WITH the dust settling on the London 2012 Olympic Games, the New Zealand Times looks back on a stunning two weeks for Kiwi athletes. Thirteen medals – equalling the record from Seoul in 1988 – and nearly half of them of the gold variety was a fantastic return. Yes, our neighbours from across the Tasman may have eventually overhauled us, but the fact we had them worried is sign enough we were doing plenty of things right. Here are some of the hits, and misses, for the silver fern.
1) Favourites deliver
It’s one thing to go into an Olympic Games as the favourite, it’s quite another to come away with the gold. Hamish Bond and Eric Murray, and Lisa Carrington, were always favoured to prevail, but to see them do so in such commanding fashion was awe-inspiring.
2) Mark Todd
Now well into his 50s, Mark Todd could be sitting back and enjoying the spoils of a successful career. Instead, along with fellow old-timer Andrew Nicholson, he led the next generation of New Zealand eventers to a bronze medal, his fifth.
3) Olympic drug testing regime
The news that Belarusian Nadzeya Ostapchuk failed two drug tests and had to hand her gold medal over to our Queen of the shot put, Valerie Adams, surprised no-one, given her remarkable improvement in recent months. It robbed Adams, admittedly off her game on the night of the final, of hearing the national anthem in the Olympic stadium, but at least justice was served in the end.
4) Simon cuts it fine
Of all the heart-stopping action in the velodrome, Simon van Velthooven’s dip for the line in the kierin provided the best excitement for Kiwi fans. Unable to be separated from his Dutch rival, they ended up both winning bronze, behind Scottish legend Chris Hoy. Van Velthooven also revealed a streak of Manawatu hospitality, inviting the country to his belated 21st birthday party later in the year.
5) Nice guys finish first
If there was a better face for their sport than Mahe Drysdale, I’d like to meet them. Always approachable and always gives 100 percent, Drysdale finally won the one title that had eluded him, the Olympic single sculls gold medal. It was probably his last chance at glory, and he delivered, banishing the demons of Beijing and continuing our rich heritage in the event.
6) Jack Bauer
The two-man Kiwi road race team was always going to be up against it, a task made even more difficult when Greg Henderson had to pull out. That didn’t deter Jack Bauer, a lad from Golden Bay, who joined the race-deciding break and crossed the line 1oth. Most of the noise after the race came from the bleating Brits, upset the peleton didn’t help them claim gold, but that shouldn’t deter from Bauer’s effort.
7) Someone watch the barbie
Apart from the small matter of a dodgy gas connection, Kiwi House went off during the games. It proved incredibly popular for both those visiting London, and living here, and a perfect spot for a cold beer and to hear some familiar voices calling events.
We’re never going to breed the next Michael Phelps, but some genuine medal hopes would be nice. Lauren Boyle and Glenn Snyders apart, the swimming team didn’t cover themselves in glory, with many unable to hit personal bests, unacceptable when they had four years to peak.
2) Kiwi knocking machine
Race walking may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but seeing the derogatory comments directed to the event and its competitors while Quentin Rew slogged his way to 30th in the 50km race was disappointing. It’s a hugely draining event and participants train just as hard as other athletes. They should be applauded, not mocked.
3) Marina Erakovic
The Kiwi tennis ace fought hard to get a spot at the games, then bombed out big time in the first round to a less-heralded opponent. Tennis can be a tough affair, but her effort was poor.
Do you have any hits and misses from the games? If so, tell us what you think below.