New Zealand's 43 Olympic Games gold medals - Part 5

By David Leggat

New Zealand's Valerie Adams. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)
New Zealand's Valerie Adams. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

David Leggat recounts how New Zealand has won each of our 43 Olympic Games gold medals.

35) Valerie Adams (2008, Beijing, shot put)

Adams was already a Commonwealth Games champion and had started on her world championship domination of the shot when she arrived in Beijing. She made no race of the event, throwing just once in qualifying, reaching 19.73, good enough to make the final. There, she heaved all five of her throwsve throws all over 20m. There was just one other 20m-plus throw in the final, by silver medallist Natallia Mikhnevich of Belarus, 20.28m. Adams' best was her first effort, 20.56m and the gold was hers. She was New Zealand's first athletic gold medallist since John Walker 32 years earlier. Adams has gone on to be among the most dominant athletes of her generation, winning four world titles and being only among just nine athletes, including the likes of Usain Bolt, to have won world titles at youth, junior and senior levels. If she wins gold in Rio, Adams will become New Zealand's first athlete to win three successive Olympic golds.

36) Georgina and Caroline Evers-Swindell (2008, Beijing, rowing double scull)

The buildup to Beijing had not been smooth for the high profile twins. They had had their worst European world cup season and at one point even failed to make an A final at their final regatta in Poland. They returned to their base at Lake Karapiro and went in search of the missing spark. ''In Athens, we expected ourselves to get a gold but we just wanted to have a good race [in Beijing]," Caroline, by four minutes the younger twin, said. ''To come away with a gold medal was a bit unbelievable." Once again, they only had to race twice. They bossed their heat, finding that missing ingredient, beating Germans Annakatrin Thiele and Christianne Huth by six seconds. The final turned out to be the tightest race of the New Zealanders' career. They were fourth at the 500m mark, second at halfway, and at the 1500m mark. Germany had the lead but British pair Laverick and Anna Bebington were right in the fight. The three crews closed on the finish and it was so tight at the line that commentators initially thought it was Germany, Britain then New Zealand. Anxious moments went by before the Evers-Swindells were given the nod by .01s from Germany with Britain third. It was to be their final big race. Their coach Dick Tonks, not normally given to outlandish observations, reckoned they had two more Olympic campaigns in them -- ''easy". But they retired by the end of the year leaving themselves equal with shot putter Valerie Adams as New Zealand's most decorated Olympic women athletes.

37) Tom Ashley (2008, Beijing, sailboarding)

New Zealand's third sailboard gold came down to the final race at Qingdao, the sailing venue for China's games. North Shore's Ashley trailed French competitor Julien Bontemps by a solitary point, as did defending bronze medallist Nick Dempsey of Britain. Ashley had arrived a decent contender for the podium, having won the worlds several months earlier, albeit on home waters. Bontemps dropped his sail at the first mark but fought back hard. Ashley didn't win the race, but did enough, in finishing third, to hold off the Frenchman by a solitary point, 52 points to 53.

38) Lisa Carrington (2012, London, K1 200m canoeing)

New Zealand had been dominant in kayaking through the 1980s, due to the exploits of a group of men led by Ian Ferguson and Paul MacDonald. After a dormant period, it surged back to prominence thanks to a determined young woman out of a surf lifesaving background in the Bay of Plenty. Carrington turned her gaze to kayaking, with spectacular results. She surprised the kayak world by winning the K1 200m sprint gold at the 2011 world championships and followed that at the London Olympics in 2012. In the leadup to Rio, Carrington remains unbeaten in the sprint class at world championships or cup regattas, and will also go to Brazil as defending world K1 500m champion.

39) Jo Aleh/Polly Powrie (2012, London, women's 470 sailing)

The women arrived in London not regarded as a strong gold medal chance, but expected to be contenders for a podium finish. As it happened they won two of the 10 races and took three second places. The big plus was winning the deciding medal race and once their 10th race placing of 18th was discarded, the Auckland combination were comfortable winners. They finished with 35.0 points, 16 clear of the British combination Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark, the only other combination to win two of the fleet races. Eight crews had wins, showing the value of victory in the medal race.

40) Valerie Adams (2012, London, shot put)

Bidding to become the first New Zealand individual woman athlete to nab back-to-back Olympic golds - and trailing only rowing twins Georgina and Caroline Evers-Swindell among New Zealand women Olympians - Adams appeared to have come up short. When the dust settled on the event, Belarusian Nadzeya Ostapchuk had won the gold with four throws in excess of 21 metres. Adams' final throw, 20.24m, left her in second, and appeared to have ended a run of 24 successive wins. ''My aggressiveness just wasn't there like it used to be," Adams said. ''I left my heart out there trying to find the aggressiveness in me and it just didn't come together." An administrative cockup beforehand, when a New Zealand team official had failed to enter her for the event, left her angry. ''It caused a little bit of stress," Adams said. However a few days later, her tears turned to delight when Ostapchuk was rubbed out for a failed drug test. However she had missed the glory of climbing the podium in London to collect her reward. Instead she got the news while in a car in Switzerland. '''It's a pity it came out a week later but she's caught now," Adams said at the time. ''It was her moment but that's the only moment she'll be able to live now because it's all taken away from her. I don't want to waste any energy thinking about how I feel about her."

41) Mahe Drysdale (2012, London, rowing single scull)

Mahe Drysdale won a brave bronze medal in Beijing in 2008, suffering a virus, when favoured to win gold. He gathered himself, regained the winning touch and by the time London arrived, it was a two-way contest for gold between Drysdale and his arch rival, Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic. They had divvied up world titles between them for several years, but on the day it was Drysdale who prevailed by 1.55s over Synek. The pair will again be at the forefront of the battle for gold in Rio.

42) Eric Murray/Hamish Bond (2012, London, rowing coxless pair)

Seldom has a pair of New Zealand athletes arrived at an Olympic final with such overwhelming favouritism behind them. The pair had rowed together in the coxless four at the Beijing Olympics of 2008, failing to make the A final, having won the world title a year earlier. They were switched to the pair in 2009 with immediate, stunning impact. They have gone through almost two complete Olympic cycles unbeaten in any race. In London, they arrived overwhelming favourites, and showed why, moving remorselessly clear of their challengers to win in 6min 16.65s, almost five seconds clear of France.

43) Nathan Cohen/Joseph Sullivan (2012, London, rowing double scull)

The double scullers took some time to click but once they had discovered their best method was to save something for a sizzling finish they were away. In London they won their heat in an Olympic record 6min 11min 30s, and although second in their semifinal, they roared clear in the final 250m on the Eton Dorney course to win gold by 1.13s from Italy. Sullivan stood up in the boat arms aloft in sheer delight. The pair went their separate ways after London and both have retired from the sport.

By sport

Athletics: 10
Jack Lovelock (1936)
Yvette Williams (1952)
Norman Read (1956)
Murray Halberg (1960)
Peter Snell (1960)
Peter Snell (1964)
Peter Snell (1964)
John Walker (1976)
Valerie Adams (2008)
Valerie Adams (2012)

Rowing: 9
coxed four (1968)
Rowing eight (1972)
coxless four rowing (1984)
Rob Waddell (2000)
Georgina and Caroline Evers-Swindell (2004)
Georgina and Caroline Evers-Swindell (2008)
Mahe Drysdale (2012)
Eric Murray/Hamish Bond (2012)
Nathan Cohen/Joseph Sullivan (2012)

Sailing: 8
Peter Mander/Jack Cropp (1956)
Helmer Pedersen/Earle Wells (1964)
Russell Coutts (1984)
Rex Sellers/Chris Timms (1984)
Bruce Kendall (1988)
Barbara Kendall (1992)
Tom Ashley (2008)
Jo Aleh/Polly Powrie (2012)

Canoeing: 6
Ian Ferguson (1984)
Ian Ferguson/Paul MacDonald (1984)
Alan Thompson (1984)
Ian Ferguson/Paul MacDonald/Grant Bramwell/Alan Thompson (1984)
Ian Ferguson/Paul MacDonald (1988)
Lisa Carrington (2012)

Equestrian: 3
Mark Todd (1984)
Mark Todd (1988)
Blyth Tait (1996)

Swimming: 3
Malcolm Champion (1912)
Danyon Loader (1996)
Danyon Loader (1996)

Cycling: 1
Sarah Ulmer (2004)
Triathlon: 1
Hamish Carter (2004)

Hockey: 1
Men (1976)

Boxing: 1
Ted Morgan (1928)

- NZ Herald

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