Tim Walker’s Closing

The 2016 Rio Olympic Games wrapped up having displayed far fewer of the failings that many predicted, and with New Zealand coming away with a record medal haul.

As happens to most Olympic host cities most every four years – with Beijing’s pollution-dominated build-up to the 2008 Games still fresh in mind – Rio de Janeiro’s onset to these 2016 Olympic Games was fraught with negativity regarding the city’s ability to organise such a gargantuan event while still providing adequate safety and overall standards for the athletes…

This potential issue was not helped when four US swimmers of the Olympic Village claimed to have been robbed at gunpoint which – reminiscent of a similar event involving French rugby players at the New Zealand 2011 Rugby World Cup – turned out to have been nothing more sinister than self-inflicted injuries as the result of drunken escapades.

…Of course maintaining a high standard becomes difficult when one’s country is suddenly overrun with arrogant douche-bags who think they are above the rules that have been put in place to protect them.

As also seems to occur at most four-year intervals, we as Kiwis allow ourselves to build expectations to the point where, even at a few weeks out from the Games, we’ve already amassed our projected total medal count, and of course we are so very confident that everything will play out exactly as we have planned…

Most years we find that, due to some unforeseen circumstance or other, a number of our ‘medal hopefuls’ (men’s and women’s black sticks, rugby sevens), or even our ‘medal certainties’ (equestrian in two Olympics’ running) do not perform nearly as well as we had hoped or sometimes, do not come away with an Olympic medal at all while other athletes, athletes of whom greater New Zealand has not even heard, decide to raise their heads and from out of nowhere, cement themselves a place as part of Kiwi Olympic folklore.

…Today though we can be proud, as the overly-expectant, defeatism-prone, quick-to-judge, quicker-to-condemn, poppy-chopping nation that we are, that this particular four-year interval yielded a greater Olympic medal tally than ever before.

It was a surprise to some to learn that chicks in Waimate are proficient with firearms; kudos to Natalie Rooney for securing New Zealand’s first medal – a silver in trap (claybird) shooting – on our way to an expectation-exceeding total of 18 – second only in the ‘per capita’ rankings to Grenada.

Eliza McCartney became the youngest ever New Zealand woman to win an Olympic medal – her bronze in pole vaulting allowing her to embrace that record for just a day before the feat was outdone by Lydia Ko’s silver in golf.

Typical of our lofty Kiwi expectations though, unless we can secure more than 18 medals at the next Olympics, as a nation we will likely feel as though we have failed; although realistically, if nothing else, these Rio Olympic Games have shown us that sport in New Zealand has a very bright future.


Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Kay Wei Women

Photography by X Sae Ling




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