Many Kiwis eyeing sands of Copacabana

Last updated 05:00 13/08/2012

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Rio is looking rosy for the New Zealand Olympic squad with most of our gold medallists and dethroned shot put star Valerie Adams set to be back for the 2016 Games.

Rowing reigns as the leading Olympic team. Expect their top crews to back up in four years.

Single sculls champion Mahe Drysdale is 33 now and the most likely to hang up his oars by 2016, although he has vowed he won't be making a hasty decision.

But Hamish Bond and Eric Murray, the classy pair who have been unbeaten for the last four years, are still in their prime.

They were the best crew at the entire regatta at Dorney Lake - and they now have a big decision to make. Do they stick with their knitting and remain in the pair, or do they attempt to conquer another class? If they could win a gold medal in another boat they would emulate the Evers-Swindell twins, Caroline and Georgina, as our all-time rowing greats.

Double scullers Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan are 26 and 25 respectively. They could conceivably be around for two more Olympic tournaments.

New Zealand Rowing has such a reservoir of talent it can almost be guaranteed more crews will burst on the scene with as much impact as lightweight double scullers Julia Edward and Louise Ayling, who had only been together a few months but made the Olympic final.

Adams and fellow track and field star Nick Willis had disappointing campaigns in London after their bravura performances in Beijing.

Willis was ninth in the 1500m final, failing to fire in the final lap. It would have stung him to hear his idol John Walker state he was “beaten by bunnies". Willis insists he is still improving in the 1500m - he broke his own national record by 1.44 seconds late last month. But he will be 33 by Rio and the 1500m is a younger man's domain. He is reluctant to move to the 5000m because, he says, that would require a shift to an altitude training base - something he is reluctant to do.

As Adams was choking back the tears at losing her Olympic shot put title she made a vow.

The 27-year-old world champion said she might “just go to Rio just to piss people off". It was an unguarded and a little ungracious comment, coming as it did at the post-medals ceremony press conference. But it showed her resolve to regain her crown after losing to Belarus arch rival Nadzeya Ostapchuk.

The New Zealand cycling squad won two bronze medals and they should be top prospects in Rio.

The team pursuiters are still quite young with only Timaru's Marc Ryan pushing 30. There's plenty more left in their legs yet.

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Simon van Velthooven took bronze in the keirin and could conceivably be eyeing a higher rung of the podium in Rio with Great Britain's most decorated Olympic athlete, Sir Christopher Hoy, surely set to retire by Rio. However, the Scot has warned van Velthooven he will see him at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

The New Zealand sailing squad's stars, Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie, are still in their mid-20s and their gold medal in the 470 class bodes well for Rio. They will only get better.

Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, silver medallists in the men's 49ers division, are still young tackers too. They have already had the honour of becoming New Zealand's 100th Olympic Games medallists.

The 2012 Olympic regatta at Weymouth has been New Zealand's most successful since Barcelona and could revive Olympic yachting interest here after a spell in the doldrums with most of New Zealand's best sailors preferring to specialise in big boat racing.

Lisa Carrington made two kayaking finals in London and won a gold medal in the K1 200. At 23, she's the sport's brightest hope. She will be ripe for further success in Rio.

The Black Sticks women's hockey team's fourth in London was New Zealand hockey's best Olympic result since the men won gold at Montreal in 1976.

Several of the Black Sticks, including co-captain Kayla Sharland, were at their third Olympic Games. Others are only in their early 20s but already have more than 100 international caps.

But the key to New Zealand hockey's hopes in Rio is an Australian. Black Sticks women's coach Mark Hager has sparked the team's improvement. Sign him to a four-year contract quick before Australia grabs him.

Other New Zealand sports will need to replenish their ranks, none more so than men's triathlon with double medallist Bevan Docherty and Kris Gemmell, both 35, bowing out in London.

Not the ageless equestrian team, though. Mark Todd will be 60 in 2016 and Andrew Nicholson, 55, but don't bet against them.

The Olympic Games needs its international superstars and, for all Great Britain's success in London, the biggest names were a Jamaican and an American - for the second consecutive Olympics.

Usain Bolt's second successive sprint double in the 100m and 200m is unprecedented in Olympic annals. He's still only 25 and will be dancing around the track in Rio.

The world's greatest swimmer Michael Phelps has hung up his goggles after a record 22 Olympic medals, including 18 golds.

No-one can replace the man even Australian swim legend Ian Thorpe is in awe of, but Phelps' teenage American compatriot Missy Franklin, who won four gold medals in London, will look to fill the void.

- Wellington

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