Kiwi athletes have set amazing new benchmarks for mental strength at the Tokyo Olympics.
Being able to find your absolute best, when it really matters, is the most difficult task for any competitor.
Especially for those where the Olympics is the absolute pinnacle – almost the be all and end all – where years of training, dedication and toil go on the line.
Lisa Carrington is the mentality monster in this regard. Kayaking goes under the radar in this country, unlike Hungary and other European nations where it is a big deal.
So Carrington knew she had to find her peak in Tokyo, otherwise her dominance of the last five years would count for little. And there is no margin for error, especially in the K1 200m, where a missed early stroke or bad start could prove terminal.
Carrington also had to deal with an unrealistic weight of expectation – similar to Hamish Bond and Eric Murray in their heyday – where anything less than gold would be seen as almost a failure.
The 32-year-old had a crazy schedule across the first two days, especially Tuesday, with four races in three hours. As Carrington told the Herald, such a challenge had been planned over several years, but it was a calculated risk. Would the extra workload affect her chances in the K1 200m, with her rivals fresh and circling?
The science, the testing and the training said no, but Carrington still had to execute.
The Ohope paddler had to ignore any questions in her mind, and overcome the physical pain, with muscles screaming for rest. There was also the distraction of an emotional medal ceremony, less than 30 minutes before her K2 500m final, where she was desperate to find her best and not let Caitlin Regal down.
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What about Tom Walsh?
One of the favourites, the 29-year-old was remarkably close to an early flight home, after some seemingly inept officiating. Athletes have faced many different challenges around these Games, but Walsh had a new curve ball to deal with.
He was fouled out on his first throw – which appeared an extremely marginal call – then drew another red flag on the second.
That was eventually ruled legal, after an extended review, but Walsh, after all the distractions, had to find a big bomb on his last. He did, with the best distance of the field, before being fouled again by the flag happy official.
Walsh must have been in a deep, dark hole, contemplating a scenario he had never imagined, but kept his cool, lodging a protest before walking out of the stadium, with his fate still unknown.
Emma Twigg confronted demons of a spectacular kind.
Though she was in great form, the 34-year-old still had to execute in the final, knowing that the eyes of the nation – and the wider rowing world – were on her, after infamous near misses in London and Rio.
Making Olympic finals in swimming had become almost an impossible dream for Kiwis, especially youngsters, given the global competitiveness of the aquatic sport.
But Lewis Clareburt (22) and Erika Fairweather (17) completely disregarded that supposed reality, smashing their personal best times to make the elite deciders.
Michael Venus and Marcus Daniell were crushed in their semi-final against Croatia, on a day when nothing went right.
It must have been despairing, especially in front of a large local television audience, a rarity for Kiwi tennis players. But they refocussed quickly to perform brilliantly in the bronze medal playoff, surviving the magnificent tension that only tennis can produce.
Oly-Whites goalkeeper Michael Woud was the talk of the nation – and not in a good way – after his personal nightmare in the 3-2 loss to Honduras.
Keepers have nowhere to hide, as their mistakes are magnified, and Woud copped a torrent of criticism.
He may have wanted to walk away, but fronted up again, not conceding a goal across 210 minutes against Romania and Japan.
There are numerous other examples, including Bond, who put his legacy on the line when he returned to rowing to join the men's eight crew in 2019.
The most notable exception is Laurel Hubbard, who simply crumbled when it counted. Though she had to deal with so much scrutiny before the Games, her job in Tokyo was to lift weights, but the 43-year-old was unable to stay focussed in the moment.