Swimmer Lauren Boyle has come within two and a half seconds of ending 16 years of New Zealand Olympic hurt.
The 24-year-old Aucklander finished fourth in the final of the 800m freestyle, setting her third New Zealand record of the meet and taking more than three seconds off the record she lowered yesterday, coming home in 8:22.74.
Boyle was overcome with emotion after the race, admitting when she got on the block she did not believe she could contend for New Zealand's first Olympic swimming medal since Danyon Loader's double in 1996.
As it turned out, she almost rolled the reigning Olympic and world champion, 2.4 seconds behind Great Britain's Rebecca Adlingotn who claimed bronze.
American Katie Ledecky took gold in 8:14.63 while Spaniard Mireia Belmonnte Garcia took silver, four seconds behind.
For Boyle the result is career-defining and sets her well on the way for a legitimate medal assault at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
"I'm so proud of msyelf, I never thought that I could come fourth at the Olympics," Boyle said.
"I've struggled for so long to believe in myself. I didn't even think coming here tonight that I could do that. I don't even care that I didn't get a medal.
"I was so nervous coming into the Olympics, but to get into two finals and almost get a medal, I never thought I was capable."
This, however, should show Boyle in black and white that she does belong on the biggest stage.
Boyle knew the pace would be brutal in the final and the early splits of Ledecky were well inside those of the world record. But Boyle said she knew she had to follow, even if it meant risking blowing out.
At 450m Boyle had held fourth for the entire race, but then slipped back to fifth, overtaken by Denmark's Lotte Friis.
But on the final 50m Boyle was able to regain her position to finish on the fringe of the Olympic podium.
"I knew after the heats that I would have to go out a lot faster. I just got in their tonight and tried to go with it. I didn't give too much thought to how fast I was going or how much it hurt."
After finishing eighth in the 400m earlier this week Boyle said she felt a lot calmer heading into the race.
"I get quite emotionally excited for races and it's hard for me to calm down and get back up again later."
Boyle said the result is major motivation heading into the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
In her own words, Boyle says this feels like 'the beginning'.
"I feel like the last year has just been the beginning of what I can do. I'm really excited for the future and I want to keep swimming for at least two more years. I'll take it day-by-day after that," she said.
"I haven't taken a holiday in two years. In two years I haven't had more than four days out of the water.
"It will be nice just to reset."
- © Fairfax NZ News