By Keith Miller
As the Closing Ceremony brings the Rio 2016 Olympic Games to an end, it’s time to reflect on a fine performance from the New Zealand team. With a total of 4 Gold, 9 Silver and 5 Bronze medals, high expectations were met, and the team brings home a record haul.
It’s also time to reflect on the Games as a whole, and with that in mind, here are my 12 awards for the 2016 Games. In no particular order:
1) Most Underrated New Zealand Performer
Rob Waddell. Not only did the Chef de Mission oversee this country’s most successful Olympic Games, he did so without incident in an environment not exactly conducive to smooth travelling. It shows the mana of the man that nobody broke curfew, nobody misbehaved, nobody got injured, and there was no complaining about the village (that we’ve heard anyway). It put some other countries to shame, and for Waddell to achieve this in his first Games was a remarkable effort that augurs well for the future. And to really top it all off, there were no unnecessary displays of the haka.
2) The Biggest Disappointment
The Rio crowds. Actually, the Rio crowds on two points. The first being the vast number of empty seats at all venues throughout the entire schedule. Even the blue ribbon athletic events were very poorly attended, and at some events – such as Archery – the crowd was at times almost non-existent. However, on the other hand, when they did turn up, their over the top parochialism went well beyond the Olympic ethos by way of booing other countries’ athletes, even during medal ceremonies. Extremely poor.
3) New Zealand’s Unluckiest Silver
Jo Aleh & Polly Powrie. To be disqualified from two races was bad enough – to then finish within ten points of the Gold medal would have been galling. They displayed tremendous emotional courage after DQ #2 by finishing out the final four points races in 3rd, 1st, 1st and 4th place, which would have secured a comfortable victory over the Great Britain crew.
4) Weirdest Statistical Anomaly
In the Women’s High Jump competition, the Gold Medal was won by Spain’s Ruth Beitia, with a clearance of 1.97 metres. Whilst three others jumped the same height, it was Beitia taking the event on countback. Somewhat bizarrely, the Heptathlon High Jump event saw two athletes jump higher than that, with the winning clearance being 1.98 metres.
5) Most Important Millisecond
When Mahe Drysdale won the Men’s Single Sculls Rowing, he had to wait for over three minutes to have the result confirmed. The Gold medal was his after one of the closest photo finishes in the history of any sport, as his bow ball was deemed to have crossed the line a millisecond ahead of his Croatian counterpart.
6) The Sour Grapes Award
Hope Solo, come on down! The USA goalkeeper has always been an outspoken character, but she outdid herself in Rio. After the favourites were beaten in a penalty shootout by the Swedes at the quarter final stage, Solo took to Twitter in a massive rant to call the Swedish side out as “cowards”. Apparently she took umbrage at the fact that her side was beaten by a team who put players behind the ball throughout the game and relied solely on defence to get them through to extra time. It worked, and Solo was left looking like Rios’s worst loser.
7) The Most Pointless Discussion
Enough with the Per Capita Medal Tables. We get it – New Zealand is a small country with an even smaller population, but when you finish 19th on the overall Olympic table (which moves up to 14th if taking all medals into account), embrace it. Trying to boost the ego further by creating new ways to make yourself look better reeks of insecurity.
8) Most Overused Phrase at the Olympics
Clutch. We saw clutch putts, clutch jumps, clutch throws, clutch lifts and clutch performances throughout the competition. Enough now. Thanks.
9) The Wet Bus Ticket Award
This one goes to IOC President Thomas Bach. His organisation refused to make the tough calls on Russia, instead pushing back on to individual sporting bodies to do their dirty work for them. It was then discovered that Bach had a close relationship to Valdimir Putin, which no doubt clouded his judgement. To make matters worse, his hand washing of the Yulia Stepanova affair left the Russian whistle-blower in hiding and in fear for her life. Average.
10) The Worst Live Cross
Let me preface this comment by stating for the record that the options Sky TV gave the average viewer throughout the Games across a dozen channels was excellent. There was always something on the go, and, the fighting with media outlets (and an apparently unwatchable online platform) aside, they did a very good job indeed. Which made the decision to cross from the live Men’s Shot Put, whilst we were waiting to see if Tom Walsh’s bronze medal throw would be bettered – and missing an Olympic Record in the process – to run an interview with Jacko Gill that could have easily waited 10 minutes a complete and utter shocker.
11) The Never Lie to Your Mother Award
It may be a no-brainer, but the Ryan Lochte story seems to be the gift that keeps on giving. After apparently being the most laidback victim of an armed hold up in history (“I just said, whatever”) it turned out to have been a porky of epic proportions when surveillance footage of Lochte being a complete and utter cock emerged. To make matters worse, his friends were left carrying the can when they were removed from a plane in Rio whilst Lochte was inventing new ways to make a dick of himself – at home. As one wag put it, the only way this story could have been better was if Lochte swam away from the scene of the crime, and the Brazilian Police hired Michael Phelps to chase him down.
12) New Zealander with the Most Potential Marketing Commodity
The sheer joy and emotion shown by Eliza McCartney in winning bronze in the Pole Vault competition made her medal the most treasured by a lot of New Zealand viewers. The beaming smile during competition, her delightful reaction afterwards and her ability to actually enjoy the Olympic experience made the natural 19 year old a firm favourite for the next series of NZ Beef & Lamb advertisements.
Keep an eye out for me on Twitter: @keith_miller_nz