Published Saturday 02 August 2014

Two boxers turned on brave displays today to earn the right to fight for gold at the Commonwealth Games.

David Light and David Nyika highlighted a day of mixed fortunes for New Zealand.

BOXING

Two New Zealanders, David Nyika and David Light will box for Commonwealth Games gold medals tomorrow after winning high-pressure semi-finals. New Zealand has not won a boxing gold medal at the Commonwealth Games since heavyweight Michael Kenny in 1990.

Hamilton teenager Nyika has won his way through to the final of the men’s light-heavyweight division.

Nyika faced tough Northern Irishman Sean McGlinchy in a semi-final and was on top throughout.

He won all three rounds on each of the three judges’ scorecards - though the first round was torrid - and was so dominant over the final two rounds that he won them with a 10:8 margin. McGlinchy was very pleased to hear the final bell.

Nyika, 18, has now had four good wins in Glasgow and been one of the revelations of the boxing squad.

“I was really happy with that performance,” he said. “Maybe I was a tiny bit lazy in round one, but I was confident I was going to be able to break him down.

“In the second round I really got down to work, started to work the body a bit and he was starting to tire.”

In the last fight of the evening, Aucklander Light took on Scot Stephen Lavelle in heavyweight semi-final.

Light, 22, having his third bout in Glasgow, won a fight he thought he might well have lost.

The Aucklander won a really tight decision over Scottish favourite Stephen Lavelle. Each of the three judges gave him the decision 29-28, to the disappointment of the parochial crowd.

“I thought I might just have nicked the second, and I thought I won the third,” Light said, “but I wasn’t confident and neither was my corner.”

If ever there was a case of a decision going the home favourite’s way, this appeared as if it might be the one, but the 22-year-old Light was delighted and somewhat surprised to have his hand raised by the referee at the end. “I can’t describe the feeling. To be in the final after winning such a close bout was a big relief.”

It was a rugged, physical battle throughout, with a lot of holding, and good, aggressive intent from both boxers.

Light had to sit through a whole programme of bouts and did not hop into the ring until nearly 10pm.

“It was a very long day,” he said. “In fact, I kept falling asleep in the dressing room waiting. To go from that to stepping in the ring and fighting at that pace took a lot of energy.”

He said the crowd was a bigger factor than he expected.

“I thought I’d be able to block it out, but it was very loud. I was able to channel some of the noise though, and get some energy from it.”

The New Zealander said he had been hoping to have some sort of medal to take home, a reward for all the hard work he had put into his boxing career over the years. “To get the chance to go for the gold is even more special.”

In the final tomorrow he meets Canadian Samir El-Mais, who showed good movement and plenty of power in his semi-final.

Light will draw strength from his team-mates.

“The boxing team here is very close. We support each other and our successes encourage each other. It really helps to know you’ve got them in your corner.”

ATHLETICS

It was a very busy evening for New Zealand at the Hampden Park track.

New Zealand had three men in the 1500m heats, and two of them – Nick Willis and Julian Matthews - progressed to tomorrow’s final.

Willis, the American-based 31-year-old, came into the race having run very well in Europe, including a personal best in the 1500m (and a New Zealand record) of 3min 29.91s.

He has excellent Commonwealth Games credentials, having won the 1500m gold medal at Melbourne in 2006 and picked up a bronze in Delhi in 2010. Willis has the ability to rise to the occasion, as he showed when winning the silver medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

His heat today was tactically run and ended in a blanket finish with five runners finishing within 0.17s of each other. Willis controlled the race beautifully and was able to slow near the end while some of his opposition were straining to qualify. He secured a place in his third consecutive games final. Unfortunately, Zane Robertson, the 24-year-old who won a bronze medal earlier in the meet in the 5000m, finished one place out of a qualifying position in Willis’ heat. He was seventh in 3min 43.02s. Robertson looked comfortable through three laps and at one point was in second place, just behind Willis. However, he got swallowed up in the final frantic dash.

Robertson and his twin brother Jake, are from Waikato, but have based themselves in Ethiopia to get consistent high-quality training.

In the second 1500m heat, Nelson’s Julian Matthews booked a spot in the final with a solid time of 3min 40.33s. He was in the faster heat, but handled the pace well and finished fifth, to secure a fastest loser entry into the final.

Sarah Crowley, 30, qualified for the women’s high jump final with a leap of 1.85m. The Aucklander improved by one centimetre in the final, where she finished ninth. She succeeded first time at 1.78m and 1.82m, had two missed before getting over 1.86m and then had three misses at 1.89m. The event was won impressively by Australian Eleanor Patterson with 1.94m.

Twenty-year-old Aucklander Siositina Hakeai qualified for the women’s discus final with a throw of 57.19m. She bettered that immediately in the final with a first throw of 57.94m. She followed that with two no throws and at the halfway point, when only the top eight continue, was in fourth place. After another no throw, she timed her fifth throw well, for 58.67m and finished with a throw of 57.31m.

Hakeai, always very proud of her Tongan heritage, finished fourth. The event was won by Dani Samuels with 64.88m.

Jake Robertson, having watched twin brother Zane compete in the 1500m heats, gave the 10,000m final everything he had.

Robertson stayed with the leading bunch until the last lap. As the pace quickened over the frantic final 400 metres, he found himself left behind, but still finished a creditable seventh in 28min 03.70s. The race was won by Ugandan Moses Kirsiro in 27min 56.11s. Robertson’s running in both the 5000m and 10,000m looked impressive. He was certainly never overawed by the African runners with big reputations.

As a note for New Zealanders, the winning time today was still about 10 seconds slower than Dick Tayler ran when winning the same gold medal in Christchurch in 1974.

Stuart Farquhar of Hamilton was a strong contender going into the men’s javelin and he justified his standing in the qualifying event. He needed only one throw in qualifying, throwing 78.54m to qualify automatically for the final. Keshorn Walcott of Trinidad and Tobago set the qualifying event alive when he threw 85.28m in his first and only throw. It was a personal best and led the qualifiers.

Farquhar is vastly experienced, having competed in four world championships and two Olympic Games. This is his third Commonwealth Games. He was seventh in Melbourne in 2006 and the silver medallist in Delhi in 2010.

New Zealand had two runners in the women’s 800m final, Angie Smith, 22, from Canterbury and the experienced Nikki Hamblin. Smit finished fifth in the final and Hamblin seventh.

Hamblin, 26, was a silver medallist in both the 800m and 1500m in Delhi in 2010, but has had a terrible run with injuries since. She showed some of her old form in finishing fifth in the 1500m earlier in the meet.

In the final, Hamblin, who has had a very demanding past few days at the track, struggled to stay with the pace from the start. She trailed the field for most of the journey and even in the straight, where she is usually so strong, she could no better than move up from eighth to seventh. Her time was 2min 02.43s.

Smit stayed with the bunch and ran a solid race, but could not match the finishing kicks of race winner Eunice Sum and her closest challengers. Sum won in 2min 00.31s. Smith was clocked at 2min 01.94s.

In the women’s 4 x 400m relay, New Zealanders Portia Bing, Brooke Cull, Zoe Bannantyne and Louise Jones set a national record with their 3min 34.62s effort. However, they were outgunned in the event, recording the 10th fastest time of the 12 starters, and missed a spot in the final. England were fastest qualifiers with 3min 27.88s.

HOCKEY

The New Zealand women’s hockey team bowed out of the gold medal in disappointing circumstances, losing a penalty shootout to England.

The match was locked at 1-1 at the end of fulltime, and the game went straight into a penalty shootout, which England won 3-1.

It is the third time in recent years New Zealand has lost in similar circumstances.

At the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, New Zealand lost a penalty stroke shootout to Australia in the final after it was 2-2 at fulltime. At the Olympics, the New Zealand women lost to the Netherlands on a penalty shootout in the semi-final.

New Zealand went into today’s match with a world ranking of No 4 to England’s No 2, but the way they had been playing, the New Zealanders fancied their chances.

They began reasonably well, but as the game settled down, England were generally on top, passing well, defending more cohesively and looking more likely to score.

England broke through after 28 minutes when Lily Owsley scored. It was 1-0 at halftime.

In the second half, New Zealand were poor. Their midfield was dominated by England and they struggled to put passes together.

Things looked very grim with a few minutes remaining, because New Zealand were reduced to nine players after Anita Punt was green carded, but was replaced at the same time. The captain, Kayla Whitelock, was then carded because her team still had 11 players on the field.

Unbelievably, New Zealand then scored against the run of play. Krystal Forgesson belted the ball into the circle, Katie Glynn got a touch and suddenly it was 1-1.

Both teams had chances to score in the final two minutes, but could not convert penalty corners.

In the shootout, England looked far more adept. The England goalie, Maddie Hinch, did a good job of shutting down the New Zealand players, who looked diffident and unsure how to go about their task. Only Whitelock was able to convert her opportunity.

“It’s very disappointing,” said New Zealand coach Mark Hager. “They [New Zealand] didn’t deserve to win. They were too timid out there, too individualistic, very uninventive. They didn’t build their attacks as a team

“You can’t win when only three of four players play well. There were some silly decisions made out there.”

Hager said the team had done plenty of penalty shootout practice, but that the pressure of the situation told.

Whitelock said that it is one thing to do a penalty shootout session, as the New Zealand team did yesterday, but far more difficult to simulate the pressure of match conditions.

She said the players felt good before the game, but the moment the opening whistle sounded, the players sank into their shells. We didn’t use our speed, or play the way we wanted. New Zealand now meet South Africa in the bronze medal match.

New Zealand will meet South Africa in the bronze medal match. South Africa lost the other semi-final 7-1 to Australia.

BOWLS

Shannon McIlroy fought the going too tough against Australian Aron Sherriff in their singles bronze medal match.

Sherriff got away to a blazing start and after nine ends already had a 13-1 lead. He went on to win 21-8.

McIlroy had had a busy time of it in Glasgow. The Nelson man was in the men’s triple that played six matches before bowing out in the quarter-finals.

To reach the bronze medal match in the singles, McIlroy played eight matches, winning six.

New Zealand finished the games with three bowls medals.

SQUASH

New Zealand had three teams alive going into today.

In the men’s doubles, Lance Beddoes and Paul Coll, who had already played above their ranking, did well to push the highly rated English pair of Daryl Selby and James Willstrop close in their quarter-final, going down only 11-8, 6-11, 11-9 after 68 minutes of intense squash.

Coll was back on court not long afterwards for his mixed doubles quarter-final. He and Amanda Landers-Murphy went down to Australians Cameron Pilley and Kasey Brown 11-1, 11-8.

It was left to Delhi silver medallists Martin Knight and Joelle King to keep the New Zealand flag flying in the mixed doubles. They duly delivered, beating Harinder Sandhu and Joshana Chinappa of India 7-11, 11-8, 11-6 to move into the semi-finals.

TABLE TENNIS

New Zealand interest in the table tennis ended when the top women’s doubles pairing of sisters Chunli Li and Karen Li bowed out in the quarter-finals.

Chunli and Karen Li won their first match of the day, beating Malaysians Lee Rou You and Ho Ying 11-9, 11-9, 11-6. Then they came up against the crack pairing of Tianwei Feng and Mengyu Yu and did well to extend the match to 11-5, 11-9, 9-11, 11-3.

BADMINTON

New Zealand’s remaining interest in the badminton was extinguished when Anna Rankin and Michelle Chan bowed out in the quarter-finals of the women’s singles.

Chan went down 21-9, 21-10 to Scotland’s Kirsty Gilmour and Rankin lost to PV Sindhu of India 21-10, 21-9.

DIVING

With only six teams in the men’s synchronised 3m diving event, New Zealanders Fengyang Li and Liam Stone had an outside chance of a medal chance. However, they could not foot it with the big guns.

The event was won by Englishmen Jack Laugher and Chris Mears, who totalled 431.94. The New Zealanders’ six divers were scored 45.60, 46.20, 67.50, 58.50, 66.60, 52.02 and totalled 336.42, which placed them bottom of the list.

GYMNASTICS

Charlotte Sullivan, 16, finished seventh of eight gymnasts in the women’s floor final.

Sullivan scored 13.033 points. The event was won by Claudia Fragapane of England with 14.541.