By Keith Miller
An historical day for New Zealand, as Lisa Carrington became her country’s most successful Olympian in winning Gold at the K1 500. After again getting off to a blistering start in her semi-final, Carrington took the race out by a more than comfortable boat length. In the other semi-final, Caitlin Regal just missed out on the final after finishing third in another solid performance. She went on to win the B Final.
In the Gold Medal race, Carrington once again was quickest out of the blocks, and at the halfway stage she was looking odds on for a win. However, Hungarian Tamara Csipes fought back strongly towards the back half of the race. It wasn’t enough however, as Lisa Carrington kept her at bay. It was a phenomenal meeting for Carrington, who looked spent – for the first time in ages –once she had paddled back to the pontoon.
Max Brown and Kurtis Imrie snuck into the K2 1000 final in finishing 4th of 6th in their semi-final. However, they then did very well in finishing 5th in a strong field – the Gold was taken by a very good Australian team in an Olympic Best time.
Tom Walsh was looking to go better than his Bronze Medal in Rio at the Shot Put. The early signs were good that something may be on the cards, until the Ryan Crouser show arrived. Holding the previous Olympic Best from Rio, Crouser had six attempts, and on every occasion beat the old record – his final throw of 23.30m was just 7cm short of his World Record from two months ago. It was a completely dominant performance, with fellow American Joe Kovacs taking Silver, and Walsh coming up with a Season Best 22.47m to finish in third. It was the first time in Olympic history where an individual event came up with an exact repeat of podium finishes. For the second consecutive Olympics, Jacko Gill missed out on the final by one spot in finishing 9th – this time by 2cm.
Canadian Decathlete Damian Warner came up with another Olympic Best, this time in the 110m Hurdles. Ultimately, he cleared away from Kevin Mayer (France) to win with an Olympic Record 9018 points, 292 ahead of Mayer. Young Australian Ashley Moloney picked up the Bronze after a strong first half of competition.
In the Women’s Heptathlon it was a little closer, with Nafissatou Thiam (Belgium) winning Gold with 6791 points. A strong set of field events was good enough to see her through from the Dutch pairing of Anouk Vetter (Silver) and Emma Oosterwegel (Bronze).
Before the evening sessions started, there was just enough time to catch some Karate in order to question its inclusion at the Games. The glorified Tai Chi was a terrible watch.
Controversy in the Bantamweight Freestyle wrestling, as Indian competitor Ravi Kumar Dahiya was bitten by Kazakhstan’s Nurislam Sanayev during their bout. It left a noticeable chunk out of Dahiya’s arm, but no further action was taken as it was – somehow – deemed unintentional.
At the Golf, Lydia Ko moved into contention with a 4 under 67 to sit in 9th place at the halfway stage. She is 8 shots behind leader Nelly Korda (USA) – who flirted with the sport’s Holy Grail of shooting 59 – but there are just 4 shots between her and the Silver position. (Details from former Sailing correspondent turned Golf correspondent, @MadMaclegend).
It was time to hit the velodrome, and although the New Zealand team had raced reasonably well, medals had been short on the ground. Then, in a very short space of time, the team had bagged two Silver medals.
Ellesse Andrews did very well to come through her quarter-final in the Women’s Keirin in second place, before repeating the result in the semi-final. It had been a strong performance, and in the final, she exceeded expectations to finish second again, with the Gold going the way of Dutch rider Shanne Braspenninck with Lauriane Genest (Canada) back in third. It was an unexpected highlight of the Games from a New Zealand perspective.
Called in to race the Men’s Omnium at the last moment, New Zealand’s Campbell Stewart also claimed Silver, with 40 lap points in the final race giving him the edge over Italian Elia Viviani in third. Matthew Walls (GBR) wone the Gold by a healthy margin, however, Stewart’s dogged persistence consistency through all four races saw him come through with the silverware in another unexpected moment.
Earlier, Sam Webster lost to Max Levy in the Individual Sprint and was forced into a must-win repechage in order to progress. He could only manage second, and his ride was over.
It was back out to the Olympic Stadium where the Women’s Pole Vault final was underway. It was a strange event, in as far as most athletes failing to clear 4.50m as the starting point. Ultimately, USA’s Katie Nageotte took the Gold, however even she struggled at the opening height, failing twice. She did manage a final clearance of 4.90m, 5cm higher than both Anzhelika Sidorova (ROC) and Holly Bradshaw (GBR) who took out Silver and Bronze respectively.
In a fantastic 400m Men’s Final, Steven Gardiner (Bahamas) ran a Season’s Best of 43.85 seconds to take the Gold from Colombian Anthony Zambrano. Kirani James from Grenada was back in the Bronze medal position.
In an extraordinary feat of longevity, New Zealand veteran Nick Willis was aiming to become the first male athlete in history to make five Olympic semi-finals in the same event. He performed solidly but found himself back in the field early after a hot start, although he did fight solidly for a Season’s Best 3.35.41, but it wasn’t enough to get him into the semi-finals of the event. Should this be his last Olympics, hopefully history will look sufficiently kindly on him to ensure he receives the accolades he so richly deserves.
There was an amazing finish to the Men’s Hockey final. After Belgium took a 1-0 lead in the third quarter, Australia levelled the game up in a tense final period. They could not be separated at full-time, so the match went to a shootout. The hero from Belgium was Goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch who pulled off a number of fantastic saves – including a retake when he was deemed to foul one of the Australians. Under pressure, the Belgian shot takers scored some extraordinary goals, and the Gold was theirs. There was a turn up in the Bronze Medal match as India won a 5-4 thriller.
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