By Dr Micheal Warren
It's been a busy month for New Zealand athletes on the road to Tokyo. New Zealand’s sailors claimed three medals at the Princess Sofia Regatta in Palma, including gold and bronze in the Finn class, to finish as the second-most successful nation at the event. A number of athletes were also in action at the Australian Track and Field Champs. Teenage sprinter Edward Osei-Nketia won the 100m, to be crowned the fastest man in New Zealand and Australia. His best time of 10.19 seconds is the fourth fastest run by a New Zealander. In the 400m hurdles Portia Bing ran a career best time of 55.82s to qualify for the Athletics World Championships in Doha. Tom Walsh won the shot put, throwing 21.91m, a world best outdoor throw for 2019. Our Canoe/Kayak Team also had great success in Poznan, bringing home three Gold medals (Olympic classification) and the Men's and Women's Rugby 7's teams have qualified their spots in Tokyo 2020
New Zealand also qualified a quota spot in the women’s skeet shooting competition aster Chloe Tipple won the silver medal at the World Cup in Mexico.
This month’s blog will focus on cycling. Cycling looms as a sport with medal winning prospects for New Zealand at Tokyo after winning medals at the past four editions of the Olympic Games. Expect a large number of Kiwi’s to line up in Tokyo. At the recent World Championships in Poland New Zealand won gold in the men’s omnium and bronze in the women’s team pursuit and men’s scratch race (non-Olympic event).
New Zealand at the Olympic Games: Cycling Overview
It wasn’t until the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles that New Zealand sent cyclists to the Olympic Games. Ron Foubister competed in the men’s road race in Los Angeles and finished in 23rd position.
New Zealand sent cyclists to the Olympic Games in 1936, 1948, and 1952 with little success. At the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, New Zealand came close to winning its first cycling medal when Warren Johnston finished in fourth place in the men’s sprint. Johnston won through to the semi-finals before losing to eventual gold medallist Michel Rousseau of France. In the ride off for bronze, Johnston came up against hometown favourite Dick Ploog. Ploog won both races and claimed the bronze medal.
At the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Bruce Biddle rode in the men’s road race and finished in fourth place. However, bronze medallist Jaime Huelamo of Spain would subsequently fail a drug test. Biddle was elevated to third place but was never awarded a medal, due to the fact he was not drug tested. After the race, the three medallists and three other cyclists picked at random were tested. New Zealand cycling manager Colin Hollows persuaded Biddle to go with him to doping control after the race and ask to be tested. It would take another 20 years for New Zealand to win its first cycling medal.
Between 1972 and 1992, New Zealand’s best cycling result came in 1984 when Craig Adair finished in 5th place in the men’s 1km time trial. At the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, New Zealand’s cycling medal drought was broken when Gary Anderson won the bronze medal in the men’s individual pursuit. Anderson qualified fourth fastest and then beat Frenchman Philippe Ermenault in the first round. In the semi-final, Anderson lost to Jens Lehmann of Germany. However, Anderson’s time was faster than the other losing semi-finalist Mark Kingsland of Australia which meant that Anderson won the bronze.
New Zealand’s next medal from cycling would come in the form of gold at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. After narrowly missing the bronze medal at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Sarah Ulmer was favourite to win gold four years later in Athens. Ulmer would not disappoint. In the qualification round, Ulmer broke the world record. In the first round, Ulmer would defeat Olga Slyusareva of Russia and faced Australia’s Katie Mactier for the gold medal. In the final Mactier made a fast start leading by one second after the first 1000m. However, Ulmer overturned this and turned a one-second deficit to a three-second victory. Ulmer smashed her own world record set in the qualification round to win the gold medal.
At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Hayden Roulston won silver in the men’s individual pursuit and then combined with Jesse Sergent, Marc Ryan and Sam Bewley to win bronze in the men’s team pursuit. In a new event, Sarah Walker finished in fourth place in the women’s BMX event.
The fourth place in Beijing would turn into a silver four years later in London for Sarah Walker who won silver behind Colombia’s Mariana Pajón. New Zealand won two other cycling medals in London, with the men’s team pursuit winning bronze and Simon van Velthooven winning bronze in the men’s keirin event.
At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Eddie Dawkins, Ethan Mitchell and Sam Webster combined to win the silver medal in the men’s team sprint. In the first round, New Zealand broke the Olympic Record and faced Great Britain for the gold medal. The final was a close affair with Great Britain edging New Zealand by 0.12 of a second and the team will be looking to go one better at next year’s Olympic Games.
New Zealand has enjoyed consistent medal moments in cycling from the past four Olympiads and will be looking to continue this success next year in Tokyo.
Olympic Summer Games Cycling - Track Cycling - BMX