The Tokyo Olympics might have been delayed a year but somehow it’s still snuck up on us – here’s the rundown on the New Zealand team. 

New Zealand first participated in the Summer Olympics 101 years ago, in 1920. The team comprised four athletes: two runners, in George Davidson and Harry Wilson; the 15 year-old swimmer Violet Walrond; and a rower, Darcy Hadfield, who also won this country’s first ever Olympic medal.

In 15 days’ time, a kiwi team of more than 200 athletes will march into the Tokyo Olympic stadium, minds singularly focussed on adding to the 117 medals Aotearoa has won in its Olympic history.

Most of the athletes won’t come back with a medal weighing down their baggage allowance; but some will – and some athletes most of us have never heard of may well explode into public consciousness.

On today’s episode of The Detail, Emile Donovan speaks to former Olympian and broadcaster Sarah Cowley Ross, who’s covering the Games from New Zealand for TVNZ, about the medal probables and possibles, and the athletes to keep an eye on in the future.

Cowley Ross says the build-up to the Tokyo Olympics has been curious – for obvious reasons – but the excitement really started to set in earlier this week.

“The intensity has lifted, there’s an excitement in the air … a nervousness. We’re at the pointy end! There’s this excited tension in the air around the New Zealand team.

“The postponement has had such an effect … people are used to this four-year cycle. It’s kind of like this race, which has been extended, and people weren’t sure if they’d get to the finish line.”

But Cowley Ross says when it comes to predicting which of New Zealand’s athletes will find themselves on a podium, it’s a bit more difficult.

Historically nearly 80 percent of New Zealand’s medals have come in rowing, canoeing, sailing, athletics and equestrian – and that tally could well increase, Cowley Ross says.

“The women’s rowing team is extremely talented. The eight were gold medallists at the World Championships, as were the pair and the double, and we’ve also got Emma Twigg off to her fourth Olympics – trying to avenge the last two Olympics, where she was fourth.

“The sevens, we’re ranked number one in the world for both men’s and women’s, so they’ll be gunning for the podium.

“Athletics, Dame Valerie Adams (who’s competing at her fifth Games) and Tom Walsh – they’ll have eyes on the podium.

“In swimming, Lewis Clareburt: he was third at the 2019 World Champs, so he could potentially be our first swimming medallist since Danyon Loader.

“Lisa Carrington, she’s in four different events and has the potential to medal in all four of them.

“Sailing – Pete (Burling) and Blair (Tuke) seem to be able to win anything they put their hands on (the pair were part of the America’s Cup-winning Team New Zealand) so definitely watch out for them.

“And then you’ve got the likes of Lydia Ko, who could do something special.

“Across the board we’ve got some real chances, so I think 18 medals is not out of the picture.”

Want more from The Detail? Find past episodes here.

Leave a comment