Commonwealth Games: Only a silver lining for Kiwis

By Paul Lewis

There may be plenty of medals to come, but it is not hard to picture the Delhi Comnmonwealth Games ending with New Zealand slipped down the list of leading nations.

Late last night, New Zealand was in 11th position on the medals table, with a total of 20 medals (1 gold, 14 silver and 5 bronze). In total medal terms (ie total number of medals, regardless of hue), New Zealand would be 5th - but medals tables are calibrated according to gold.

That sees this New Zealand team ranked below the likes of Nigeria, Malaysia, Singapore, Kenya and Jamaica. With Valerie Adams' expected gold medal overnight, New Zealand could rise above Jamaica - which had only three medals in total at the start of yesterday's schedule but two are gold.

However, Kenya (3), Singapore (3), Malaysia (6), and Nigeria (5) were ahead in gold medal terms, with South Africa (7), Canada (14), England (21) chasing host nation India's 22 gold medals and Australia's vast tally of 48 and rising.

It is the lack of gold medals which could characterise this Commonwealth carnival for New Zealand - and that in a Games which most people would reckon has been diluted by stars who stayed away whether for injury, health, security or personal reasons.

Medals tables and tallies are far from the only way to assess success, of course, just the easiest and most visible.

In past years, New Zealand has never been far from the top of the table and a quick glance at previous Commonwealth Games suggest the vault of gold medals has been greater in the past. Allowance must be made for the likes of Malaysia, Singapore and Nigeria lifting their game as sporting nations - but this has so far not been a vintage Games for New Zealand.

The story could yet change with anticipated/desired gold medals in team sports like sevens, netball and hockey also to come - plus the fact that there could be yet be surprise medals in sports like archery, shooting and even boxing.

But the fact remains that you have to go back 40 years - the 1970 Games in Edinburgh - to find a Commonwealth Games where New Zealand pocketed fewer than five gold medals.

They won two that year, finishing in 11th place on the medal table with 14 medals all up (6 silver and 6 bronze).

Back then, there were fewer sports and fewer athletes as the Games had not quite begun the long, slow, bloating to its current size.

However, in all Games since then, New Zealand has finished high up on the medal table and on the gold count - aside from the last one; in Melbourne in 2006 when New Zealand captured just 31 medals in all.

Melbourne was the "Fourthcoming Games" - where New Zealand athletes produced a remarkable and worrying 29 fourth-place finishes; raising questions about hardy annuals like our athletes' mental toughness, "killer instinct" and commitment.

There were 18 sports in Melbourne; yet it was the slimmest overall Kiwi haul at a Games since 1982 in Brisbane (when there were only 11 sports).

The trend so far in the Delhi Games suggests it too will not be a bumper haul for New Zealand, leading the possible and entirely appropriate question to be asked: Why?

NZ's Commonwealth Games medal tally

1978, Edmonton, Canada

Fifth on medal table with 20 (5 golds, 6 silvers, 9 bronzes)

1982, Brisbane, Australia

Fifth on medal table with 26 (5 golds, 8 silvers, 13 bronzes)

1986, Edinburgh, Scotland

Fourth on medal table with 38 (8 golds, 16 silvers, 14 bronzes)

1994, Victoria, Canada

Eighth on medal table with 42 (5 golds, 16 silvers, 21 bronzes)

1998, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Sixth on medal table with 34 (8 golds, 6 silvers, 20 bronzes)

2002, Manchester, England

Fifth on medal table with 45 (11 golds, 13 silvers, 21 bronzes)

2006, Melbourne, Australia

Ninth on medal table with 31 (6 golds, 12 silvers, 13 bronzes)

* Table does not include the 1974 Christchurch and 1990 Auckland Commonwealth Games, as the home nation always produces medal results beyond those of 'away' Games.

- Herald on Sunday

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