Water the source of country's golden Games

13:10, Aug 11 2012
Bond/Murray and Mahe
BOND, MURRAY AND MAHE: Not since 1960 have we had two Olympic athletes win gold within an hour of each other.

Lisa Carrington's gold medal in London proves yet again Kiwis are whizzes on the water.

Trust the woman from Whaka to paddle her own waka to Olympic glory in the K1 200 final on Dorney Lake.

The 23-year-old from Whakatane gave New Zealand its 13th medal - equal-best with Seoul in 1988 - is New Zealand's first female Olympic canoeing champion/medallist.

Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie
GOLD MEDALISTS: New Zealand's 470 sailors Olivia Powrie (left) and Jo Aleh.

What a worthy successor to the great Ferg and Macca.

Rugby may be our national sport. We still slavishly follow netball and cricket. But we're an island nation surrounded by sea and laden with lakes and it's water sports where we're in our element .

Rowing, canoeing and sailing have been our boom sports for the last 28 years with swimming weighing in when Danyon Loader was at his peak.


Lisa Carrington
PADDLE POWER: Lisa Carrington celebrates her gold medal victory in the K1 200m kayaking final.

Twenty-one of our last 27 gold medals have been won on or in the water.

The torrent began in 1984 where seven of New Zealand's record eight Olympic gold medals went to kayers, rowers and sailors.

Those Lords of Lake Casitas, Ian Ferguson, Paul MacDonald (aka Ferg and Macca), Alan Thompson and Grant Bramwell were the standard-bearers. 

The Kiwi canoeists gathered four gold medals between them - equivalent to the entire Australian Olympic Games squad.

Russell Coutts, now better known as the world's best big boat match race skipper, won gold in the Finn sailing class.

Rex Sellers - who made his living on the water as a scallop fisherman in Nelson - and Chris Timms snatched the Tornado catamaran title.

The men's coxless four rowers were also champions in Los Angeles.  The crew included Conrad Robertson, now chairman of the Rowing New Zealand selection panel for the London Olympics where rowing has again led the Kiwi charge.

New Zealand's most successful Olympics - to date - were in Seoul in 1988 where 13 medals were won.

Two of the three golds went to water sports stars with Ferguson and MacDonald defending their title and Bruce Kendall winning his windsurfing class.

Kendall's sister, Barbara, won New Zealand's only gold medal at Barcelona in 1992.

Loader became the first New Zealander to win Olympic swimming crowns when he picked up two in Atlanta in 1996 - the first on his father's 50th birthday.

Singles sculler Rob Waddell was New Zealand's only gold medallist in Sydney in 2000 where Barbara Kendall and Aaron

McIntosh collected sailing bronze medals, Kendall completing her Olympic set after gold at Barcelona and silver at Atlanta.
Then came New Zealand's twins peak. 

Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell won back-to-back gold medals in Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008 - the first New Zealand Olympians to do so since eventer Mark Todd in the 1980s.

Board-sailor Tom Ashley also won gold at Beijing - the third Olympic title for New Zealand's self-styled "wind whackers''.

Carrington's gold is the crest of the London wave.

Dorney Lake may well rival LA's Lake Casitas as New Zeland's favourite stretch of water outside Aotearoa.

Rowing won three gold medals here - Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan in the double sculls, Hamish Bond and Eric Murray in the single sculls and Mahe Drysdale in the single sculls. They also backed up with two bronzes.

But Kiwis clearly aren't just fresh water champions.  

The yachting team proved their prowess in the sea airs off Weymouth on the Dorset coast where Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie won gold in the women's 470s and Peter Burling and Blair Tuke snatched silver in the 49er class.

Former Prime Minister Mike Moore once claimed we're all boat people in New Zealand.

When it comes to the Olympic Games, he was dead right.

Fairfax Media