Not for the first time, it was cycling’s day at the Commonwealth Games, with a brilliant gold medal to Linda Villumsen in the road time trial and two other top five finishes. There was a silver in the lawn bowls and a gymnastics bronze to round out another good day for New Zealand. We have now won 39 medals, 13 of them gold. The most golds New Zealand have ever won in a Commonwealth Games is 17, in Auckland in 1990.
After so many near misses, Linda Villumsen finally won a major race when she outclassed the strong women’s road time trial field in Glasgow today.
Villumsen was a silver medallist in the event four years ago in Delhi and was fourth in the London Olympics. At world championships, she has been second twice in the time trial and third three times, so her gold medal was certainly more than deserved.
Her major opponent today was Englishwoman Emma Pooley, who led for the first 24km of the 29.6km course.
However, in the speed section towards the end, Villumsen had the strength and power to come through. She won in 42min 25.46s. Pooley’s time was 42min 31.49s. Australian Katrin Garfoot was third in 43min 13.91s and another New Zealander, Jaime Nielsen, was a further 16 seconds back.
The third New Zealander in the field, Reta Trotman, was 11th of the 31 starters, in 44min 30.12s.
The field raced in reverse order, so Pooley was the second-last rider, and Villumsen last.
Villumsen prefers not to be aware of times while she is riding, so didn’t know what time Pooley had recorded, or how she was faring by comparison.
“I just want to go out here and do the best time I can. My entire concentration is on that, without worrying about other times,” Villumsen said.
The Aucklander, who was born in Denmark, had contemplated retirement early last year.
Then she decided to redouble her efforts at winning a major title.
“I’ve been so close in the Commonwealth Games, the Olympics, the world champs – it’s so good to finally finish first.”
It was a testing, hilly course around Glasgow, and early rain made parts of the road slippery, but nothing deterred Villumsen, who turned on an awesome display of strength, speed and endurance.
In the men’s race, Jesse Sergent finished fifth. Having already shone on the track at these games, Sergeant was one of the elite in the time trial.
The event was won by Alex Dowsett of England in 47min 41.78s. Sergeant’s time was 48min 33.73s.There were 56 starters.
New Zealand went oh so close to picking up a gold medal in the para open triples bowls final at Kelvingrove.
Lynda Bennett, Barry Wynks and Mark Noble were pipped 13-11 by South Africans Deon van de Vyver, Roger Hagerty and Derrick Lobban in the final.
The New Zealanders trailed early on, but fought their way back to 7-7 after seven ends.
Going into the final end, the South Africans led 12-11. They took one to stretch their winning margin to two.
Nelsonian Shannon McIlroy stayed on track in his morning singles quarter-final` when he beat Sam Tolchard of England 21-12. However, he came unstuck in his semi-final, beaten by Canadian Ryan Bester 21-10. McIlroy will play Australian Aron Sherriff, who lost to Darren Burnett of Scotland.
There was disappointment for New Zealand in the women’s pairs when former world champions Jo Edwards and Val Smith lost 14-10 to Mandy Cunningham and Barbara Cameron of Northern Ireland.
It was an astounding result. The New Zealanders were sailing smoothly, leading 8-2 after seven ends, but then lost 10 of the next 11 ends.
David Bishop won one of New Zealand’s rare Commonwealth Games gymnastics medals in the floor final today.
Bishop, 24, upset one or two higher rated competitors to grab New Zealand’s first games gymnastics medal since David Phillips in Kuala Lumpur in 1998.
Ironically Phillips is Bishop’s coach and he was clearly proud of his charge’s medal performance today, being moved to tears.
The event was won by Englishman Max Whitlock with a total of 15.533 points. Whitlock yesterday won the individual all-round competition, in which Bishop was 12th.
Bishop’s total today of 14.550 elevated him to third, just ahead of local favourite Daniel Keatings.
The University of Auckland engineering student took this year off to prepare for the games. The medal will make that decision seem like a very good one.
In the rings final, Matthew Palmer finished eighth with a score of 14.166. The gold went to Canadian Scott Morgan, who scored 15.100.
The New Zealand men kept their unbeaten record by drubbing Malaysia 6-1 to earn themselves a semi-final on Saturday against India.
Andy Hayward opening the scoring in the fourth minute with a penalty corner. Brad Shaw added a second after 29 minutes to make the halftime score 2-0. In the second half, Nick Haig, Hugo Inglis, Hayward again and Shea McAleese added further goals.
New Zealand’s top women’s player, Li Chunli bowed out in the third round of the singles after a magnificent match. Chunli, the seventh seed, went down to Malaysia’s Beh Lee Wei, the 10th seed, 11-9, 8-11, 7-11, 11-9, 10-12, 12-10 after 54 minutes of gripping table tennis.
For the 52-year-old Chunli to maintain her standard through such a taxing match was remarkable. In the sixth game she trained by six points at one stage, but fought back grimly to stretch the match into the deciding seventh game. It seemed she might get there when she built a four-point lead in the seventh game, but Lee Wei scrambled home.
The other New Zealand women’s singles player was also eliminated in the third round. Karen Li, Chunli’s sister and the 15th seed, lost to Mo Zhang of Canada 11-5, 12-10, 11-2, 11-7.
The New Zealand mixed doubles pairing of Tengteng Liu and Karen Li lost their fourth round mixed doubles to the England team of Liam Pritchard and Tin-tin Ho 11-5, 11-9, 11-8.
The men’s singles got under way. Phillip Xiao had a good first round win over Ghana’s Derek Abrefa 7-11, 11-2, 11-13, 12-10, 11-7, 11-8 and Tenteng Liu beat Ghana’s Emmanuel Commey 11-4, 11-9, 11-9, 11-7. In the second round, Xiao ran into top-seeded Ning Gao of Singapore and went down 11-3, 11-6, 11-3, 11-8, 11-9. Liu found seventh-seeded Paul Drinkhall too good and went down 11-3, 11-4, 11-4, 3-11, 11-9.
In the women’s doubles, the Welsh pairing of Angharad Phillips and Chloe Thomas beat Jenny Hung and Annie Yang 11-7, 11-2, 11-9. However, there was success for the other New Zealand women’s doubles pairing of Li Chunli and Karen Li, who beat Sherrice Felix and Krystal Harvey of Barbados 11-2, 11-6, 11-4.
In the men’s freestyle 65kg, Craig Miller looked good in beating Mauritius’s Christophe Adroit 5-0. However, in his quarter-final, Miller went down to Sri Lanka’s Chamara Perera 4-1.
The other wrestler in action was Steve Hill in the 86kg section. Hill found Indian Pawan Kumar far too good in his first bout and went down 4-0.
In the mixed doubles round of 16, Singapore’s Chayut Triyachart and Lei Yao led Kevin Dennerly-Minturn and Madeleine Stapleton 21-14 before the New Zealanders retired.
The New Zealand men’s doubles team of Dennerly-Minturn and Oliver Leydon-Davis beat Welshmen Oliver Gwilt and Daniel Font by default.
New Zealand’s women’s doubles entry, Anna Rankin and Stapleton lost to Sri Lankans Achini Rathnasiri and Upuli Weerasinghe in a 54-minute epic, 22-20, 18-21, 21-19.
In the women’s singles, Rankin beat Kenyan Mercy Joseph 21-5, 21-13 and Michelle Chan beat Carissa Turner of Wales 21-10, 21-11.
Fengyang Li finished bottom of the 12 finalists with a total of 320.00. The event was won by Ooi Tze Liang of Malaysia, with 457.60. Li’s scores were 74.40, 19.50, 30.00, 67.50, 61.70. He paid dearly for muffing two dives, especially his second one.
In the preliminary round, Li qualified eighth with a total of 375.30. His scores were 67.50, 65.10, 54.00, 58.50, 69.00. 61.20. Fellow New Zealander Liam Stone was off the pace, totalling 361.55. His scores were 67.50, 66.65, 55.50, 36.00, 63.00, 62.90. But for his muffed fourth dive, he would surely have qualified.
The two New Zealand men’s doubles combinations ran into each other and there was a surprise according to the seedings when the younger pair of Paul Coll and Lance Beddoes upset the vastly more experienced Martin Knight and Campbell Grayson 11-7, 11-10.
In the women’s doubles, the remaining New Zealand team, Joelle King and Amanda Landers-Murphy, founds the Indian pairing of Dipika Pallikal and Joshana Chinappa too slick and went down 11-9, 11-5.
New Zealand had two mixed doubles teams still involved today. King and Knight, silver medallists four years ago, beat Malaysians Valentino Bonjovi Bong (truly!) and Rachel Arnold 11-1, 11-6 and Coll and Landers-Murphy eased past Scotland’s Alan Clyne and Frania Gillen Buchert 11-9, 9-11, 11-5.
New Zealand had two runners in the women’s 800m semi-finals – Angie Smit and Nikki Hamblin, who ran so well in finishing fifth in the 1500m earlier in the week. Both ran very well in the semis (with three to go through from each of the two semis, plus the two fastest losers) and qualified for what promises to be a hot final. Smith ran a swift 2min 01.97s to finish third in her heat and Hamblin was timed at 2min 02.87s. Hamlin was checked in the home straight and did well to regather herself and still have enough strength to force herself into third place.
And in the women’s discus qualifying, 20-year-old Aucklander Siositina Hakeai uncorked throws of 54.40m, 56.27m and 57.10 to leave qualify fourth.