Was there something in Tokyo’s water for Kiwi sportswomen as they struggled on the big stage on Day 4? LockerRoom’s daily look at the fortunes of our female athletes continues.

Performances of the day

Luuka Jones lay her head on her paddle after her run in the canoe slalom final, devastated.

After five years of training – a lot of it isolated from her sport’s powerhouse in Europe – the Kiwi paddler’s fourth Olympic campaign came undone in just under 111 seconds. 

Just four seconds quicker on the tricky Kasai whitewater course, and Jones would have returned to the Olympic medal dais. But as it was, the 2016 Rio silver medallist had to settle for sixth. 

Her disappointment was obvious, after the three medallists in the women’s K1 hung their medals around their own necks.

She was in really good shape, physically, the 32-year-old said, her voice faltering. “I think I just started losing a bit of time and let that get to me. Started being too aggressive and wasn’t patient enough.”

Jones had come through the qualifying rounds as the third-fastest paddler on Sunday, and was fifth fastest after Tuesday afternoon’s semifinal run, when she hit a gate mid-race and incurred a two-second penalty. She looked strong and fast, and still a medal contender – sitting ahead of Rio gold medallist Maialen Chourraut of Spain, and not far behind one of her great rivals, Australian Jessica Fox, the favourite to win her first gold.

But in her final run two hours later, halfway through the 10 finallists, Jones was hesitant at the difficult sixth gate, and then at gate 22 of 25 she looked to almost lose control of her kayak, but just pulled it back. But in a sport determined by split second decisions, those stutters counted against her. 

“Yeah, I’m really gutted. Yeah, I put a lot of work into this. Not just me but a lot of people.” Like her coach, and partner, Scotsman Campbell Walsh – an Olympic silver medallist in 2004. 

“You have to be happy with who you are, you can’t judge yourself on the outcomes of sport. You just have to learn from things like this, move on and be better.” She has less than 24 hours to do it, in the C1 heats on Wednesday, as the discipline makes its Olympic debut.

As it turned out, world No.1 Fox didn’t win gold either. While her run was incredibly quick, she hit two gates and fell back to bronze, behind Chourratt in silver and German Ricarda Funk, gold (for the record in 105.50s).

Images of the day

YouTube video

The good news

On the first gloomy, wet morning of these Olympics, New Zealand’s triathlete women didn’t fare well: Ainsley Thorpe crashing out on Tokyo roads slick with rain, and a “buggered” Nicole van der Kaay battling home in 29th. But, if you’re looking for a glimmer of good news amidst the gloom of Day 4: Thorpe wasn’t hurt and is fine to race in the first Olympic mixed teams relay event this weekend. 

Thorpe, the Auckland athlete profiled with her brother Trent in our Olympic Bonds series, was devastated as her race ended prematurely, crashing off her bike rounding a corner in the first lap of the 40km bike section. She’d been in 15th place coming out of the swim, 51s behind the leaders.

Other riders began to fall like flies in the treacherous conditions on the back of Typhoon Nepartak; 20 women pulling out of the 54-strong field.

Van der Kaay explained how she had to play it safe riding on corners, especially after seeing Thorpe take a tumble. But she still gave it her all: “I’m pretty buggered. It was a hard day out there. I hoped for more but, that was all I could do today.’’  She finished almost eight minutes adrift of Bermuda’s first gold medallist (and only second-ever medallist) Flora Duffy.

Thorpe and van der Kaay, who won bronze in the 2018 Commonwealth Games mixed teams relay, join Tayler Reid and newly-minted men’s bronze medallist, Hayden Wilde, in Saturday morning’s teams event.

The not-so-good-news

It was a nightmarish first day on Enoshima Harbour for Rio silver medal 49erFX sailors, Alex Maloney and Molly Meech – who capsized, were then disqualified from the next race, before salvaging a 5th placing from their third start.

In shifty winds, the Kiwi duo were up to third in the opening race, when a gust caught approaching the bottom mark. Meech missed her trapeze wire, falling overboard before the skiff capsized. They recovered to be 16th across the finishline, only to cross the startline early in the next race and cop a disqualification.

Able to discard their worst result, they’re now 13th overall after three races. 

Molly Meech takes a dunking and the NZ skiff capsizes in the opening 49erFX race of these Olympics. Photo: Getty Images.

The Football Ferns have ended their Olympic campaign with a third loss from three games – this time going down to unbeaten Sweden, 2-0.  The New Zealanders found themselves two goals in arrears after 30 minutes – and can at least claim they conceded one less goal than what the Swedes beat world champions, the United States, by. 

Erika Fairweather fell short of her personal best in the 200m freestyle semifinal; the Kavanagh College head girl with the big programme in Tokyo finishing eighth in her race, and ultimately 16th of the 16 semifinalists. 

Her time of 1m 59.14s was almost 2s slower than the PB she set in Monday night’s heat of 1m 57.26s. But there’s still more to come from the Dunedin teen with the 4x200m freestyle relay heats on Wednesday night, alongside Ali Galyer, Eve Thomas and Carina Doyle, who also went to Kavanagh College. 

And the woman who ignited the Olympic cauldron in Friday’s opening ceremony, Naomi Osaka, has been extinguished from the tennis singles, losing to the 42nd-ranked Marketa Vondrousova, of the Czech Republic, in the third round. 

How cool is this?

Football Fern Hannah Wilkinson’s third Olympics may have come to an end on the field tonight, after her 100th international for her country, but her abundant artistic talents live on at these Games.

Whāngarei-born Wilkinson is one of six Olympic and Paralympic athletes whose art works feature in the first Olympic Agora – a cultural hub of visual art installations on display around Tokyo.

Hannah Wilkinson’s art work, Fortis in Arduis (Strength in Difficulty), on display in Tokyo during the Olympics. Photo: Hannah Wilkinson.

Her six curtains on display around the city were inspired by the new Olympic sports in Tokyo and “the misfortune of athletes dealing with Covid.”

“What makes me successful in my art and in my sport is the fire and passion I have for both,” she says. “Each passion makes me feel alive, and I know intrinsically it was what I was meant to do. Often, being an athlete can take its toll and the pressure can seep in. When this happens, art is my retreat where I can re-balance myself.”


We all know the Olympic motto: ‘Citius, Altius, Fortius’ (Faster, Higher, Stronger). But how would the founding fathers of the Modern Olympics feel about the latest mantra for Tokyo: ‘Sport appeal, not sex appeal’?

In a bid to cub the sexploitation of female athletes, the head of Olympic broadcasting, Yiannis Exarchos, has asked for no close-ups of sportswomen’s intimate body parts or skimpy outfits at these Games. “What we can do is make sure that our coverage doesn’t highlight or feature in any particular way what people are wearing,” he says.

German gymnast Pauline Schaefer-Betz leaps high above the beam in the women’s teams competition in Tokyo. Photo: Getty Images.

The German gymnasts have made their own stand against sexploitation at these Olympics, competing in full-leg unitards instead of the traditional bikini-cut leotard. 

What the?! 

Seconds after Canada’s Maggie MacNeil won the 100m butterfly final, she stared – eyes squinted –  at the scoreboard for longer than usual. Not in shock – even after the 21-year-old turned in seventh, but put in an incredible return lap to steal gold.

No, MacNeil couldn’t see her name. She wears glasses out of the pool and was squinting to decipher where she’d finished. “I heard my name getting called so I knew I must have done something good,” she said after collecting her second medal of these Games.

Canadian swimmer Maggie MacNeil trying to find her name on the scoreboard after winning gold in the 100m butterfly. Photo: Getty Images. 

MacNeil has a fascinating backstory – she was adopted by her Canadian parents in China after being abandoned at a few months old. She overcame childhood asthma to become a world champion.


Rikki’s pick

Sky Sport commentator Rikki Swannell reckons Brooke Donoghue and Hannah Osborne could bring home the first rowing medal for NZ on Wednesday when they contest the rowing double sculls final.

“Donoghue is the two-time world champion, and while Osborne’s selection in the boat ahead of Olivia Loe came as a surprise, the new combination has come together nicely in their first major regatta together. The double scull was made famous by the Evers-Swindell sisters, and now Donoghue and Osborne can add to that legacy.”

Who’s up on Wednesday

ROWING: Quadruple scull B Final, noon; Brooke Donoghue and Hannah Osborne, double sculls final, 12.18pm. Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler, pairs semifinal, 3.30pm.

SHOOTING: Natalie Rooney, trap qualification rounds, noon.

HOCKEY: Black Sticks v Spain, 2.45pm

CANOE SLALOM: Luuka Jones, C1 heat, 4pm.

SAILING: Erica Dawson (and Micah Wilkinson), Nacra 17, 5.30pm; Alex Maloney and Molly Meech, 49erFX, 5.45pm

SWIMMING: Erika Fairweather, Carina Doyle, Ali Galyer, Eve Thomas, 4 x 200m freestyle relay heat, 11.20pm

Suzanne McFadden, the 2021 Voyager Media Awards Sports Journalist of the Year, founded LockerRoom, dedicated to women's sport.

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