Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

New Zealand's Greatest Olympians - Number 16: Hamish Carter

We’re counting down New Zealand’s 25 greatest Olympians. Today, triathlete Hamish Carter.
Hamish Carter celebrates after winning triathlon gold in Athens in 2004. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Hamish Carter celebrates after winning triathlon gold in Athens in 2004. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Gold: Triathlon, Athens, 2004

To put Hamish Carter's Athens heroics in context, it is necessary to revisit Sydney.

The Aucklander held the world number one ranking when he arrived in Sydney in 2000 to contest the first Olympic triathlon. He had a shocker of a race, trailing home 26th, more than two-and-a-half minutes behind the winner, Canadian Simon Whitfield.

That result lived with him a very long time.

"Sydney played on my mind every minute of every day," Carter told the Herald in 2014 - 10 years on from the day he and Bevan Docherty made Olympic history in Athens with the Kiwi one-two finish.

"It took me a long time to control it because it completely took over. You go in having done 10 years' preparation and it was a complete disaster, so it undermines everything you believed in and everything you thought you were good at.

You end up thinking, 'I must have this horribly wrong'.

"It led to a complete re-invention of myself, which was pretty ugly at times. Luckily, I had the right people around me to help me through it."

Despite Sydney, Carter earned selection for the 2004 Olympics, but by then he was no longer the New Zealand triathlon king - that crown had been passed to Docherty, who was world champion at the time. Carter was still considered a chance in Athens, but Docherty carried most New Zealand hopes.

It looked like the Kiwis were in for another day of disappointment when Carter emerged from the water in 33rd position and Docherty 17th.

But the gruelling, hilly bike course proved perfectly suited to the Kiwi pair, with both finding themselves in the leading bunch of six. The steep climbs severely tested the riders, but Carter seemed to do it comfortably, dancing his way up the hill.

Finally, with 1km remaining in the run, the New Zealanders opened the throttle and the rest of the field could not respond. Carter and Docherty had the gold and silver to themselves. It was a spine-tingling moment. Now it was just a matter of who would win.

Most money would have been on Docherty. He was younger - 27 to Carter's 33 - and his recent results were better. But Carter picked this day, after a 12-year international career, to have the race of his life.

Biography: Hamish Carter

* As a schoolboy at Auckland Grammar, Carter was a good rower but turned to triathlons when he realised he was not big enough to row at the top level.

* He won 22 professional triathlons and had 12 World Cup race victories.

* Carter was considered the gold medal favourite heading into the Sydney Games, where he finished a disappointing 26th.

* He went on to complete an historic gold-silver Kiwi double with Bevan Docherty at the Athens Games.

* Named Halberg Sportsman of the Year in 2004.

* Now works at High Performance Sports NZ as a performance planning manager, and with wife Marisa runs an athlete management and consultancy business.

How we did it

This list was drawn up by expert Herald and Radio Sport journalists from our team covering the Rio Olympics.

It wasn't easy, partly because of the number of fantastic feats over the last century or so and partly because of the difficulty of comparing performances across sports and eras.

The first ground rule was that only gold medallists would be considered. That was tough considering the likes of Nick Willis (silver, 2008), Dick Quax (silver, 1976), Paul Kingsman (bronze, 1988) and Bevan Docherty (silver and bronze, 2004 & 2008) provided some of our most memorable Olympic moments.

We also agreed potential success in Rio wouldn't be taken into account. The list was also restricted to the Summer Olympics, otherwise Annelise Coberger, our own Winter Olympics medallist may have featured quite prominently.

Each member of the panel wrote their own list before we came together to thrash it out five at a time. It was a head-scratcher, but in a good way because it was a celebration of success.

- NZ Herald

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