How our Olympians performed in London

By David Leggat, Dylan Cleaver

Mahe Drysdale after taking gold in the Olympic Games men's single scull. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Mahe Drysdale after taking gold in the Olympic Games men's single scull. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Dylan Cleaver and David Leggat rate our Olympic athletes on their Monopoly board. Which sports did we succeed and where did we fail to make a splash?

ATHLETICS
**Total Olympic Year Funding: $1.8 million

Only slightly better than a stinker, really. From the off-the-track bungling of the registration process to the actual performances themselves, this was a Games to forget for our men and women of the black singlet.

Even accounting for Valerie Adams' silver medal, akin to a booby prize, this was a collectively poor Olympics for the experienced members of the team and an unfulfilling one for those brought over for experience.

Adams' silver was about the worst she could do and her listlessness and subsequent willingness to admit the registration kerfuffle had affected her hinted at a mind not 100 per cent on the job.

Nick Willis looked a million dollars in his heats and semis and then $14.75 in his final.

He was embarrassed by his performance. He needn't be, it's an Olympic final in a blue-riband event, but his lack of kick in coming ninth was mystifying.

Kim Smith, 15th, was a bolter for a medal and although the point she made about the slippery nature of the marathon course was fair - it was more suited for tourism than elite sport - it was the same for everybody.

Javelin thrower Stuart Farquhar provided a limp end to the New Zealand athletics programme. Had he thrown his seasons best he would have had a strong chance for a medal.

Lucy van Dalen was also affected by Raylene Bates' unfortunate error, but she showed some talent to make it through to the 1500m semifinals, where she was outclassed.

Sarah Cowley looked overawed in the heptathlon and Brent Newdick had his moments in the decathlon, without threatening to join the ranks of the big guns.

VERDICT: PENTONVILLE RD - Too many people getting lost going down dead ends, but the odd good result.

BOXING
Total Olympic year funding: $75,000

The women made their Olympic debut and for New Zealand it turned out to be a 50-50 result.

Flyweight Siona Fernandes was well beaten in her first round, but lightweight Alexis Pritchard became the country's first female winner in the Olympic ring, easing past a Tunisian opponent, who had beaten her in their only previous meeting last year.

She was well dusted by the second-seeded Russian in her quarter-final, when a win would have guaranteed a medal.

The atmosphere was special. Some of the bouts were a bit woolly, plenty were good standard; some outstanding.

VERDICT: VINE ST - About what you would expect. Some good, some not so.

CANOEING
Total Olympic year funding: $1.055m

Neither the canoe slalomists, Mike Dawson or Luuka Jones, made the finals, though they did earn spots in the semis. Things didn't go so well there, although Dawson did achieve a little notoriety by becoming possibly the first Olympic athlete in history to be penalised by his mum, an official judge.

Down at Eton Dorney, Lisa Carrington stole the show with a dominant victory in the K1 200m. With uncommon talent and a million-dollar smile, Carrington is perfectly positioned to be the face of a sport that has had its fair share of mixed press over recent years.

Carrington also made the final of the K2 500m with Erin Taylor, so from a New Zealand standpoint, the Whakatane athlete made the regatta.

Ben Fouhy dipped out in his K1 1000m semifinal and delivered a parting spray for Sport NZ, while Steven Ferguson and Darryl Fitzgerald battled through to the final of the K2 1000m final. Teneale Hatton did not make a massive impact in the K1 500m.

You could look at the collective results and say it wasn't the greatest regatta, but Carrington's outstanding gold smoothed over any choppy waters. Kayaking should get some more cash. They should spend it wisely.

VERDICT: PICCADILLY - Often in the bright lights. Quality performances from the majority of the squad.

CYCLING
Total Olympic year funding: $4.285m

There were some hard-luck stories, some minor triumphs, some cracking good rides and the odd disappointment.

A medal was never expected in the road races, but after the disappointment of Greg Henderson being forced out with illness, Jack Bauer rode a stonkingly good race. He was in a large lead group that kept pressing to deny the powerful British team a chance to put Cavendish at the end of a sprint train coming down The Mall. Bauer admitted he lost his legs in the final 20km but still finished 10th, just 8s behind Alexander Vinokourov.

At one stage during the time trial it looked a question of whether Linda Villumsen would win silver or bronze. In the end, after 29km of full-throttle slog, she finished 1.8s out of the medals. When the margin is that small, you'd be a fool to call it a failure, but hers was a medal BikeNZ were counting on as one of their targeted four.

The track was a happier hunting ground, but it was also the scene of some disappointment. It was a meeting completely dominated by the British haul of seven gold medals in the 10 disciplines and they would have won gold in an eighth were it not for a small technical infraction in the women's team sprint. That left the rest fighting over the scraps.

The men's team pursuit got their expected bronze, riding no better or worse than expected. The women's team pursuit set a personal best but could only watch on as other teams demonstrated they had made bigger gains in this relatively new discipline.

Natasha Hansen was here for development purposes only, but the men's team sprint had hopes of picking up a medal. They started poorly but got better.

The highlight came with Simon van Velthooven's nerve-shredding, dead-heat bronze in the keirin, Sir Chris Hoy's final Olympic race.

The BMXers did well. Marc Willers dominated his quarter-final but made one mistake in his semifinal and crashed out of contention. Sarah Walker's silver was validation for her after she has struggled with self-confidence in the past.

Mountainbiker Karen Hanlen finished 18th in a field of 30, never threatened the front runners, although a start-line format loaded in favour of the best-ranked riders doesn't help.

VERDICT: PICCADILLY - Often in the bright lights. Quality performances from the majority of the squad.

EQUESTRIAN
Total Olympic year funding: $1.290 million

A team eventing bronze was welcome and put New Zealand on the medal table.
And yet it could have been better.

Andrew Nicholson was fourth, two rails back from bronze in the individual - and left cursing his misfortune on dressage day when made to wait in the rain, with his horse Nereo twitchy at the delay.

One dropped rail by the great Mark Todd late in his team jumping dropped him from strong individual medal contention.

A good outcome, though, and they're in strong shape for Rio, with the prospect of all five - Nicholson, Todd, Jock Paget, Caroline Powell and Jonelle Richards - being in the selection frame, along with other young talent pushing their way through the field.

Also, when the equestrian mob celebrate, as they did at the Greenwich Tavern after their bronze, they don't go half measures.

Dressage rider Louisa Hill did not progress beyond the first round.

VERDICT: VINE ST - About what you would expect. Some good, some not so.

HOCKEY
Total Olympic year funding: $2.3m

What a strange Games for the Black Sticks (men) and Black Sticks (women).

With a couple of minutes to go in the women's semifinal against the The Netherlands, New Zealand were awarded the penalty corner that could have created history. Instead, two days later they're bemoaning an insipid performance against Great Britain that cost them bronze.

Should that colour our perception of their tournament? The short answer is yes. They don't hand out gongs for plucky semifinal defeats and the team's inability to get back up off the floor to face the hosts for that bronze medal playoff was inexcusable. We must remember, however, that to that point the Black Sticks were becoming New Zealand's story of the Games. Wins against Australia, South Africa and the United States, plus a plucky draw against Germany saw them into the semis for the first time in history. Three teams beat New Zealand here and they were the ones that walked away with gold, silver and bronze.

As for the men, they were poor. They started against Korea as if this was a tournament they could work their way slowly into. Defeat in that match put them on the back foot and they never recovered. Ninth was an accurate reflection of their Games, but an inaccurate reflection of their talent.

VERDICT: VINE ST - About what you would expect. Some good, some not so.

JUDO
Total Olympic year funding: $0

The sole representative, North Shore's Moira de Villiers, was eliminated in her first bout, but not disgraced, against German Kerstin Thiele, who went on to win the silver medal in the 70kg division. De Villiers was stiff to draw a top opponent, but that's the nature of the sport.

She's only 22 and, armed with fierce dedication to her sport, is a decent chance to come back stronger from this experience.

VERDICT: PENTONVILLE RD - Too many people getting lost going down dead ends, but the odd good result

ROWING
Total Olympic year funding: $4.82 million

The star turn for New Zealand. Three golds, two bronzes, among seven final appearances were better than their own expectations.

What's more a couple of the golds - Eric Murray and Hamish Bond's hugely inevitable victory gold the exception - were spectacular races.

Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan roared on with a big late run to mow down their double scull field in the final 500m; Mahe Drysdale got the win he has been seeking since 2008 in the single scull, edging out his toughest rival Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic.

There were bronzes for Drysdale's partner Juliette Haigh and Rebecca Scown in the coxless pair - a nice reward for Haigh in her third Olympic final and bagging her first medal - and lightweight double Storm Uru and Peter Taylor.

It wasn't all highs, and there will be concerns over the coxless four and quad crews.

Still, a high level of funding for four more years is certain. They can head home with chests puffed out, heads high.

VERDICT: MAYFAIR - Consistently excellent performances across the board. They have reached the penthouse of sporting achievement.

SAILING
Total Olympic year funding: $2.6m

Probably the toughest of the sports to accurately analyse because they were a mixture of very good and not that good off the coast of Weymouth, and just plain bad onshore.

Silvers to the men's 49er and gold in the women's 470 were the obvious highlights. Peter Burling and Blair Tuke did as well as they probably could have in a class that included the all-conquering Australian duo of Iain Jensen and Nathan Outteridge.

Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie showed real gumption to turn around and dominate the medal race after blowing race 10.

With the tenuous exception of Andrew Murdoch in the Laser, the rest of the crews never threatened the medals, which is disappointing. On the flip side, only the Laser Radial (20th, 145 points out of bronze) and women's match-race (4 wins from 11) were out of their depth.

Murdoch finished fifth (15 points behind bronze); Dan Slater in the Finn seventh (34); Hamish Pepper and Jim Turner in the Star fifth (30); JP Tobin seventh (36); and Paul Snow-Hansen and Jason Saunders fifth in the men's 470 (23).

Two medals out of nine crews is a muted pass mark.

Where they failed was off the water. One seasoned sailing observer described the management of this team as difficult and aloof and bemoaned the team's bunker mentality.

All teams are obligated to make themselves available before their event for preview purposes. Despite the sailing open-day having been organised months ahead of the Olympics, the crews were told by their management that they didn't have to attend, so only four of nine crews bothered to front for media, most of whom had made a six-hour round trip to be there.

Aleh and Powrie did not front for the open-day or until they finally were forced to after 10 races, despite being one of the favourites for gold. Can you imagine if the All Blacks at the World Cup had said: "Right, we're not communicating with the public until after the final." It's not the athletes fault - a clued up management would never have let the situation drift.

Nobody is going to cry into their pillows about the noses of a few journalists being put out of joint, but there is a wider issue. The sport relies on public funding and grant money. Sailing bosses and their athletes have an obligation to act professionally on and off the water. Sometimes that means doing stuff they'd prefer not to.

Instead they left behind a lot of ill-feeling and did their sport and organisation a disservice.

So well done Powrie and Aleh, Tuke and Burling. As for management - walk the plank.

VERDICT: VINE ST - About what you would expect. Some good, some not so.

SHOOTING
Total Olympic year funding: $40,000

Smallbore marksman Ryan Taylor kicked up a storm to get a late selection, but made no impact.

VERDICT: PENTONVILLE RD - Too many people getting lost going down dead ends, but the odd good result.

SOCCER
Total Olympic year funding: $415,000

Both sides went into the Olympics with lofty goals but in the end finished about where they deserved to. The women's side made the quarter-finals but it was a very generous format with only 12 teams. They battled hard throughout, and came close to recording meritorious draws with Brazil and the US, but lacked the quality needed to go further. The men were good in their first game against Belarus even though they lost 1-0, but ran out of steam and were eliminated after picking up a solitary point against Egypt. Neither side didn't look out of place at the Olympics, it's just that football looks out of place at the Olympics.

VERDICT: PENTONVILLE ROAD - Too many people getting lost going down dead ends, but the odd good result.

SWIMMING
Total Olympic year funding: $1.65m

The flops of the Games, no question. Five personal bests out of 20 performances is unacceptable. However exempt Lauren Boyle from any criticism.

She broke national records three times, qualified for two A finals, and finished fourth in the 800 metres freestyle. Terrific and showing a maturing character too. Glenn Snyders set two national records in breaststroke, but elsewhere this was a shambles of a meet.

There was also a worrying trend among several swimmers of complaining at the difficulty of having to turn in strong performances in the morning heats to ensure getting a start in the evening finals.

As the Olympic programme has been known for months surely training would be tailored to fator that in. Swimming does have something of a Catch-22 situation. The country's best will never improve without more international experience. That takes money, but the sport won't receive it unless it has performances to argue its case.

A minimum expectation must be personal best performances. Do that and the flak will lessen. Failure in London also raises the spectre of whether our swimmers are mentally hard enough when they find themselves standing on the blocks alongside a world champion. Boyle had the right stuff; Snyders to a lesser degree.

High Peformance Sport NZ boss Alex Baumann, a former Olympic gold medal swimmer, remarked early in the swim meet that swimming deserved continued funding because it has potential. Expect a tough interrogation of a sport with serious issues, on and off the water.

VERDICT: OLD KENT RD - The outhouse. Poor showing.

TAEKWONDO
Total Olympic year funding: $55,000

Three fighters, three first-round exits, including eighth-seeded Logan Campbell in under 68kg division.

Both Robyn Cheong, outclassed 17-6 by the third-seeded Egyptian, and Vaughn Scott, who lost 9-5 to the seventh-seeded Argentine, got difficult draws. However Campbell's was a poor effort.

VERDICT: OLD KENT RD - The outhouse. Poor showing.

TENNIS
Total Olympic year funding: $0

There was a vocal lobby to get Marina Erakovic to her second Games. Her world ranking of 46 suggested, if she got a decent draw, she would be a second round appearance at least. Instead she bombed big time against an opponent ranked several places lower. Huge disappointment.

VERDICT: OLD KENT RD - The outhouse. Poor showing.

TRIATHLON
Total Olympic year funding: $1.585 million

They are hamstrung by the fact that although there are 58,686 medals handed out in swimming, there are just six in triathlon.

Still, no medals in a sport that used to be a New Zealand strength is disappointing.
They've known for a long time that the course was going to be a bit of a joke, a 10km runners' paradise, but despite the ultra-consistent Andrea Hewitt's best efforts, nobody could keep up on the run legs.

Hewitt and Kate McIlroy put in creditable performances, as did the old warriors Bevan Docherty and Kris Gemmell.

Truth is, now those two have gone from Olympic reckoning in the future, the cupboard is looking bare on the men's side.

VERDICT: VINE ST - About what you would expect. Some good, some not so.

WEIGHTLIFTING
Total Olympic year funding: $20,000

Richie Patterson took a punt on his clean and jerk to try to get above his ranking position and missed it. He finished 21st in the 85kg class, below expectations, if not a bomb on the swimming scale.

VERDICT: PENTONVILLE ROAD - Too many people getting lost going down dead ends, but the odd good result.

** Note: Figures are the combination of Olympic funding from last year, and any top up amount this year.

- NZ Herald

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