London’s brilliant party is almost at an end. I have managed to catch a bit more of this Olympics than any in my recent memory, partly due to finding the day in London getting going when I have been getting home. Not as much as in 1984 when I got near to hypothermia being the ball-boy at Carisbrook in Dunedin and had the best part of two weeks off school to watch it. (Well that was my story then, and I am sticking to it now!)
So, what to make of it all. From an overall point of view it seems to have gone off without too many hitches. There was a bit of controversy about empty seats early on, but that went away. In fact one of the best bits of the Games has been the way the British public have gotten in behind the event. The games seem to have been incredibly “friendly” from this distance, including among the competitors.
And for New Zealand. Well it has been an excellent games. Some truly incredible performances, not as many “fourths” and some very solid contributions. Anyway, now for some awards.
The Who Knew Sitting on Your Arse Could Take You So Far. Something about New Zealanders, but with the exception of Valerie Adams every medal we got came from a posterior pointed at the ground. Admittedly the yachties are up and down a fair bit, but ultimately they are on their backsides. This means we need to think about other seated sports for the Olympics. Personally I am backing ‘armchair commentary’, where I have years of Olympic experience.
Gutsiest NZ Competitor. The Black Sticks Women’s hockey team were just brilliant at this games. They played out of their skins. There is no doubt they are skilful and talented, but on form they should not have progressed as far as they did. They were desperately unlucky not to beat the Dutch in the semi-final. In all honesty there was no way they were going to come back from that emotionally for the bronze game, especially against the home team. But what a brilliant effort.
Gutsiest Non NZ Competitor. I probably did not see enough to say, but on the track Oscar Pistorius was an inspiration.
The fact he did not get to run his leg of the relay was a tragedy (Oops, I missed that SA team got into final on protest after not finishing the heat). But actually I give the award to Wojdan Shaherkani (judo) and Sarah Attar (atheltics) the first ever Saudi female athletes to compete at the Games. If anyone needed proof that despite the rampant commercialism now associated with the Games they still have the power to make positive change, their involvement was it. Of course this does not mean much has changed for Saudi women, but this represents a big step.
Most Exhilarating Kiwi Moment: I didn’t get to see Lisa Carrington’s win live, but it looked pretty good, but nothing can top Nathen Cohen and Joseph Sullivan powering home to win the double sculls. They were dead last and gone from most people’s perspectives. I am sure I am not the only person who has not heard the commentary of the final 250m since I was screaming and trying to row from my bed. A superb sporting moment.
Most Exhilirating Non Kiwi Moment. I don’t want to say Usain Bolt because he is starting to annoy me. I mean I know he is the greatest track athlete of all time and all, but I reckon you should run your heart out in every final. He is of course amazing, and the run in the 4x100m relay this morning was something special, but I think David Rudisha’s 800m World Record run would have to be the highlight. An incredible performance that was about more than just winning the gold.
Greatest Source of Irritation. The Sky Sport Commentary Team. With a couple of notable exceptions (Peter Calder at the Yachting, the British guy who kept telling us to drink when we won at the rowing) the standard of commentary was woeful. People with little experience of a sport shouting out jinogistic nonsense while missing important aspects of what was happening. Even where they knew a lot (think the swimming) it still seemed like they were only half there.
Best Non Medal Reaction from a Kiwi. Lauren Boyle who was far and away the best of our swimmers. who powered to 4th in the 800m, and promptly fell apart while being interviewed because she genuinely did not think she was that good. You are Lauren, and come 2016 you should have the confidence you need to win a medal.
Get It and Bottle It. Every sport in New Zealand needs to go and visit Rowing NZ and find out about their high performance programme. Especially Swimming NZ.
Unsung Hero. Dick Tonks, who is head and shoulders above all as a rowing coach. Two golds in an hour, and the rowers themselves said he was a huge part of their wins. If he is not winning the Halberg for coach of the year, something is very wrong.
Watch More Carefully. A lot has been said about Valerie Adams dashed hopes for Gold, and not enough about a great effort to get Silver. The clerical error that saw her not entered was unforgivable. Who knows how much it really affected her throwing, but it must never happen again. But this award is actually for the media and the public. Nadzeya Ostapchuk had come into some magnificent form this year, and to be honest had all the momentum coming into the Olympics. It would have been fairer on Val and the expectations of the NZ public if this was reported more widely to give realistic expectations.
Boys Weekend/Girls Weekend. Two magnificent weekends of medal winning action, the boy rowers last weekend, and the girls in the yachting/BMX/kayaking this weekend. Great to see our success across shared between the men and the women.
NZ Champion. All the medal winners were brilliant, but Eric Murray and Hamish Bond have been unbeaten for four years, and no one was even close to them. I don’t know that I have seen a more dominant display from a NZ team.
Olympic Champion. Usain Bolt. I admit it, he is a phenomenon. Runner Up, the British public for being so supportive of their team, and giving everyone else a fair go. Second Runner Up, Twitter for being the best source of information about the Games.
Now, time to get a good night’s sleep.