An Olympics Games for NZ to savour

GREG FORD
Last updated 05:00 28/12/2012
NZ gold medalists
LAWRENCE SMITH/Fairfax NZ

BLING BLING: New Zealand's gold medalists (rear): Joseph Sullivan and Nathan Cohen (double sculls), Mahe Drysdale (single sculls), Eric Murray and Hamish Bond (pair), and (front), Polly Powrie (women's 470), Lisa Carrington (K1 200m) and Jo Aleh (women's 470).

Closing ceremony
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The scene at the Olympic Stadium as the closing ceremony gets started.
NZ medallists
LAWRENCE SMITH/Fairfax NZ Zoom
New Zealand's London 2012 Olympic medallists. Four of the equestrian team are absent due to their competition schedule.
Bond and Murray
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Gold medalists from left: Eric Murray, Mahe Drysdale and Hamish Bond carry bronze medalist Juliette Haigh near Eton Dorney, London.

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Aleh and Powrie revel in heavy conditions London 2012: Bond and Murray, unbeatable Video: Mahe Drysdale gets his gold Carrington wins gold in K1 200m Valerie Adams finally gets her gold

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London called. New Zealand answered emphatically. Roll on Rio. It might sound trite to sum up this year's most significant sporting event in three short sentences.

But such is the New Zealand sporting psyche - admit it, we're only happy when there's something to whinge about - London was in that sense an unmitigated disaster.

It was packed with triumph, athletes unafraid to revel in their success, and a new New Zealand eager to live vicariously through their deeds (perhaps after learning how to only a few short months before during Rugby World Cup).

One hundred eighty four New Zealanders - 97 men and 87 - women - competed.

Some fizzed and failed, others froze and some even looked out of their depth.

But the vast majority more the fulfilled what were lofty pre-Games expectations and most people brook the argument this was New Zealand's greatest Games ever.

The team won 13 medals equalling the record haul set in 1992.

Six of them were gold. While that fell short of the eight gold medals won in 1984, when several Eastern bloc countries boycotted the Games, it still represented a triumph in an age when money talks in sport, and New Zealand still, comparatively speaking, competes on the proverbial smell of an oily rag.

Eton Dorney proved the Kiwi team's happiest hunting ground, and for many Eric Murray and Hamish Bond's exploits in the pair were the highlight of the sporting jamboree.

The sweep oarsmen were relentless in their pursuit of gold, demoralising their opponents in the four years leading up to the Games, and then rubbing their faces in it by producing a world record time in the final which they won emphatically.

The cool and calm Bond and the more flamboyant Murray were an odd and strangely endearing couple on and off the water.

Yet their differences in body shape and personality always seemed in equilibrium.

A nation sat in a state of shock and anguish when Mahe Drysdale's Games campaign came unstuck four years ago in Beijing.

Drysdale succumbed to the ravaging effects of food poisoning in the throes of the single scull final.

His gutsy performance winning bronze made him the sentimental favourite for many in London and he overcame a pre-Games cycling accident to dominate the field and win gold.

Both crews were actually upstaged by double Joseph Sullivan and Nathan Cohen who unexpectedly won gold the day before the pair and Drysdale which capped off a excellent effort by our rowers.

So, we had our heroes. Next up was supposed to be our heroine, Val Adams.

Instead New Zealand came face-to-face with a villain in the form of Nadzeya Ostapchuk, who we now infamously know beat Adams in the shot put final, but was stripped of her gold medal the day after the closing ceremony when the IOC revealed she was a drugs cheat.

It was a joyful end to a frustrating Games for Adams, whose thinly veiled contempt for the New Zealand Olympic Committee became an open and festering wound when they forgot to enter her in her event.

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If that wasn't bad enough the saga was further soured when Chef de Mission Dave Currie and NZOC secretary general Kereyn Smith failed to take responsibility for the bungle and instead blamed a non-descript backroom staffer as the culprit.

Fortunately the Games ended on a far more memorable note when Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie sailed their 470 dinghy nicknamed Muppet to victory in the medal race in Weymouth.

New Zealand's final gold came from, where else, Eaton Dorney, when Lisa Carrington, the 23-year-old from Ohope Beach, stormed to victory in the inaugural K1 200 to give her country its first women's Olympic gold medal in sprint canoeing.

There were of course other medals of different hue, equalling inspiring and meritorious.

Sarah Walker won silver in the BMX, as did Peter Burling and Blair Tuke in sailing's 49er class and we also won five bronze medals: the team equestrian category, the rowing men's lightweight double sculls and women's pair, bike's male team pursuit and Simon van Velthooven in the men's keirin.

That saw New Zealand finish 15th  on the medal table ahead of far larger nations such as Spain and Brazil.

Host nation Great Britain finish third with a massive 29 golds and also won acclaim for they way they staged and supported the event.

The Games were a mix of Cool Britannia, pomp, pageantry and chest-beating nationalistic fervour.

From the opening ceremony scene of Danny Boyle's Green and Pleasant land to the closing ceremony bash, the event went off without a hitch.

Stars like Usain Bolt shone and New Zealand had its moment in the sun. Poor old Rio. What an act to follow.

A good year for: Our Olympic gold medallists who each take home $60,000 each year fro the next four years to fund their road to Rio.

A bad year for: Dave Currie. Retired as NZOC chef de mission in disgrace. Successor Rob Waddell's appointment came not a moment too soon.

Crystal ball gazing: Val Adams to continue her world domination and win her third gold in Rio. 

- Fairfax Media

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