By Keith Miller
A record breaking day for New Zealand, with five medals – two of them history makers – and an overall best ever total of 15 medals (so far). History maker #1.
As we knew already, Blair Tuke & Peter Burling just had to show up to collect their Gold on the water in the 49ers. They managed to do so without any issue, so on to the top of the podium it was. But there was more to come, as Molly Meech and Alex Maloney in the women’s 49er and the power pair of Polly Powrie & Jo Aleh in the 470’s also picked up silver medals. The latter, when you take into consideration two disqualifications, may go down as NZ’s unluckiest silver medal ever.
Lisa Carrington qualified 5th fastest in the K1 500, and by the 250 metre mark in the final it appeared that any dreams of a medal had vanished. However, she turned up the volume as only Carrington can, and put in a mammoth effort over the last 100 metres to win bronze against all the odds. It was a typically gutsy performance, and in the process, she became the first NZ woman to win two medals the same Olympics. History maker #2.
In the Track & Field events, Nick Willis ran another very clever race to make the 1500 metres final at midday on Sunday. He is managing his races extremely well, and appears to have plenty left in the tank. Willis remains a good chance at a medal in the event.
But the big news for NZ came in the Men’s Shot Put. Overnight, Tom Walsh & Jacko Gill qualified for the final 2nd and 4th respectively. It would be the first time NZ had two competitors in an Olympic Field final – history maker #3. Both put the shot very well indeed, and although Gill was impressive on debut, he finished in 9th and only just failed to make the final cut. However, his final throw of 20.50m was only 20cm shy of favoured athletes Tomasz Majewski & David Storl. It was a great effort.
So it was left to big Tom Walsh, and with his fourth throw of 21.36m he had placed himself in bronze medal position. It was a nervous wait, but when Franck Elemba could only manage 20.10m with his final throw, the bronze medal was in the bag. Walsh became the first NZ male to pick up a medal an Olympic Field event – history maker #4.
In other events, Trent Jones did well to avoid some extreme carnage in his BMX quarter finals. He finished 3rd, 2nd and 2nd in his three runs, and moves nicely into the semi-finals. The event lost a number of riders through injury – no bigger name that highly ranked French rider Joris Daudet – as bikes and body parts went flying in all directions.
Argentina also made history by beating Belgium 4-2 in a thrilling Men’s Hockey Gold medal match, with their previous best result being 5th in 1920. Belgium went one better than their bronze in 1948. It was 3-2 late in the game, with the Argentinians slotting in a fourth with just on 25 seconds left on the clock.
The US women’s 4 x 100 metre relay team were the laughing stock as they dropped the baton in their race. As the rest of the world guffawed their way through the event, the announcement came that they would be allowed to re-race (on their own) as they were allegedly interfered with by the Brazil team. Amid farcical scenes, qualify they did. The Dutch team, which included the remarkable Dafne Schippers, managed to hold on to the baton, but were out of the competition after finishing only sixth in a major surprise.
Ashton Eaton, who was the defending Olympic champion, wrote himself into the record books by equalling the Olympic Record in the Decathlon with 8,893 points, and took the Gold medal. He was just 59 points ahead of Frenchman Kevin Mayer who took the silver, with Canadian Damian Warner a further 168 points behind Mayer in bronze medal position.
The Men’s 200 metre final was the big track event of the final night session at Rio. Usain Bolt was looking achieve the 100 metre and 200 metre double for the third consecutive time, and there was a strong possibility that a World Record was under threat.
Pulling away from the field almost from the start, he never looked like anything else than a Gold medal winner. He romped home in a time of 19.78s, well clear of Canadian youngster Andre de Grasse in second place. In an incredible photo finish for the bronze, France’s Christophe Lemaitre and Great Britain’s Adam Gemili both clocked a time of 20.12s – but the judges awarded the bronze to Lemaitre in front of another very poor crowd.
In the process of securing his win, Bolt cemented his place as an Olympic Games – and international sporting – great.
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