ‘Okay, I’m going to go away for a couple of days, to go back home and have the treatment.’ But then when I got back to Ashland, I could forget about the bad stuff and just focus on the training.”
Not only did Adriane continue to train through her treatment, but she managed to place fifth in the 2004 Olympic trials! And that’s just the beginning. Life had a lot in store for Adriane, including a whole new sport altogether: Highland Athletics. Adriane’s introduction to the sport started as a casual invitation from some of her friends:
At that time I was super into shot putting for track and field. And some of the guys said, ‘Hey, Adriane, you’d be great at this! It’s a lot of fun, you should come out and throw.’ And I was like, ‘Well, maybe when I’m done throwing the shot put because I’m super serious about it.’ But I did go out and train with them a couple of times, and it was a lot of fun. And I decided I wanted to kind of switch gears...I competed in my first Games and I had so much fun.
That was back in November of 2008. Her marks at her first competition earned her a spot at the World Championships in 2009, where she finished third. And as they say, the rest is history. Adriane took the World Champion title for the following three years, and is the current women’s world champion. According to Adriane, Highland Athletics offered a bit of variation from the shot put, but it also overlapped with a lot of her training. “The kind of training didn’t change that much, but for the throwing, I had eight other events to learn, so that kept me interested in what was going on.” Adriane continues to compete in both Highland Athletics and the shot put.
What strikes me most about Adriane’s story is her amazing dedication and persistence. Even throughout her struggle with cancer, she set goals for herself and stuck to those goals. That mental toughness is admirable in and of itself. When I’ve seen Adriane compete at the Highland Games, her athletic prowess and generosity of spirit just shine through. She’s always smiling, cheering on her fellow competitors, and throwing rocks and cabers like nobody’s business. Her amazing spirit makes her a true champion.
Adriane Wilson isn’t just an amazing athlete - she’s also a coach!
Read part two of our interview with Adriane: