By Keith Miller
Well, what a weekend. New Zealand scored another Gold medal – in the closest of close calls – and a couple of other medal hopes were on display for our viewing pleasure.
The highlight from a NZ perspective was the breathtakingly close win for Mahe Drysdale in the Men’s Single Sculls. He managed to hold off Croatia’s Damir Martin by a gnat’s whisker to take the event, but it was such a close fought thing that he had to wait an excruciating three minutes before knowing his fate.
There was also silver to be had in the Women’s Pair, as Rebecca Scown and Genevieve Behrent finished second to the Great Britain pair of Helen Glover & Heather Stanning. A fine achievement, but despite reaching eight finals, the overall result of two Golds and a Silver from the regatta should be viewed as a disappointment by the rowing team. There is still plenty of youth in the overall squad, but questions may be asked of those who looked to drop their bottom lips in the B finals.
Valerie Adams has been all class in defeat. To come out after several injuries and launch your best effort in two seasons, only to be bettered in the last throw of the tournament was both hugely satisfying and heartbreaking at the same time. However, you have to admire Michelle Carter’s ability to rise to the occasion. It was arguably one of the best “clutch” moments in Olympic Track & Field history, and the response from Val Adams has been nothing short of outstanding. For her to also nip any drug cheat rumours in the bud straight away was a fantastic move.
When talk comes around to NZ’s best Olympians, two Golds and a Silver in successive Games in the same discipline must rank Adams extremely close to the top of the tree. If she was to continue on to Tokyo and pinch a medal there as well, then we’re in no-brainer territory.
Of course it wouldn’t be a NZ campaign without a few fourths, and the track cyclists haven’t disappointed there. Although there was real disappointment watching Sam Webster & Eddie Dawkins forced to battle against each other in the Sprint knockout stages, forcing Dawkins into a repechage where he lost out to German veteran Max Levy. Dawkins is still a strong prospect to win a medal in the Keirin. Natasha Hansen broke her own national record to qualify seventh fastest in the individual sprint, and will look to progress in the early hours of tomorrow morning.
After yet another disqualification for Jo Aleh & Polly Powrie this morning, their medal chances are now virtually nil – a massive disappointment. But with Tuke & Burling still well in the running for Gold, and a couple of other crews there or thereabouts, it’s not all doom and gloom on the water.
Both the Men’s and Women’s Black Sticks have competed very well in the hockey. For the men (who only got there by the skin of their teeth – thanks South Africa) to make the quarter finals was a very good achievement, particularly when you factor in their lack of fortune in the preliminary rounds. Their 3-1 win over Belgium was one of their best results in recent years.
Up against a very strong German side, who won Gold in 2008 and 2012, the Black Sticks were always up against it. The last time they met it was a 6-1 belting, and it was going to take a massive effort to tip over the quality German side. And with only four minutes left, they had remarkably conspired to be leading 2-0. They were sitting pretty, with keeper Devon Manchester pulling off some incredible saves to keep NZ ahead.
The Germans scored, and then, with only 40 seconds left, equalised. But worse was to come. With about half a second left on the clock, the Germans caught the NZ defence out, and Florian Fuchs managed to slide in between Manchester and the defensive line, poking the winner in to the back of the net. It was an absolutely devastating result, and whist it was indicative of a German performance that never gave up hope, it was a real heartbreaker.
The Women’s Black Sticks did extraordinarily well to qualify second, but have been “rewarded” with a quarter final match up with the Australians. Thanks for nothing. They play at 1.00am tomorrow morning, and are a good chance to progress. If that happens, a medal is a very strong possibility.
One sport outside of my usual scope that I’ve taken more of a look at in Rio is the Fencing. It’s an intriguing watch, and the Team event, whilst a little confusing in its format, was quite fascinating. But something needs to be done about the shrieking after every attempted point – it has all the hallmarks of trying to sway the judges, and when both parties are screaming out at the top of their lungs at the same time it is very, very distracting (not to mention bloody annoying). And you thought tennis was annoying.
A great run from Zane Roberston saw him break the New Zealand 10,000 metres record held by Dick Quax for 39 years. At first glance a 12th placed finish isn’t exactly a shuddering success, but to smash the national record by eight seconds is a great effort, and is more a reflection of the “abilities” of some others in the same race. Some of those “abilities” are again being bravely questioned by Robertson.
But there’s no question that the blue ribbon event of the Olympics these days is the Men’s 100 metres final.
In his semi-final Usain Bolt looked to be back to his best. HE almost stopped after 80 metres to have a bit of a look around, and had it easily won. Justin Gatlin (insipid two time drug cheat) won his semi in not-quite-so-emphatic style, so it looked to be a head to head battle in the final.
Gatlin got away nicely in the final, and it was no certainty that he would be caught. But Bolt dug deep and pulled away with 20 metres to go in a victory for justice (ok, maybe a little dramatic). What a fine moment in Olympic Games history.
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