Kiwi women at forefront of big Olympic Games medal haul

EDITORIAL

There are some periods that live on in New Zealand’s sporting history, and this weekend and the preceding day will be one of them.

Normally a crushing win by the All Blacks over Australia would top everything, especially with apparent Aussie skulduggery thrown in, but this has been overshadowed by a fantastic three-day period at the Olympics.

More than that, the Games have drawn to a close with a string of feel-good stories that show the Olympic spirit, tarnished as it is by drugs cheating and rampant commercialism, still has a special magic.

The sheer joy on the face of pole vaulter Eliza McCartney as she became the youngest New Zealand woman ever to win an Olympic medal was wonderful to see and would have made Games-watching worthwhile on its own.

Her Olympic milestone was to fall within 24 hours as Lydia Ko, a scant four months younger, took that honour.

Then there was the performance of 33-year-old Nick Willis who became the oldest athlete ever to win a medal in the 1500 metres.

But if New Zealand’s most successful Games by total medal tally — four golds, nine silvers and five bronzes — are to be remembered for any one theme it would be the fact 11 of the 18 medals were won by women, the first time they have been the majority.

Special mention should also go to two Kiwi women who didn’t make the winning dais.

Nikki Hamblin did this country proud and got deserved worldwide recognition for her sporting action in helping fellow runner Abbey D’Agostino after the two fell in their 5000m heat. Both received a fair play award.

Then there was the brave performance of Andrea Hewitt in the women’s triathlon, coming at what is expected to be her last Olympics and only 10 months after the death of her fiancé and coach Laurent Vidal.

It was all heartwarming and encouraging stuff from Rio, topped off by the All Blacks’ annihilation of the Wallabies. No need to gloat over that however when there are so many positive things on which to focus.

There are some periods that live on in New Zealand’s sporting history, and this weekend and the preceding day will be one of them.

Normally a crushing win by the All Blacks over Australia would top everything, especially with apparent Aussie skulduggery thrown in, but this has been overshadowed by a fantastic three-day period at the Olympics.

More than that, the Games have drawn to a close with a string of feel-good stories that show the Olympic spirit, tarnished as it is by drugs cheating and rampant commercialism, still has a special magic.

The sheer joy on the face of pole vaulter Eliza McCartney as she became the youngest New Zealand woman ever to win an Olympic medal was wonderful to see and would have made Games-watching worthwhile on its own.

Her Olympic milestone was to fall within 24 hours as Lydia Ko, a scant four months younger, took that honour.

Then there was the performance of 33-year-old Nick Willis who became the oldest athlete ever to win a medal in the 1500 metres.

But if New Zealand’s most successful Games by total medal tally — four golds, nine silvers and five bronzes — are to be remembered for any one theme it would be the fact 11 of the 18 medals were won by women, the first time they have been the majority.

Special mention should also go to two Kiwi women who didn’t make the winning dais.

Nikki Hamblin did this country proud and got deserved worldwide recognition for her sporting action in helping fellow runner Abbey D’Agostino after the two fell in their 5000m heat. Both received a fair play award.

Then there was the brave performance of Andrea Hewitt in the women’s triathlon, coming at what is expected to be her last Olympics and only 10 months after the death of her fiancé and coach Laurent Vidal.

It was all heartwarming and encouraging stuff from Rio, topped off by the All Blacks’ annihilation of the Wallabies. No need to gloat over that however when there are so many positive things on which to focus.

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