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By Dr Micheal Warren

The pre-olympic year is always a busy one for athletes as they look for early qualification opportunities to stake their claim for Olympic inclusion. Throughout 2019, this blog series will track those preparations and opportunities as New Zealand athletes compete on the world stage.

This blog will also trace back through more than 100 years of Olympic participation and look at New Zealand’s performance and participation in sports where New Zealand has medalled. This month’s blog will focus on golf, shooting and rugby sevens.

Golf

Golf made its Olympic debut at the 1900 Olympic Games in Paris and also featured at the 1904 Olympic Games in St Louis. Following the 1904 Olympic Games, golf was removed from the Olympic programme.

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Canada's George Lyon won the Olympic gold medal for golf the last time before 2016 the sport was included in the Olympic Games in 1904. The medal is on display behind the bar of the Rosedale Golf Club. (Photo by Colin McConnell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

At the IOC session in Copenhagen in October 2009, the IOC decided to reinstate golf for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, three New Zealanders took part in golf. In the men's event, Danny Lee tied for 27th, while Ryan Fox finished tied for 39th.

In the women's competition, Lydia Ko was New Zealand’s sole representative. Ko had a quiet first two rounds, before storming up the leaderboard in the third round with the lowest round of the day and a hole-in-one on the eighth hole. It was Ko’s first ever hole-in-one. At the start of the final round, Ko was tied for second and poised to win an Olympic medal. Ko shot a final round of -2 under par to win the silver medal. Ko finished five shots behind South Korea’s Inbee Park and Shanshan Feng of China won the bronze medal.

Golf is back on the Olympic programme for Tokyo 2020 where 60 male and 60 female golfers will take part. New Zealand will hope to add to this emerging legacy in Olympic golf.

Shooting

With the exception of the 1904 Olympics Games in St Louis and the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam, shooting has appeared at every version of the Olympic Games.

New Zealand first sent shooters to the Olympic Games in 1968 and immediately New Zealand were in the medals. Ian Ballinger won the bronze medal in the rifle prone event, behind Jan Kurka of Czechoslovakia and Laszlo Hammerl of Hungry. Fellow Kiwi, Stew Nairn finished 12th in the same event. Between 1972 and 2016 shooters represented New Zealand at every edition of the Olympic Games, with four being selected to compete at the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games.

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Ian Ballinger - 1968 bronze medallist

During this time the most notable result was Nadine Stanton who finished in 6th place in the double trap event at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.

Ballinger’s bronze medal won at Mexico would remain New Zealand’s only shooting medal, until the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio when Natalie Rooney claimed silver in the women’s trap. Rooney placed fourth after the qualification round and shot brilliantly in the final to win the silver medal behind Australia’s Catherine Skinner. Rooney will be seeking qualification to go one better in Tokyo.

At the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, 15 shooting events will take place, including three mixed team events.

Rugby Sevens

While Rugby Sevens made its Olympic debut at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, rugby had taken place at four earlier editions of the Olympic Games. In 1900 in Paris, France won the gold medal ahead of Great Britain and Germany; in 1908 in London, Australasia beat Great Britain in the final 32-3 to win the gold medal; in 1920 in Antwerp and 1924 in Paris, the United States claimed back to back gold medals.

At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, New Zealand sent a men’s and women’s team. Both were favoured to win medals, however, the men after being upset by Japan in their opening game finished fifth. The women’s team romped through pool play scoring 109 points and conceding only 12. They then pushed aside the United States and Great Britain in the quarter-final and semi-final and faced their main rivals Australia for the gold medal. The final was a pulsating match with Australia edging New Zealand 24-17 to win the gold medal.

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At the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, both the men’s and women’s teams won the gold medal, and as the latest World Sevens Series is showing both with be medal contenders next year in Tokyo.


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