Reflecting on NZ's Olympics glory

MARC HINTON IN LONDON
Last updated 05:00 13/08/2012
Fairfax NZ

For one of their last acts of these Olympic games the New Zealand medallists gathered together for photos and final interviews.

London 2012: Reliving Kiwi moments

NZ gold medalists
MIKE SCOTT/Fairfax NZ
GOLDEN GLOW: New Zealand's gold medalists gather for the media on the final day of the London Olympics.
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.

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OPINION: These have not just been a good Games for the New Zealand team - they've been a great one.

Five gold medals and a record-equalling 13 in total reflects a fabulous hit-rate for a team that, for the most part, has punched above their weight. By any measure that's a return that will have the suits at High Performance Sport New Zealand chuckling into their pinots over the next few weeks as they slap each other's backs.

In London, a city awash with rampant nationalism, it's been good to be a Kiwi for the past two weeks. Even if we have been flying under the radar over here, where “Team GB” is not only everything but the only thing.

When Valerie Adams failed to deliver the shot put gold we had all expected from her, there were fears we might end up stranded on the three gold medals from the rowing. That's been our par return from Olympic Games in the modern era.

But the 470 sailing pair of Jo Aleh and Olivia (Polly) Powrie, and canoe sprinter Lisa Carrington came to the party splendidly to finish things off on a high note.

At the end of the penultimate day, New Zealand sat 14th on the medal table, 10 places above South Africa and five behind Australia.

That really is something special. We're above Spain, Cuba, Romania, Brazil and the Czech Republic, and that is illustration enough of a little country that has overachieved in the past fortnight.

History will also look kindly on this Kiwi Games effort.

The 13 medals equal the previous best haul, from Seoul in 1988, and the five golds is surpassed only by the eight won in Los Angeles in 1984, which shouldn't really count because of the Eastern bloc boycott.

So, we are doing something right somewhere. The money being put into rowing, cycling and sailing is reaping the rewards, and although some sports didn't deliver in London - notably swimming - thankfully they've been the exception, rather than the rule.

Rowing, as we all expected, was the standout sport with three golds and five medals in total, but cycling - if you rope Sarah Walker into that effort - sailing, equestrian and canoe racing all came up with medals.

Track and field's sole silver is probably, on reflection, a disappointment, but the Olympics is a pretty unforgiving environment in its showcase sport, as Adams found out. And teenage shot sensation Jacko Gill is on the horizon.

The challenge now for the main Olympic sports, and the national funding agency, will be to resist basking in the warm glow of success, and to continue to look for better ways to develop talent and more money with which to fund it.

Rowing nailed these Games but it must already start looking for the next Mahe Drysdale, and the next Bond and Murray. In the meantime, it would be nice if the gold medallists from these Games can all be persuaded to stick around until Rio de Janeiro.

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Cycling looks as if it has a good crop of young talent coming through and the emergence of Simon van Velthooven as a genuine world-class sprinter is encouraging to say the least.

It's hard to say where swimming goes from here but it is to be hoped upwards would be the general direction. It's probably folly to expect a Danyon Loader every four years but when athletes are not even challenging qualifying times, that's disappointing.

As New Zealand's athletes enjoy the end of a fabulous Games, in which London has outdone Beijing by some distance, they can rightfully reflect on a job well done. But not for long.

The sporting world moves on at a pretty steady clip.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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