Things didn’t fall New Zealand’s way at the Olympics today.
Most attention was focused on the equestrian three-day eventing, where at the beginning of the day New Zealand had high hopes of a medal in the teams section and a reasonable prospect of a medal in the individual section.
Jonelle Price rode solidly in her showjumping round and Clarke Johnstone was superb with a clear round. It left the scene set for veteran Mark Todd to cap a remarkable career by sealing the gold medal.
Instead Todd’s horse, Leonidas II, was frisky from the start, and knocked down four rails. New Zealand tumbled out of the medals entirely and ended up fourth.
Not surprisingly, Todd was devastated afterwards, describing it as the lowest point of his equestrian career.
When he was reminded of a similar fate that befell Andrew Nicholson on Spinning Rhombus at Barcelona in 1992, Todd replied: “At least we won a medal that day.”
Champion that he is, Todd bounced back with a clear round in the final showjumping section, to decide the individual standings. It lifted him to seventh. He later described the clear round as “bitter/sweet” – he’d rather have had it in the morning and wrapped up the team gold.
Clarke Johnstone went close to picking up an individual medal and would have if he’d gone clear in his final round, but he hit two rails and slipped just out of medal contention.
The men’s sevens rugby began today and New Zealand was immediately creating headlines, but for the wrong reason.
The New Zealand side suffered a stunning upset, losing to Japan 14-12. Worse, two players, Sonny Bill Williams and Joe Webber, were badly injured and are out of the tournament.
The sevens side fought back in the afternoon and scored a commendable 28-5 win over Kenya to get their tournament back on track.
There were some successes, but also a body blow in the rowing today. The big guns, single scullers Mahe Drysdale and Emma Twigg, and the men’s pair of Hamish Bond and Eric Murray, all progressed serenely. But that was not the case for world champion women’s double scullers Eve Macfarlane and Zoe Stevenson, who finished a close fourth in their semi-final and missed a berth in the final. The lightweight men’s four of James Lassche, Peter Taylor, Alistair Bond and James Hunter got through to the final, by virtual of their semi-final third placing, but the men’s double scullers Robbie Manson and Chris Harris missed out.
Two New Zealand teams had bad days. The women’s football team went down 3-0 to a polished French side and seemed likely to exit the tournament. And the New Zealand men’s hockey team lost 3-2 to Spain in a topsy-turvy match. That result means the men have the battle ahead of them to wrap up a quarter-final spot.
It wasn’t a good day for New Zealanders at the swimming. Matthew Stanley, Glenn Snyders and Helena Gasson were all below their personal bests and failed to make the semi-finals. Snyders, in his third Olympics, hinted at retirement afterwards.
At the sailing, Sam Meech continued his good form in the laser and after four races is third overall. Josh Junior had a less happy time of it in the finn and finds himself 21st overall after the first day of his competition.