Mahe Drysdale’s courageous single sculls gold medal highlighted New Zealand’s efforts today.
Drysdale, a strong favourite before the games, had looked good in his preliminary races, winning comfortably each time. There was nothing comfortable about the end of the final, though.
After taking a wee while to really get into his work, Drysdale moved into overdrive in the middle stages and established a clear lead. The gold medal looked his.
But there’s nothing sure in top sport, as New Zealand sports fans learned yesterday watching Val Adams in the shot put.
Over the last 300 metres, Croatian Damir Martin unleashed a strong final burst. Try as he might, Drysdale couldn’t hold him off. The finish line approached and the Croatian got ever closer.
Into the final 20 metres and they were virtually level. It was a matter of whose boat surged at the right moment. Drysdale cut down his strokes right at the end and possibly squeezed in an extra one. It was enough, but barely.
The two were given the same time and the photo finish showed the 37-year-old New Zealander ahead by possibly a centimetre.
It was a finish very reminiscent of the Evers-Swindells’ dramatic victory in the double sculls final at Beijing in 2008. That one had required a photo finish, too.
Drysdale’s gold took the rowing haul in Rio to two golds and a silver, and New Zealand’s three other rowing finalists today were unable to add to that tally.
Emma Twigg, who had looked so good in the lead-up started very slowly in the single sculls final and left herself with a lot of work to do over the final half of the race. She got up to fourth, but that was the extent of it. So for the second successive Olympics, Twigg filled the position that no-one cherishes.
The women’s eight rowed well but were shut out of the medals, finishing fourth. The men’s eight were sixth.
New Zealand’s track cycling squad had another narrow miss at the velodrome.
The women’s team pursuiters, Lauren Ellis, Rushlee Buchanan, Jaime Nielsen and Racquel Sheath made their way to the bronze medal ride, having established a personal best in the qualifying round. They rode strongly in the medal race, too, but the Canadians were just too slick.
News Zealand’s two keirin riders, Liv Podmore and Natasha Hansen, could not make much impression and Sam Webster’s hopes in the men’s sprint foundered with defeats in his quarter-final and subsequent repechage.
Teenaged trampolinist Dylan Schmidt performed up to and beyond his best to qualify for the final and then finish seventh. Schmidt was the youngest finalist and his strong showing augurs swell for his chances at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, a point he made after his event today.
The fluctuating fortunes of New Zealand’s two men’s golfers continued. Danny Lee, having set the tournament alight with a 65 yesterday, shot a 76 today, a round that included a horrendous quadruple bogey. He has dropped back into 33rd position after looking to be in medal contention at the beginning of the day.
Ryan Fox shot a 74 and is tied for 49th.
The sailors had an excellent day. Sam Meech in the laser contest hauled himself into third place with just tomorrow’s medal race to go.
The men’s 49er crew of Blair Tuke and Peter Burling had four races and stayed out of trouble to hold on to their overall lead, though only narrowly.
For Josh Junior in the finn class, it was a case of one step forward, one step back, with 18th and 2nd placings, and he finds himself just outside the top 10 as his contest nears a finish.
The women’s 49ers had a big day with four races and look to be reaching really good form. They re in 2nd equal position overall and momentum is on their side. There were encouraging signs, too, in the mixed nacre, where New Zealand is now fourth.
The New Zealand women’s hockey team continued their good recent form with a comprehensive 3-0 defeat of China. The New Zealanders, fourth place-getters in London in 2012, finished second in their pool and have the steely look about them of a team that means business.
And in the main stadium Zane Robertson ran bravely in the 10,000m but at about the three-quarter point found the pace being set by Mo Farah and the other big names too torrid and drifted back. He finished 12th in 27min 33.67s, breaking Dick Quax's 39-year-old national record.Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games Mahe Drysdale Dame Valerie Adams Emma Twigg Lauren Ellis Rushlee Buchanan Racquel Sheath Liv Podmore Natasha Hansen Dylan Schmidt Danny Lee Ryan Fox Sam Meech Blair Tuke Peter Burling Josh Junior Zane Robertson Kayla Whitelock Charlotte Harrison Stacey Michelsen Gemma McCaw Pippa Hayward Sally Rutherford Anita McLaren Samantha Charlton Petrea Webster Rose Keddell Sophie Cocks Olivia Merry Brooke Neal Liz Thompson Kirsten Pearce Kelsey Smith Rowing Athletics Sailing Cycling - Track Gymnastics - Trampoline Golf Hockey