The New Zealand sevens team’s exit in the quarter-finals was a major talking point of Olympic action today.
Gordon Tietjens’ team had a forgettable first day, with a loss to Japan and injuries to two key players, Sonny Bill Williams and Joe Webber. Any thoughts of a change in fortunes were extinguished today.
New Zealand started extremely slowly against Great Britain in their final pool match and trailed 21-0 at halftime. They stormed back in the second spell and finally went down only 21-19. But the result left them hoping to get into the quarter-finals on points differential, which they managed, narrowly edging out the United States.
In the quarter-finals, New Zealand went down 12-7 to tournament favourites Fiji. It was a spirited performance by New Zealand, but the Fijians scored two tries to one and deserved their victory.
World champion road time trial rider Linda Villumsen was hoping to get among the medals today, but on a slippery course had to settle for sixth place. It was Villumsen’s third Olympic time trial and she seemed poised for big things.
Later she wondered if the road race a few days earlier had draining her of precious energy.
Mike Dawson became the first New Zealand kayak slalom competitor to make an Olympic final. In fact, he went into the final as fifth qualifier, after a sizzling semi-final effort.
The Tauranga man didn’t have the best of final runs, but 10th overall was no mean effort.
Julie Brougham, New Zealand’s oldest Olympians at 62, provided an excellent performance in the dressage. Riding Vom Feinstein, she was awarded a score of 68.543. She felt she’d turned in a near flawless performance and that she was a little unlucky not to be closer to 70.
The sailors are well and truly under way. Sam Meech in the laser competition, faltered with two middle-of-the-field performances, but is still seventh overall. Polly Powrie and Jo Aleh, the defending women’s 470 champions, had a disqualification and a win and finished the day 10th. In their first race, they led for much of the distance and finished sixth, before a protest led to them being disqualified. Nevertheless, they have already stamped their mark on the field. The 470 men, Paul Snow-Hansen and Daniel Willcox, had a second and a 10th to settle into third place overall.
Two crews struggled somewhat. The nacre mixed crew of Gemma Jones and Jason Saunders are 13th overall after two races and finn sailor Josh Junior lies 20th after four races.
The rowers were geared up for a big day, with five races in prospect, including the men’s and women’s eights repechages. But more windy weather caused another day to be cancelled. Organisers are still hopeful of making up time without having to abbreviate the programme in any way.
There was better news on the hockey front today with the women’s team beating Spain 2-1 to move tantalisingly close to securing a quarter-final berth. In an evening match, the New Zealand men ran riot against Brazil, storming to a 9-0 win that will do their goal differential no harm.
Two New Zealand swimmers were in action, Corey Main in the 200m backstroke and Bradlee Ashby in the 200m individual medley. Both swam right up to their best to squeak into the evening semi-finals. Main finished 14th in the backstroke semis with a time of 1 min 58.08s and Ashby swam 2min 00.45s in the individual medley, 14th overall.