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Olympics: Sit down for another golden NZ moment

Forty-seven of New Zealand's 90 Olympic medals have been achieved (for the most part) sitting down. Andrew Alderson looks at 10 instances where Kiwis drew respect for feats off their feet

Russell Coutts won gold with boils on his bum.
Photo / NZ Herald
Russell Coutts won gold with boils on his bum. Photo / NZ Herald

1 On the edge of his seat
Los Angeles, 1984
Sir Russell Coutts won Olympic gold in the Finn class with boils on his backside, caused by the friction of prolonged strolls in salty sailing gear. For the final race, he had to wear nappies to ease the pain. The then 22-year-old faced further gear issues at the post-race weigh-in. Disqualification beckoned when it was found to be a few grams over the 20kg maximum. A careful rearrangement on the scales eventually sorted it out.

2 The Kiwi patron of bum-sitting
Antwerp, 1920
Darcy Hadfield produced New Zealand's first backside medal in his single sculls skiff. Hadfield achieved the feat against a post-World War I backdrop of limited food and rugged accommodation. There was also stiff competition in the form of American gold medallist Jack Kelly (father of Princess Grace of Monaco) and future gold medallist Brit Jack Beresford.

3 Footprints in the sand
Helsinki, 1952
Yvette Williams doesn't qualify as one of the 47 "sitting" medals but makes this select 10 because she ended up in a seated position in the pit. Williams was the country's first female gold medallist, yet was only one jump from elimination in the final. Fortunately a white flag was raised on her third jump of 5.90m, meaning she progressed to the final three rounds. Williams went on to record 6.24m, an Olympic record.

4 The four-man windmill
Los Angeles, 1984
Lake Casitas was witness to the K4 boat of Alan Thompson, Ian Ferguson, Paul MacDonald and Grant Bramwell ploughing through 1000m to Olympic glory. The four paddles scythed through the water like a giant turbine. The result completed a memorable campaign which compiled four gold medals from four events. The east European boycott aided New Zealand's cause but they'd beaten many of those key competitors in Europe beforehand.

5 Blacking out in her seat
Athens, 2004
If ever there was a reason to extricate yourself from beneath the duvet in the wee hours, Sarah Ulmer's individual pursuit gold was it. She powered her way around the velodrome on her one-speed to set a world record. The 3000m wasn't exactly an OSH-compliant job - Ulmer regularly saw stars and almost blacked out at the end of races - but the only stars that mattered that day were the four of the Southern Cross on the flag draped around her shoulders.

6 Taking it lying down
Mexico City, 1968
Ian Ballinger might not have been sitting but he was prone on the ground with his trusty smallbore rifle. There wasn't a lot of movement going on, except for a trigger finger moving smoothly, much like Santa's on the Queen St Whitcoulls building at Christmas. The late Ballinger earned bronze and remains the country's only Olympic shooting medallist 44 years on.

7 The split-second triple double
Beijing, 2008
The Evers-Swindell twins produced back-to-back Olympic gold medals in their double sculls boat after everyone but close family, friends and coach Dick Tonks had given up on a return to the top of the podium. They were ahead once in the race; fortunately that moment coincided with the stroke that took them past the 2000m mark to win by 0.01s. A photo finish was required to confirm Olympic immortality.

8 Uber striking on the Oberschleissheim
Munich, 1972
Kiwi OErs in VW Kombi vans got serious value from parking lakeside on September 2. The entree was a silver medal to the coxless four, stroked by current Rowing New Zealand head coach Dick Tonks. The main was gold in the men's eight. The chant of "black, black, black" matched the black oars, black singlets and black on the boat as New Zealand secured the sport's premier event for the first (and so far only) time.

9 A charismatic double
Seoul, 1988
Mark Todd took back-to-back eventing victories aboard trusty steed Charisma (aka Podge to those close to him). Todd needed American rider Karen Stives to drop a showjumping rail for the win in Los Angeles but led throughout in Seoul. Charisma (who died, aged 30, in 2003) and Todd were only the second rider/horse combination to win individual Olympic eventing gold twice.

10 Breaking down Olympic barriers
Los Angeles, 1984
The late Neroli Fairhall was our first paraplegic to compete at an Olympics, finishing 35th. The 1982 Commonwealth Games archery gold medallist suffered a motorbike accident in 1969 which left her paralysed from the waist down. She shot from her wheelchair. Fairhall was selected for the Moscow Games but was shut out because of the US-led boycott. She also competed at four Paralympics.

- Herald on Sunday

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