An Unnecessarily Clinical and Probably Inaccurate Analysis of New Zealand's Olympic Team
185 New Zealand athletes will compete across 21 sports at the London 2012 Olympics. That's a lot. It puts us in the top 20 nations in the world in terms of numbers competing. Britain will have the most, with 542 athletes competing across all 26 sports.
21 sports is a lot of sports to know about. 185 athletes are too many to follow closely. Dunbar's number proposes that we can only maintain 150 friends. I propose that we can only pay attention to around 120 athletes in a single Olympics.
Under the guise of being a sports expert, I have been charged with distilling those 185 athletes down to a manageable level. Partially in order for you to enjoy the Olympics more easily, but also partially because Stockman has a sadistic love of time-consuming research assignments. I have divided the 185 into three manageable groups. Firstly and most importantly, a group I have labelled “The Legitimate Medal Hopes”. This is the group of athletes who I have decided would be extremely disappointed to not win a medal. Not all of them will win medals, but all of them are travelling to London with a realistic hope of glory.
The second group I have labelled “In With a Shot”. Sport is a wonderful thing. Anything can happen on the day. If “the day” of this group’s event happens to coincide with “the day” of this group’s best-ever performance, along with the stars aligning on a few other uncontrollables, this bunch could sneak a win. Don't expect any medals from this group, but you never know.
The third group I have cruelly labelled “Making Up the Numbers”. These athletes are of an extremely high calibre, and all legends in their own right. To even qualify for an Olympics is a massive achievement. Unfortunately, at this level the competition will be too much. Maybe it is their first Olympics and they will improve in years to come. Or maybe qualifying for the Olympics was their Everest, and they should just relax and enjoy the experience. We may get to enjoy some plucky and inspiring performances from this group, but unfortunately they will come home empty-handed.
So here goes. I'm quite happy to be proved wrong on as many of these as possible, as long as New Zealand grabs loads of precious metal.
The Legitimate Medal Hopes
- Valerie Adams is the reigning Olympic and World Champion. If she throws near her best she’ll win another gold medal. The only person in her way is Belarussian Nadzeya Astapchuk.
- Lisa Carrington may be an unfamiliar name, but she came from nowhere to win the K1 200m World Championship title in 2011. That means she can do the same in London.
- Marc Willers and Sarah Walker are both realistic chances for a medal in the BMX. Walker got 4th in Beijing, and is quite hot. Willers was the ABA rider of the year last year, whatever that means.
- Linda Villumsen used to compete for Denmark in road cycling. Now she is a New Zealander, and she is really good. I wonder if she knows the national anthem.
- Out of the rowers, four crews should get a medal. The men’s pair of Bond & Murray are as close to a certainty as it gets. The men’s double and lightweight double should come home with something, and Mahe Drysdale has won everything in rowing except a gold medal.
- Two sailing crews should do well in familiarish conditions. Aleh and Powrie in the 470, and Burling and Tuke in the pseudosexually-named 49er class.
- Andrea Hewitt is ranked Number One in the world in
triathlon. She is also very small. So very, very small.
In With a Shot
- Stuart Farquhar is capable of some big throws in the javelin. In such a conditions-dependent sport, if he can make the final he could sneak close to a medal.
- Nick Willis is the reigning Olympic silver medalist in the 1500m. Injuries and form mean he is an outside chance to repeat his feats, but he is a man for the big occasion.
- Ben Fouhy in the K1 1000 and Steven Ferguson with Daryl Fitzgerald in the K2 1000 are rowers who could turn back the clock and recapture some form of years gone by.
- Karen Hanlen had a top ten finish in a World Cup race this year. If some people crash she could get lucky in the women’s mountain biking.
- Greg Henderson is an outstanding “lead out rider” in tour cycling events. Unfortunately the team element is absent in the Olympics road race, but he has won stages of tours before.
- It’s really hard to find any meaningful information about our mountain biking duo Sam Bewley and Karen Hanlen. I guess they're in with a shot then.
- The eventing team should do all right. They have Mark Todd, who is at his 3000th Olympics, and Jock Paget, who is ranked 4th in the world at the moment.
- Both men’s and women's cycling pursuit teams are ranked well into the top 10, and both could sneak a medal if things fall into place. Pretty much the entire track cycling team fits into the “In With a Shot” category – they are all ranked in that 10th to 4th in the world range which puts them in the hunt.
- The women’s and men’s hockey teams are ranked 6th and 7th in the world respectively. Both have had top 5 finishes at the Champions trophy in the last couple of years.
- Because of the strength of New Zealand, the seven other crews who weren't in the first group are in this group. My favourites for a surprise medal are the women’s quad, which includes Otago's own Fiona Bourke, and the women’s pair of Haigh and Scown.
- The remainder of the sailing team is a bit of a mystery to me. They all have confusing number-related category names, and there are 15 of them. Sailing is a bit of a lottery at the best of times anyway.
- In the pool New Zealand has three swimmers with a chance. Freestyler Lauren Boyle, breaststroker Glen Snyders, and backstroker Gareth Kean. Unfortunately New Zealand hasn't won a swimming medal in 16 years.
- The rest of the triathlon team is also very strong. Docherty is very experienced, as are Gemmell and Samuels. Sissons and McIlroy can beat anyone on their day.
Making Up The Numbers
- Sarah Cowley is a heptathlete at her first Olympic games. Even her best points total won't put her in the hunt for medals.
- Decathlete Brent Newdick will be excited about his first Olympics. Unfortunately his personal best of 8114 won't put him anywhere near the medals.
- Race-walker Quentin Rew has said that he is aiming for a top 16 finish. Unfortunately they only give out three medals.
- Unfortunately for Kim Smith, the Kenyans dominate the women's marathon. No one else really gets a look in.
- Lucy Van Dalen's official Olympic profile says she has the “potential” to make the top sixteen. Maybe Rio is the Games for her.
- Women's boxers Siona Fernandes and Alexis Pritchard are both testing the waters in this brand new event. Pritchard has been ranked as high as 11th in the world, but that’s about it.
- Teneale Hatton is canoeing at her first Olympics and improving fast. Maybe the Olympics for her will be Rio 2016.
- Erin Taylor is the partner of Lisa Carrington in the K2 500. Carrington is better on her own.
- Mike Dawson will be the first NZ male ever to compete in white water slalom canoe. Unfortunately he qualified by finishing 11th in a World Cup meet. Luuka Jones goes into the women’s event ranked 14th in the world. On the plus side, she has a very white smile in her Olympics profile.
- Kurt Pickard is the odd one out in the BMX crew. He's still young though.
- Jack Bauer will compete in the road cycling time trial and road race. Fighting terrorism in a predetermined time period? Yes. Medals? No.
- Louisa Hill is competing in the dressage, which in my opinion shouldn't be in the modern Olympics. They should give the horse the medal instead of the rider.
- Both football teams won't get anywhere near the medal games. The women will probably do better than the men, but the men have some interesting young attackers in Chris Wood and Marco Rojas.
- I know nothing about Judo. It says on Moira De Villiers profile that she has the potential to make the top 16…
- Shooter Ryan Taylor only made the Olympics after a legal appeal that proved he could make the top 8.
- The rest of the swimming team, apart from the three already mentioned, are going to struggle to make any finals. To pass the time they should all grow Danyon Loader ponytails.
- Logan Campbell is the best-known Tae Kwon Do representative in London, but that is because he opened a brothel with a certain Critic staff member’s brother to pay for his trip. He and Robin Cheong are ranked in the top 10 in the world, but Vaughn Scott is ranked a lowly 20th.
- Marina Erakovic might get out of the first round in the tennis but shouldn't get much further.
- Richie Patterson is the only New Zealand weightlifter at this year’s Games. He's aiming for a top 10 finish.
Well, there you go. That was pretty comprehensive. The New Zealand Olympic committee has said that they are aiming for 10 medals. My patented quotient ratio has determined that we will in fact receive 6 medals, 2 of which will be gold. I'm not going to tell you who they’re going to be, because that would bankrupt the TAB.
Enjoy the Olympics. I know it’s going to be a sleep free month for me.