New Zealand's warring mountain bikers have made their peace after Sam Gaze delivered one of the distasteful gold medal performances in a black jersey.

A contrite Gaze fronted media yesterday to set the record straight on his bad sportsmanship, which including giving the finger to team-mate Anton Cooper and a post-race verbal lashing of his silver medal-winning countryman.

A race that should have been remembered for the dramatic way Gaze overcame a puncture to chase down Cooper for gold, will always be associated with the acrimonious aftermath. After winning, Gaze accused Cooper of bad sportsmanship for failing to wait for him as the puncture was repaired, adding: "the good guys always win".

On the medal podium the Kiwi pair looked like mourners at a funeral rather than gold-silver compatriots.


Yesterday, Gaze said his immature display on Thursday was not a true reflection of who he is.

"If I'm going to act like a boy, I'd better act like a man now," the 22-year-old told the Herald from New Zealand House in Surfers Paradise.

"[Thursday] was the first time of my life I really had to deal with pressure ... it was a hard moment to handle when I thought [my race was over]. In the heat of the moment, I made a decision that was not respectable by any means. I am gravely sorry."

Gaze said he left the race course in a sour state and wanted to put it right. "There's so much tension and anger when it comes to racing. I thought about it, and as soon as I got home I said, 'I'm not happy with how this was'.

"I pulled the high performance director aside and said 'this is not who I am and I'm going to make things right' - so I drafted up an apology."

Kiwis Sam Gaze (left) and Anton Cooper after winning gold and silver at the men's mountain biking barely acknowledge each other. Photo / Greg Bowker
Kiwis Sam Gaze (left) and Anton Cooper after winning gold and silver at the men's mountain biking barely acknowledge each other. Photo / Greg Bowker

Gaze was asked whether his obligations under the New Zealand Olympic Committee athlete agreement were brought to his attention before he wrote his statement. The agreement demands athletes: "Agree not to make or endorse any public statements which may have a negative effect on any member of the actual or potential team [including support staff] during the build-up to the Games and/or the protected period."

"It's self-evident," Gaze said. "As a person wearing the silver fern I made a wrong decision and that has to be lived with. I'm going to do everything I can to make that right. Anton's been understanding about it, we've had this feud for years. It's one thing that drives us."

Chef de mission Rob Waddell confirmed Gaze had come to him and apologised of his own volition.


Gaze regretted the way he acted.

"It's the way the sport is, there's a sportsman side and a human side to you. Sometimes that gets jumbled when there's too much on the line.

"Anyone who knows who I am knows that's not me. I look forward to the opportunity to right these things, I'm living and learning."

Gaze appreciated Cooper's response to the situation.

"We're two guys from the same country with the same common goal.

"I'm grateful for the way he has taken this, and look forward to making it up to him in future."

Cooper said he had accepted the apology after Gaze berated him for attacking post-puncture.

"He does a lot of road riding and I assume this is where it comes from," Cooper said. "They have a different etiquette there. If the leader of the Tour de France got a puncture, the peloton would wait. It's a different thing in mountain biking because that's seen as rider error.

"I've never had someone wait for me in a race, and I've never been accused of not waiting for someone or being unsportsmanlike in that manner. So I was surprised."

Cooper believed Gaze had genuinely realised his mistake. "I don't have any ill-feeling towards Sam. We have had a heated rivalry, which makes for tough competition that brings out the best and worst in people. It's a healthy competition, we respect each other and we have to get on because we're going to see a lot more of each other."