Editorial: Mahe's done us all proud with win

By Scott Inglis

When Mahe Drysdale dug deep and crossed the line first on Friday night I, like most Kiwis, felt a surge of pride.

Drysdale overcame sickening nerves to snatch gold in the single sculls with a time of 6:57.82.

It was pure magic. He finally, and deservedly, got the big prize he'd been after for years, on top of bronze in Beijing and an impressive five world titles.

His golden effort at these Games is so far matched by fellow rowers Eric Murray and Hamish Bond, and Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan. These golds, on top of four bronzes, have propelled New Zealand to 14th place on the medal table.

This is a strong result given our population and the number of athletes we have at these Games.

No one can expect us to compete with the Olympic powerhouses of China and the United States. But looking at the medal table, it is impossible not to compare us with Australia.

While the Games are far from over, Australia so far only has two gold medals and is sitting in 16th position - a result that has caused an uproar across the ditch. At Beijing, it won 14 golds to New Zealand's three.

New Zealand has less than a fifth of Australia's population. But as of yesterday afternoon, according to medalspercapita.com, it sat second with one gold medal per 1,477,540 people while Australia was 23th.

Australia Olympic Committee president John Coates partly blames his country's failure to win the expected number of golds at the London Games on a shortage of government funding.

But I find his argument lame.

Aussie has an Olympics budget of $493 million and has 410 competitors, while New Zealand's budget is $180 million and it has 185 competitors. Based on these figures, Australia's cost per player is more than $250,000 higher than New Zealand's.

New Zealand's performance so far shows that winning doesn't have to boil down to how many competitors a country has or how much money it spends. A host of other factors - including natural talent, dedicated training and sheer guts, as showed by Drysdale - can come together to create glory.

These results should be encouraging for the next generation of Olympic athletes, such as Tauranga Boys' College rowers Jordan Parry and Daniel Bridgewater.

In today's edition, we have a story about the 16-year-olds, and discover they are already making a big impression on the rowing scene.

They have an Olympics dream and rowing success at these Games is fuelling their fire. I hope they achieve their goals the Kiwi way, and do the Bay proud, just like Mahe Drysdale has.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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