Triple Olympic medalist Lisa Carrington will lead the most successful Olympic Team in New Zealand’s history into Maracana Stadium tonight as the Rio Olympic Games draw to a close.
The back to back gold and bronze canoe sprint medalist was chosen for the honour after she became the first New Zealand female athlete to win two medals at a single Olympic Games, and also became one of just three New Zealand women who have won three Olympic medals.
Chef de Mission Rob Waddell said Carrington’s performance reflected the success and values of the team.
‘Her performances here were outstanding and we’re delighted to have named Lisa as the flagbearer for the Rio 2016 Closing Ceremony,’ said Waddell.
With a total of 18 medals including four gold, nine silver and five bronze, New Zealand athletes have won more medals than any other New Zealand Olympic Team in history and have showcased New Zealand's ability to perform in a wide range of sports at the very highest level.
The medals have been won across nine sport disciplines including athletics, cycling track, canoe/kayak sprint, canoe/kayak slalom, golf, rowing, rugby sevens, sailing, shooting.
‘I’m incredibly proud of the athletes in the New Zealand Olympic Team,' said Waddell as New Zealand wrapped up their games campaign. 'Collectively they have performed exceptionally well and have done so in a way that has highlighted a positive and respectful team culture and a commitment to high performance.
In addition to the 18 medals, New Zealand also finished with an additional 22 top eight finishes (4th – 8th) and 70 top 16 finishes out of 118 events.
Additional to the field of play results, middle-distance runner Nikki Hamblin was awarded the International Fair Play Award and the team was able to donate 6,000 items of clothing, various sporting equipment and 1500 spectator tickets to disadvantaged members of the Mangueira community (favela) as well as spend time coaching children. Olympian Sarah Walker was also elected to the IOC as an Athletes' Commission representative.
Waddell also acknowledged wider support staff whose preparation and planning enabled the team to overcome challenges, including initial issues with village readiness.
'I thank each and every one of them for their outstanding efforts and contribution,' he said.
He also noted that planning and team protocols were also successful in minimising any health or other concerns throughout the team and the atmosphere in the Kiwi-style lounge positive and welcoming, providing a reprieve from the intensity of Olympic competition.
New Zealand Olympic Committee President Mike Stanley also credited the wider efforts of the New Zealand Olympic Team. ‘The Olympic Games are incredibly competitive and I would like to thank the New Zealand athletes for their commitment and determination. I also acknowledge their overall attitude of respect and friendship in the wider Olympic environment. Our team has really inspired a nation. I also thank Rob and his team for their ability to deliver a high-performance team environment at a challenging Olympic Games.’
HPSNZ CEO Alex Baumann said ‘It’s been a successful games for New Zealand and we have exceeded our medal target with a record medal-haul. There was plenty to celebrate and this team has made New Zealand proud and inspired Kiwis.'
Waddell, for whom Rio 2016 was his first as Chef de Mission, said he believed many of the performances of the New Zealand athletes at Rio would inspire generations of New Zealanders to come.
‘From the supremacy of Hamish Bond and Eric Murray’s performance, Lisa’s back to back gold and the nail-biting finish that confirmed Mahe's success to team captains Blair Tuke and Peter Burling securing their gold medal two races before the end of competition, our gold medalist performances will are now etched on the consciousness of our nation.
Valerie Adams’ silver medal was also incredibly impressive as she overcome serious injury to fight her way back to a season’s best and medal-winning performance at Olympic Stadium in Rio. The cycling men's team sprint team showed their grit to get silver in what proved to be a highly competitive track cycling environment. Luuka and Natalie showed how New Zealand can perform in a wider range of sports and their silver medals really engaged the nation early on in the games and who didn’t love Lydia’s hole in one that spurred her on to a silver.’
'Rugby sevens appeared at the Olympic Games for the first time this year and although high expectation was placed on both teams it was fantastic to see our women's sevens team come away with the silver medal. Who could forget the moving moment where the sevens sisters performed their haka to the crowd.'
'For a nation surrounded by water our sailors were commanding at Marina de Gloria, with all crews making finals races and four crews winning medals in exhilarating fashion. The athletics team rounded out their campaign on a high note with Tom Walsh, 19-year-old Eliza McCartney and Nick Willis in performances that had the nation cheering.'
‘Out of medal contention, but still providing shining examples of Olympic performances were Dylan Schmidt finishing seventh in trampoline, the women's canoe sprint K4 finishing 5th in the A final and Andrea Hewitt placing 7th in the women's triathlon. Natasha Hansen's efforts in the individual track sprint saw her break the New Zealand record and 10,000m runner Zane Robertson clipped seconds off the national record set by Dick Quax in London 1977.'
Waddell said that some of the teams and athletes were not able to meet their own high performance expectations. ‘We know there were some disappointed athletes in the team and, like at every games, we are reminded just how tough Olympic competition actually is. Teams will review their performances as they look forward to Tokyo and the next Olympic cycle.’
Finally, Waddell referenced the Olympic Team’s unique partnership with Mangueira as a highlight.
‘We were able to make a significant contribution to the social project through donating equipment, clothing and tickets and we engaged disadvantaged children with our athletes and the Olympic games. In return, our athletes had a chance to see the power of sport to do good and experience local Brazilian culture first hand.’
The New Zealand Olympic Team was not only the most medaled New Zealand team, but also our nation's biggest, with the original 199 named to the Olympic Team growing to a final 201 as Tim Price (equestrian)and Sione Molia (rugby sevens) were added to the team early on in the games.
More than 150 team members will march in what is expected to be a festive Closing Ceremony before the bulk of the team leaves Rio tomorrow (22nd August, Rio time).
170 members of the New Zealand Olympic Team, including medallists from sailing, rugby sevens, rowing, cycling, canoe kayak, sailing will arrive in New Zealand on Wednesday 24th at 0435h before heading to the ANZ Welcome Home, public celebration at The Cloud, Queen’s Wharf, from 0900h – 1000h.