By Keith Miller
Occasionally there’s a medal that just takes your breath away – today it was the Bronze Medal for Eliza McCartney in the Pole Vault.
It’s not so much that she was an unexpected medallist (sure, she was not without her chances, but she’d really need to pull something out of the bag). It was the absolute joy in which she embraced the moment, made the most of her experience, and came away with a tangible reminder of Rio 2016.
McCartney’s early form in the final would be crucial, as there was always a strong possibility that a countback would come into play. Her ability to clear the lower, errrrr, heights, at her first attempt proved to be the clincher. It was a nervous wait as we watched Australian Alana Boyd attempting to clear 4.85m, but when she knocked the bar down on her final attempt the bronze medal was McCartney’s.
The emotional reaction after the event was completed was sheer magic to watch, and it must be said that Boyd’s reaction – and that of Athletics Australia – was all class. For a 19 year old at her first Olympics, Eliza McCartney’s performance in taking out the bronze is a phenomenal achievement. Greek vaulter Ekaterini Stefanidi and Sandi Morris of the USA both cleared 4.85m, with Stefanidi taking the Gold medal on countback.
A New Zealand team that didn’t quite enjoy themselves as much overnight was the Women’s Black Sticks. Whilst they looked a little better against Germany than they did in the semi-final, they still failed to convert a multitude of chances that should have had them in the lead. It was another disappointing finish to their Olympic campaign, just when you thought a medal was a strong possibility. A distraught Kayla Whitelock announced her retirement after the game, leaving a large gap in the backbone of the side.
The Great Britain women took out the Gold medal match in a thriller against the Dutch. Tied up 3-3 at full time, the match went into a shootout, with both keepers (Maddie Hinch & Joyce Sombroek) doing a remarkable job to keep the ball away from the back of the net. But the GB team converted two of theirs, to take out the Gold medal.
The K4 500 team won their semi-final and qualified second fastest for the final at 00.47am Sunday morning. It was a great effort, and they have placed themselves firmly in position to target a medal. They’ll be racing out of Lane 3. Could it be another water based medal for New Zealand?
Trent Jones fought hard in the BMX, and ran third in his first semi-final run. However, he landed awkwardly in Race 2 and crashed to the turf, leaving him requiring a very strong finish to make the final. In the third race Jones made his way up the field for a short time, but faded in the closing stages to finish seventh. It wasn’t enough, but it was a fighting performance.
Nikki Hamblin finished a Season Best 17th after a reprieve in the Women’s 500 metre final, however, that was almost two minutes behind Gold Medal winner, Kenyan Vivian Jepkemoi Cheruiyot. Quentin Rew (above) performed solidly in the Men’s 50km walk in finishing a creditable 12th, whilst Alana Barber finished a distant 35th in the Women’s 20km affair.
In the relays there were two stories – disqualifications and Usain Bolt (again). The GBR 4x400m men’s won their heat but was subsequently disqualified for having a foot outside the lane before the final changeover, whilst the USA 4x100m team (containing drug cheats Justin Gatlin & Tyson Gay) got the boot in the final for an illegal change of the baton outside the designated box.
So it was up to Usain Bolt to make the headlines. He did, but it was alongside the…..Japanese???
Bolt received the final baton change on a more or less even par with some others, so on this occasion he needed to really power home to take the Gold medal. He left all others in his wake and picked up his 9th Gold medal as the Jamaicans won by almost 1.5 seconds. But the Japanese stormed home for second, picking up the most unexpected silver medal.
Maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised – they did beat the Jamaicans during qualifying.
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