Rio Olympics 2016: The Herald team's hits and misses

Members of the Herald's Olympic team reveal their hits and misses from the Rio Olympics. Warning: May feature repeated references to the brilliance of Usain Bolt.
Usain Bolt left everyone trailing in Rio and was our reporting team's unanimous choice for athlete of the Olympics. Photo / GETTY IMAGES
Usain Bolt left everyone trailing in Rio and was our reporting team's unanimous choice for athlete of the Olympics. Photo / GETTY IMAGES

DYLAN CLEAVER

Athlete of the Games
Usain Bolt, with Michael Phelps and Simone Biles taking the minor medals, some distance back. The guy is getting slower but the fact he has still won most races before the gun goes off tells you everything you need to know about the power of his personality. They say nobody is bigger than the sport. In this case it is a lie. The IAAF cannot, quite literally, afford to lose him yet.

Most inspiring moment
A curious one, but for me it was when the athletes started turning on their dirty brethren and sistren. They shouldn't have to, of course, but in the leadership vacuum left by the IOC and various governing bodies, it was heartening to see the likes of Mack Horton and Lilly King make a stand against cheating opponents. Perhaps this sort of inverted peer pressure will be the war on doping's most effective weapon.

Best offbeat story
Have you heard the one about the famous swimmer who got robbed at gunpoint and ended up losing his togs ... sponsor?

Tip for 2020
We'll be watching the Olympics in hologram form with the push of an app.In terms of medals, the most impressive thing about New Zealand's return of 18 was not the total (that was widely expected in the sports corridors of power), but where they came from. Long live a more diverse spread. One small rock under the towel - the relative lack of golds. Just one new gold medallist this Olympics, in the 49er, and for Peter Burling and Blair Tuke it was a one-place improvement. Tip for 2020: more new gold medallists.

DANA JOHANNSEN

Athlete of the Games
Usain Bolt. Need I say more? Didn't think so.

Eliza McCartney showed sheer joy and unbridled enthusiasm competing in her first Olympics. Photo / GETTY IMAGES
Eliza McCartney showed sheer joy and unbridled enthusiasm competing in her first Olympics. Photo / GETTY IMAGES

Most inspiring moment
Eliza McCartney soaring to bronze in the pole vault. It wasn't just the winning of a medal in an event that has always seemed just a wee bit exotic for Kiwis, whose track and field diet has tended to consist of middle distance running and throwing events, that made McCartney's performance so special. But also the sheer joy and unbridled enthusiasm she displayed competing in her first Olympics.

Best offbeat story
It has to be said Japan had a GIF-tastic Games.
While Japanese pole-vaulter Hiroki Ogita's unfortunate penis interference had punters hitting the replay button over and over, for me, the funniest moment was wrestler Risako Kawai's eccentric celebration after winning gold in the women's -63kg class. Instead of the usual hugs, tears and smiles, Kawai rushed to her coach and immediately hurled him on to the mat, before repeating the move as he was trying to get to his feet. I'm getting the giggles again just thinking about it.

Tip for 2020
Burned by their experiences in Rio, NZ Rugby will throw greater resources at the "All Black Sevens" team after a far-reaching review into the men's disappointing quarter-final exit found, national sport or not, you can't just expect to turn up to an Olympics and win medals. Or even pool games. But despite the diversion of more resource into the sevens programme, the fear of letting sponsor AIG down on their home turf will prove to be too much pressure and the All Blacks will bow out to Kazakhstan in the semifinals. The women's sevens team will win gold, mind, but Tokyo will still be viewed as a disaster for the sport because, oh my God what does this mean for the All Blacks brand?!

CHRIS RATTUE

Athlete of the Games
On a parochial level, the utterly charming Eliza McCartney. The surprise pole vault bronze medallist from Devonport is a star in the making. Overall, it has to be Usain Bolt. The way the Jamaican cruises to victory is staggering. There will never be another Usain Bolt, so time to celebrate the man.

Nick Willis' bronze in the 1500m made him the oldest medallist in the event's Olympic history and reminded us of New Zealand's proud running history. Photo / PHOTOSPORT
Nick Willis' bronze in the 1500m made him the oldest medallist in the event's Olympic history and reminded us of New Zealand's proud running history. Photo / PHOTOSPORT

Most inspiring moment
Nick Willis winning bronze. It was only after the finish of the 1500m - when we found he was the oldest Olympic medal winner in the event - that the true significance struck home. A reminder of New Zealand's proud running history.

Best offbeat story
The Japanese pole vaulter who - as photographs showed it - seemed to knocked the bar off with a part of his anatomy not normally associated with the on-field sporting limelight. We'll leave it there.

Tip for 2020
There won't be any stray bullets in Tokyo, or so many empty seats. Stand by for a completely different level of organisation. I'd like to tip a gold medal for the rapidly rising McCartney and shot put powerhouse Tom Walsh. No pressure.

ANDREW ALDERSON

Athlete of the Games
Since Beijing in 2008, Usain Bolt's charisma and composure has been extraordinary. Rio in 2016 was no different apart from the world records not getting threatened. He never lost an Olympic race in arguably the world's most contested disciplines. No current athlete transcended the Games more, nor had a greater responsibility to perform clean. If it was ever proven otherwise, the sporting world would topple off its axis. Bolt offers fans hope that supreme athleticism, fortuitous genetics and hard toil can trump unnatural forces.

Most inspiring moment
Eliza McCartney, Luuka Jones and Mahe Drysdale will justifiably top many New Zealanders' lists for the Rio joy factor, but the moment that had me teetering on the sofa was Nick Willis' bronze. At 33 he became the oldest man to earn a 1500m medal, a student of his sport, and still so capable of articulating his passion for an event bordering on a Kiwi obsession. His finishing surge was the essence of sport to me, just as it was in Beijing, eight years ago.

Kayaker Mike Dawson funded his way to Rio by selling a cookbook, then gave out food parcels to people living in poverty in the city's favelas. Photo / SUPPLIED
Kayaker Mike Dawson funded his way to Rio by selling a cookbook, then gave out food parcels to people living in poverty in the city's favelas. Photo / SUPPLIED

Best offbeat story
I loved the fact that kayaker Mike Dawson organised to hand out food parcels in Rio's favelas. As a guy who sold a cookbook to fund his Olympic campaign there was sincerity to his actions, rather than it being a controlled PR exercise. He spent many weeks training in Rio and wanted to do something to help. I look forward to seeing how his Indus River expedition goes this year. Watch Dawson. He may do some good in the world beyond just excelling at a sport.

Tip for 2020
On a bright note, New Zealand Olympic sporting success looks like becoming more diverse than ever with nine separate codes winning Rio medals. Compare that to six in London, five in Beijing and four in Athens. On a glum note, more positive retrospective doping tests will undercover a raft of cheats between now and Tokyo. If the International Olympic Committee's stance on Russia's systemic cheating is a gauge, there will be limited punitive action.

DAVID LEGGAT

Athlete of the Games
You may have heard this before, but you can't go past the tall Jamaican guy who runs seriously fast. Usain Bolt's gone three Olympics for nine golds across the 100m, 200m and 4 x 100m relay. But more than his results, he's a captivating figure. Watch the crowds respond to him, whatever their nationality. You'll go a long way to find anyone who does it better. Gold Coast Commonwealth Games officials are trying to lure him to the Sunshine State for 2018. Fat chance; he should go out at the very top at next year's world champs in London. The great opera stars don't play the provincials.

Most inspiring moment
Eliza McCartney pole vaulting to bronze was the one which stirred most. Thrilling and unexpected. She's 19. You think of what she can produce in the years to come. You also think of the young, budding athletes who'll look at someone they can relate to and say 'I can do that too'.

Best offbeat story
I'd plump for Bolt, about to be interviewed and politely asking the interviewer to wait while he turned and jogged along the mixed zone to hug and congratulate South African world 400m record-setter Wayde van Niekerk. Very nice touch.

For all the misgivings over crime and ticket sales in Rio, they were a Games to savour for New Zealand. Photo / GETTY IMAGES
For all the misgivings over crime and ticket sales in Rio, they were a Games to savour for New Zealand. Photo / GETTY IMAGES

Tip for 2020
The Tokyo Olympics will be organised with huge attention to detail and clean, as in locations, not doping. It'll be a far cry from Rio in many ways. And New Zealand will take another step up in terms of levels of performance, and medals won. For all the misgivings over Rio, these have been a Games to savour for New Zealand.

- NZ Herald

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