Kerre McIvor
Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre McIvor: We've plenty to be proud of at Rio

Kiwi Olympian Natalie Rooney shooting for silver. Photo / AP
Kiwi Olympian Natalie Rooney shooting for silver. Photo / AP

I knew it would happen. There was a lot to put me off the Olympics: the Russian doping scandal, the fact that if you wanted to watch the Games live, you had to cough up for Sky or else settle for delayed coverage on Prime.

And then there are the unreasonable hours at which many sports take place.

But despite fuming and fulminating, yet again I've been drawn in, even with New Zealand's patchy start at Rio.

There was the wonderful silver medal to trap shooter, Natalie Rooney, which came as a surprise given that New Zealand hasn't won an Olympic medal in shooting since Mexico City in 1968.

Add that this is the Timaru local's first Olympics - she was left out for London because of a quota spot dispute - and it makes it even more remarkable she's coming home with a medal.

In a refreshing display of honesty, Rooney admits she wasn't ready for London and doesn't believe she would have won a medal, and that the past four years have made her stronger.

She also says nerves got the better of her in the shoot-out for the gold and silver medals, but Rooney is clearly a good chance for Olympic gold in the future.

Not all silvers shine so brightly, however. The women's sevens team - the self-titled Seven Sisters - were the next to step on to the podium but they weren't very happy with their silver necklaces. They were playing for gold and you could see their bitter disappointment.

It's to be hoped time will bring perspective and the women will realise being No.2 in the world is pretty jolly good in the scheme of things.

I told myself I wouldn't be one of those blowhard fans who is utterly confident of certain outcomes from the Olympics. I would celebrate every medal our sportspeople won and would celebrate equally any time an athlete, in any discipline, got a personal best.

Being in the top three in the world in any sport is a magnificent achievement and you can't ask more from a person representing their country than an effort that supersedes what has gone before.

It's as well I put myself into that positive frame of mind, because the next night I stayed up to watch the rowing and the equestrian events.

Hamish Bond and Eric Murray in the double sculls are amazing, and Mahe Drysdale is a superb human being - 37 and performing at the highest level.

And then Sir Mark Todd. It is incredible that a man of his - shall we say, maturity? - can compete at the highest level in such a gruelling sport. However, Todd had a horror ride in the show jumping after setting the New Zealand team up for gold in the cross country, so the less said the better.

It wasn't the best night for the armchair viewer. But there are plenty more opportunities to come.

It's the stories of the Olympians that are winning me over - our home-grown heroes, of course, but what about 19-year-old gymnast Simone Biles, part of the gold medal-winning US team?

Born to crack-and-alcohol addicted parents, Simone and her three siblings were put in foster care and shuttled from home to home before her grandparents took Simone and her younger sister in and inculcated in her a love of gymnastics.

Now she is being called one of the greatest gymnasts in the world.

Then there were the 10 members of the Refugee Olympic team - a symbolic gesture maybe, but one that the founder of the modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, would surely applaud.

And there's always the medals per capita and the medals per GDP tables. Look at those and we're still beating the Aussies. That has to count for something.

• Kerre McIvor is on NewstalkZB, weekdays, noon-4pm

- Herald on Sunday

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