Editorial: Fiji deserved winner of Olympics elusive prize

Fiji rugby players stand during the playing of their national anthem after winning the gold medal match against Britain in the mens rugby sevens. Photo / AP
Fiji rugby players stand during the playing of their national anthem after winning the gold medal match against Britain in the mens rugby sevens. Photo / AP

How good it was to see Fiji win gold in the rugby sevens, a variant of the game that Fiji has led since its inception, and underline its dominance with a 43-7 annihilation of a finalist that had beaten New Zealand. How good that a small country so near to us in every way, a contributor of fine players to the All Blacks and several other international XVs, has its first Olympic gold medal in any sport. Gold, as New Zealand needs no reminding after this week, is an elusive prize.

That is why the achievement of Eric Murray and Hamish Bond yesterday was, once again, remarkable. The fact that they have won every event they have entered as a coxless pair for the past eight years was no guarantee of success. In sport there is never a guarantee. Bond and Murray's hard work and tenacity deserves to be honoured every time they cross the line ahead of all rivals. Gold at a second successive Olympics puts them up with the best of our Olympians of all time. Joining them by the time this appears may be Mahe Drysdale but it bears repeating, nothing is guaranteed.

Success is particularly sweet, though, when it comes to someone their country hardly knows, in a sport it hardly knows. Luuka Jones, competing in the canoe slalom at her third Olympics, surprised herself as much as anybody with a silver than could nearly have been gold. She hopes her success will help her put the sport here "on the map". With a new facility for it at Manukau, her example should inspire many to treat whitewater canoeing as more than just fun.

Gold continued to elude New Zealanders in track cycling at Rio yesterday. Team sprinters Eddie Dawkins, Sam Webster and Ethan Mitchell have shown that this county can produce athletes for explosive as well as endurance events. Our only track cycling gold at previous Olympics, Sarah Ulmer's, was in the pursuit. This time Dawkins, Webster and Mitchell came within 0.102s of the team sprint gold.

Their silver medal is a reward for the efforts Cycling NZ has made to lift its results on the track, and it will be a spur for the three young teammates who flat together and train together at Cambridge. They clearly relished the Games environment, producing their three fastest times, and to come so close means they still have a goal to be fastest within reach.

Meanwhile, our sailors are still out on the water. Women's 470 champions Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie took the lead in their series yesterday. Gemma Jones and Nathan Saunders moved up to fourth in the Nacra 17 and Josh Junior moved up five places to 15th in the Finn class yesterday. Peter Burling and Blair Tuke were to begin their event overnight.

It has a been a hard first week for all who are gripped by the Olympics, whether watching at home or away with the team at Rio.

The women's rugby sevens final was a disappointment after the team had played so well to that point. But the women's result eclipsed the men's. Losses to Japan and Great Britain underlined the level playing field that sevens rugby has become. Then there was Mark Todd's disappointment in the showjumping ring when the equestrian team was going for gold.

It has been a good reminder that gold medals should never be counted too confidently before any event.

The record haul this country was anticipating when the Games opened a week ago seems fanciful now. We await the track and field events in the second week of the Games much wiser.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 24 Oct 2016 15:31:48 Processing Time: 474ms