Sam Gaze's metamorphosis from hero to villain was swift.

Hopefully he gets a chance to redeem himself.

The 22-year-old delivered one of the most exhilarating moments of this Commonwealth Games when he suffered a puncture on the final lap but chased down Anton Cooper to take gold, reversing the medal order from four years ago.

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Gaze sorry after calling fellow Kiwi a bad sport

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Moments later he became one of the most ungracious victors this country has seen on an international stage when questioning Cooper's sportsmanship for taking off in a cloud of dust as his bike was under repair.

Would Gaze have done the same? We'll never know. However, as Cooper pointed out, mountain biking doesn't adhere to the unspoken road cycling stage race tradition where riders only resume after a tour leader's mechanical problems are resolved.

Gaze was captured extending his middle finger in the direction of Cooper after he was forced off his bike; he put his forefinger to his lips as he crossed the finish line; and then had the temerity to suggest "the good guys always win" afterwards.

Sam Gaze gestures in the transition area after suffering a puncture. Photo: Photosport.nz
Sam Gaze gestures in the transition area after suffering a puncture. Photo: Photosport.nz

Gaze might be an extraordinary athlete, but that was ordinary behaviour.

At least he had the grace to thank his mechanic for the legendary work to return him to the race asap, courtesy of MacGyver-like action with a canister of CO2.

The last thing sport needs is another angry young man; or perhaps a child inside a pristine cycling physique.

Samuel Gaze and Anton Cooper shake hands after winning Gold and Silver in the Men's Cross-country Mountain Bike in Nerang at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. Photo / Greg Bowker.
Samuel Gaze and Anton Cooper shake hands after winning Gold and Silver in the Men's Cross-country Mountain Bike in Nerang at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. Photo / Greg Bowker.

Gaze had won the race for goodness' sake, yet the victory came with rancour.

These were not the gripes of a loser, yet Gaze stood stony-faced on the dais.

No one should demand he adhere to any mythical "role model" status, but nor should New Zealand sports fans owe him a favour because he pedals a bike well.


What exacerbates the situation is that media were soon issued with a carefully-worded statement, allegedly from Gaze, which was to be distributed "via his social media channels".

Here it is in its entirety:

"I'm a competitive guy and when I had that issue with my bike I thought my dream was over. I reacted badly and want to apologise for my words and my actions. I am really embarrassed for how I acted and how the impact of how special of a day it was for New Zealand Cycling was tainted by my actions.

"I respect Anton and his ability to race hard and fast and I regret the way that I spoke right after the race. He is an incredible rider and together we put on a really exciting race today. I was proud that we could finish one-two again like we did in Glasgow and am grateful for the talent we are growing in New Zealand.

"I have caught up with Anton and apologised personally, but I wanted to let the New Zealand team here on the Gold Coast and the New Zealand public know that I acted in the heat of the moment and will work on making sure this type of action doesn't happen again. Thanks for everyone's support. I am sorry that my actions have affected the public's view of how really special these Games have been."

Did he write this? You be the judge.

Gaze won his gold medal at 2.47pm. Are we expected to believe that by 6.42pm, his views in relation to Cooper had U-turned? Given how livid he had been with his rival, this struck as disingenuous. Did he apologise, or was he directed to apologise? There's a big difference.

This is a latter day problem. Athletes or organisations release glib statements in the hope such situations might melt into the background of, in Gaze's apparent words, "how really special these Games have been".

Gaze is listed to compete in the road race on Saturday so can easily exonerate himself from attending one of the New Zealand Olympic Committee's medal celebration ceremonies today in Surfers Paradise alongside Kiwi fans.

Conversely, it presents a chance to look people in the eye, articulate his regret in person, and reflect on what was a magnificent piece of sporting theatre. People will be ready to forgive.

His mountain biking performance deserves to be remembered for more than its spiteful aftermath.

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