Gifford: Cyclists deserve their golden moment

18:40, Jul 24 2014
Eddie Dawkins
GOLDEN GLOW: Sam Webster, Ethan Mitchell and Eddie Dawkins celebrate wining gold in the final of the men's team sprint in Glasgow.

The New Zealand cyclists came to Glasgow to as favourites to win the men's sprint. Winning the world championships basically put a target in their backs.

What's so impressive is that far from looking as if they were under pressure they rode with the confidence their talent gives them, and swept up our first gold medal.

Kiwi cyclists, a little like our rowers, rarely get a lot of attention. The beauty of rare occasions like the Commonwealth Games is that they get the spotlight they richly deserve.

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At events like the Games even third brings a medal, something many athletes will cherish. At the first major sports event I ever covered, the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, there was unalloyed delight when a gutsy, red haired Scotsman from Tokoroa, Mike Ryan took bronze in the marathon.

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In the women's triathlon Andrea Hewett dropped off, fought her way back, dropped off, and back again. Her reward? Fourth. No cigar, no medal. On occasions sport takes some cruel turns.

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Snapshots from the opening ceremony.

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Mo Farah was going to be one of the stars of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.                      

A double Olympic champion his presence is summed up brilliantly by former 5000 metres world record holder, Dave Moorcroft, who says, "Mo's one of those runners who opponents look over at and think, 'Oh shit, he's here.'"

Except, after a rocky passage with illness and injury, he won't be here in Glasgow. When 4500 athletes from 17 sports are in town, the loss of one competitor isn't catastrophic, but Farah, not only the best in the world, but also charming as all get out is a sad loss for the Games in general.

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If friends return to New Zealand from these Games a little trimmer, credit a transportation system in Glasgow that relies heavily on walking.

Already it's clear "just a five minute walk" is the unofficial motto of the event.

For the opening ceremony, media travelled by bus in designated lanes.  But if you were with your wife, as I was, on civilians' tickets, you had to join a massive, rigidly enforced, apparently security driven, circle around Celtic Park, which turned the usual 10 minute stroll from the bus station into a sweaty 45 minute slog through the neighbouring streets.

At every new junction we were turned further away from the stadium, and a scarily enthused volunteer would chirp, "just five minutes more."

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