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Rio Olympics 2016: Close but no podium for nine nearly-medallists

By David Leggat

New Zealand track cyclist Lauren Ellis. Photo / Greg Bowker
New Zealand track cyclist Lauren Ellis. Photo / Greg Bowker

Time for the what-ifs, now that the Olympic dust is settling on New Zealand's Rio campaign.

The medal haul of 18 is the country's best, and something to be proud of. But what about those who fell one agonising step short?

The fourth placings, often lightheartedly referred to as the tin medal, are the finishes no one wants.

New Zealand had nine fourth placings in Rio - to follow four gold, nine silver and five bronze medals.

They also had three fifths, three sixths, five sevenths, one eighth and two ninths in the final analysis.

But it's the old story: there are fourths, then there are fourths.

Nacra sailors Gemma Jones and Jason Saunders will, in time, be chuffed with their fourth in a new Olympic sailing class; cyclist Lauren Ellis should be well pleased with her gutsy performance in a tough, six-discipline event against a quality field; the women's rowing eight, in business only two years, will figure it as a good indication they are tracking well for Tokyo 2020.

But the eventing team, who fell to fourth from the gold medal spot with one rider to jump, had a bad tumble; the women's Black Sticks were in despair after losing the bronze medal match for the second consecutive Games and will rue their inability to finish a welter of chances.

The two cycling team pursuits, eyeing bronze, were both well beaten in their ride-offs; while single sculler Emma Twigg, the former world champion, was left shattered by her fourth and contemplating retirement; and lightweight women Julia Edward and Sophie Mackenzie arrived as two-time world champions and couldn't deliver on the day.

So it's different strokes for different events and varying expectations.

Bottom line: would you rather finish fourth than, say, 14th, or 24th?

Small though it may be, there's the consolation.

NZ's fourth placegetters in Rio

• Eventing team

• Men's team pursuit

• Women's team pursuit

• Emma Twigg single scull

• Women's eight

• Lightweight women's double

• Women's hockey

• Lauren Ellis omnium

• Nacra sailing pair

Top 10 placings

Fifth: men's sevens, men's lightweight four, K4 women paddlers

Sixth: men's rowing eight, Linda Villumsen individual time trial, Clark Johnstone individual eventing

Seventh: trampolinist Dylan Schmidt, Mark Todd individual eventing, finn sailor Josh Junior, keirin cyclist Sam Webster, triathlete Andrea Hewitt

Eighth: omnium cyclist Dylan Kennett

Ninth: shot-putter Jacko Gill, sprint cyclist Natasha Hansen

- NZ Herald

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