Lydia Ko and Nick Willis became the stories of the day for New Zealand at the Olympics today.
The super-talented 19-year-old Ko won a silver medal in the golf and Willis claimed the bronze medal in the 1500m after a frantic final-straight dash.
Ko went into the final round of the women’s golf tournament in second place, desperate for a medal.
It soon became apparent the gold was beyond her grasp. Inbee Park of South Korea was just too good and all afternoon she stretched her lead.
Ko became embroiled with five or six others in a battle for the silver and bronze medals. Places switched around on the leaderboard for four hours. It was thrilling.
Through it all, and even in Rio’s steamy heat, Ko never looked anything but calm and composed.
She got to the 18th hole wanting one good putt to secure the silver. Her looping putt curled away from the hole but caught the lip, spun and dropped in.
Ko beamed. The silver medal was hers.
The world No 1 told later how she had thought about being an Olympian ever since she was 9 and heard golf was to be admitted to the Olympics. She dreamed of standing on an Olympic medal podium.
Today she made her dream come true.
Willis was attempting to create his own little bit of history today by becoming the first New Zealander to win two Olympic medals over 1500m.
He was a semi-finalist at Athens in 2004, and then reached successive Olympic finals in Beijing (where he collected the silver medal), London and now Rio. The question was whether at 33 he still had the legs to foot it with the best around.
It turned out he did. In a strange final that was the slowest in 84 years, Willis bided his time and kicked home strongly to win the bronze medal. His time of 3min 50.24s was 2½ seconds slower than Jack Lovelock ran in winning the same race in 1936.
But Olympic finals are all about medals, not times, and Willis deserves full credit for being handily-placed when the final sprints were under way. It was a fairytale result for one of the great stalwarts of New Zealand athletics.
There wasn’t quite such a fairytale end for the women’s K4 500 kayakers, who came fifth in their final. Kayla Imrie, Caitlin Ryan, Aimee Fisher and Jaimee Lovett had looked really good in winning their semi-final, but when the pressure was turned up in the final, they could not quite respond.
Nevertheless, they were rightly buoyant afterwards. When they considered how far they had come in their 18 months together, fifth was quite an achievement.
Triathlon veterans Andrea Hewitt and Nicky Samuels gave it everything today, and both performed strongly. Hewitt, 34, finished seventh and Samuels, 33, was 13th.
For Hewitt that means that in her three Olympic Games she has finished eighth, sixth and seventh, which is some record.
The two New Zealanders were up with the leaders until the run, but were then dropped by American Gwen Jorgensen and Nicola Spirig Hug of Switzerland. Hewitt and Samuels stuck to their task gamely throughout the two hours in the boiling temperatures and finished strongly.Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games Lydia Ko Nick Willis Jaimee Lovett Kayla Imrie Aimee Fisher Caitlin Ryan Andrea Hewitt Nicky Samuels Triathlon Athletics Golf