By Keith Miller
Finally – the curse is broken, and my decision to take leave over the Olympics has been justified. Terrible Thursday & Woeful Wednesday are behind us – today is Fantastic Friday.
Hamish Bond & Eric Murray stormed home three seconds ahead of the field to retain their 69 race unbeaten record intact, and take out NZ’s first Gold Medal in Rio. It was hardly a surprise (they are THAT good), but the punch in the air across the finish line by both Eric Murray and myself was a display of sheer joy.
The fact that they were the hottest of red hot favourites in Rio should take nothing away from what has been a fine achievement. It should be recognised for what it is – a comprehensive win on its own merits, but a continuation of one of the best rowing teams to ever compete. The only disappointing factor was that we could have waited for the questions over their future to wait until they had at least dried off the boat.
Luuka Jones, take a bow. She finished very strongly in qualifying, and did well to enter the final in 7th position. But the question remained – could she back it up in the final? Could she what. Ranked 28th in the world, a silver medal would have been way beyond most people’s hopes, but, much like Natalie Rooney, a surprise silver can mean a huge deal. And a huge deal it is. A magnificent achievement, particularly when you consider that she was just one of two competitors who did not concede any penalty points.
So off to the Velodrome we went, where both the Men’s Women’s Team Pursuit was underway with strong showings for both NZ teams. The women qualified 5th and the men 4th, with both now an opportunity to sneak bronze medals. For either to do so would be a great effort, and the men’s team in particular look like they may have a little more left in the tank.
But it was the Men’s sprint team with the best chance to win gold – after qualifying, they were up against a very strong Great Britain team in the final. They rode exceptionally well, clocking their three fastest time ever. Whilst it wasn’t quite enough, with the GBR team coming from behind strongly to win by 0.102 seconds, it was the first medal for NZ in sprint racing. Their reaction, whilst disappointed to not win gold, was extremely classy.
Despite all three results being remarkable feats, they were unfortunately overshadowed in the Media (both MSM and Social) by Fiji winning the Sevens. That was a nice touch, and it was also good to see a competition won by a country for which it obviously means a great deal. The entire population will treasure that win for years. But you have to ask the question – if Fiji had won their first medal in Weightlifting, Table Tennis or Judo, would the New Zealand public care? Or even know?
On the other side of the ledger, thankfully for New Zealand their swimming meeting is over tomorrow. It was yet another dismal performance from a country that should really be doing so much better. Lauren Boyle has been the sole hope for NZ in recent years, and to see her finish 14th in the 400 metre freestyle, and 9th in the 800 metres (her specialist event) missing both finals in the process, was bitterly disappointing to say the least.
It’s hard to be critical of Boyle, who has been looking good over the past couple of years, but is apparently unwell and also has a hip injury. Nonetheless, her performance remains a poor one, and is indicative of the sport in this country.
So we now have a Gold and four Silver medals. Perhaps the most impressive part is that all the medals have come in five completely different disciplines. With plenty more to come.
Sure, the timing is largely crap from our point of view, but I guess that’s why the likes of Olympic tragics like me take two weeks leave. So if you don’t have an opportunity to see something live throughout the schedule, I’ll be tweeting up a storm – most likely at some ungodly hour of the night. Keep an eye out: @keith_miller_nz