Lauren Boyle has fallen short of an Olympic medal, but can hold her head high.
In the cauldron of her first Olympic final Boyle came home eighth in the 400m freestyle - the Aucklander's time of 4:06.25 three seconds down on the heats where she blitzed her national record by 2.2 seconds.
The race was won by fastest qualifier Camille Muffat of France in 4:01.45. Allison Schmitt of the United States was second in 4:01.77 while defending champion Rebecca Adlington took bronze in 4:03.01.
The career-best swim had qualified Boyle fourth fastest, ahead of Briton Adlington and Italian world record holder Federica Pellegrini, opening the door to a genuine medal shot.
At 2:01.08 Boyle's split at the 200m mark was almost identical to her heat, just seven one-thousands of a second slower. But the reality of an Olympic final was starting to sink in with that still only good enough to have Boyle seventh at halfway.
The pace not only needed to be maintained, but moved up a gear as the world's best opened their shoulders.
Unlike the heats though, Boyle couldn't kick home and she faded to eighth.
"I went a bit slower than I did in the heats and it didn't pan-out as I thought it would, but I'm still really happy with what's happened," Boyle said.
"I think I just have to learn to back-up in the final a bit more. I've never really been in a situation where I've had to do such a fast heat and try and repeat it in the final."
Under intense pressure Boyle also confessed to a lack of discipline, guilty of watching where the likes of Adlington and Pellegrini were, instead of focussing on her own race.
"I didn't handle it as well as I wanted to but I think I can learn something from that. My brain was whirring a bit," she said.
"I felt fine but I think I made the mistake of watching the big guns. I feel like I just watched their race instead of swimming my own, which is a pretty fatal mistake at this level.
"Hopefully I can learn from that for my 800m in a few days time."
Today is still a major achievement for the 24-year-old, who was ranked 10th in this event going into the Games. But there'll no doubt be an element of disappointment, unable to build on a solid foundation built in the heats.
Boyle must now recover physically, and regroup mentally, ahead of the 800m freestyle heats on Thursday - where she's also a good chance of making the final.
If she can make the last eight again, Boyle will have the chance to put into action some of the direction learned from this experience.
After the race Boyle said she hoped she hadn't let New Zealand down. Far from it.
In the last 24-hours Boyle has breathed life into Kiwi swimming which has endured years of tough going.
Not since Danyon Loader's dual-gold heroics at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 has a New Zealand swimmer stepped onto any level of the Olympic podium.
Moss Burmester was frustratingly close to achieving it four years ago in Beijing, tying for fourth in the 200m butterfly after taking the final to Michael Phelps in the fortnight he won eight Olympic gold medals.
Now Boyle, who surely has more Olympic campaigns in her, is starting to knock on the door too.
- © Fairfax NZ News