With an Olympic silver medal and a world record row, Kiwi sportswomen were back winning on the water on Day 5.  LockerRoom’s daily wrap on the fortunes of our female athletes continues.

Performances of the day

It was Brooke Donoghue and Hannah Osborne’s time to shine. The women’s double scull duo brought home silver – New Zealand’s second medal of three so far at these Olympics – and opened the floodgates for possibly another four rowing medals in the next 48 hours on the Sea Forest Waterway.  

Soon after the medal ceremony, Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler set themselves up for a real shot at gold on Thursday, claiming back their world record in a blistering pair semifinal. They’ll be back on the water in the women’s eight final on Friday.

But today belonged to Donoghue and Osborne, who’s fledgling combination is little more than two months old. 

Osborne somewhat controversially replaced Olivia Loe in the double scull just before the New Zealand rowing team for Tokyo was named, as selectors looked for more speed. Loe, who’d twice won the world title with Donoghue, instead moved into the New Zealand quad – who ended their Olympic campaign today eighth overall.

So it’s the names of Donoghue and Osborne that go down in Olympic history.

The Kiwis were fourth after the first 500m, but worked their way to second at the halfway mark, and held off The Netherlands and Lithuania for the silver. But the gold was never in doubt – the Romanians, Ancuta Bodnar and Simon Radis, led from the start and finished with an Olympic record, three seconds ahead of the Kiwis.

Donoghue had been imagining this moment “every day for the last two years, and even longer… every session for the past 11 years,” she said afterwards. “It’s just huge; this is what it’s about, it’s crazy.”

The Kiwi double – Brooke Donoghue and Hannah Osborne – powering through the OIympic field to claim silver in Tokyo. Photo: Getty Images. 

For Osborne, it was a little more surreal. She was overwhelmed, she said, arriving back at the NZ Team’s village quarters. “You see everyone who does well getting these big welcomes coming in, and I never thought that it would be me.”

Osborne, though, would have to have been inspired by fellow Piopio College student, Rob Waddell – Olympic single sculls gold medallist in 2000, and now chef de mission of the NZ team.

She’s been part of the New Zealand quad and was our top single sculler before Emma Twigg came out of retirement. Off the water, she’s studying for a bachelor of environmental planning.

Both Donoghue and Osborne’s parents sat side-by-side watching the race onfold on the big screen at the NZHQ on Auckland’s waterfront. 

Donoghue’s parents travelled up from their small settlement of Waiterimu near Te Kauwhata. “They’ll be feeling relieved. And they’ve got a medal. The work has all paid off,” said proud mum Leanne.

Was she confident they would win a medal? “I think you always are, but they hadn’t raced for two years. Olympics are so different from world champs and World Cup regattas. Everyone comes out fighting.” Her daughter is a country girl at heart – “a bit of a greenie” – working towards a Masters of management specialising in sustainability.

Prendergast and Gowler could well be the next Kiwis on rowing’s podium. They won their pair semifinal with their world best time of 6m 47.41s – after the Greek pair had stolen the Kiwi world champions’ record from them in the earlier semifinal.

That competitiveness sets up a great final tomorrow, before Prendergast and Gowler back it up on Friday with the eight final. They managed to secure gold in both the eight and the pair at the 2019 world championships so it’s possible they’ll do the same in Tokyo.  (The men’s eight will also row for a medal on Friday).

Emma Twigg heads into the single scull semifinal Thursday aiming to make Friday’s final and a place on the dais in her fourth attempt. 

Images of the day

YouTube video

Quote of the day

“I just want to cry, I’m so happy. I’m absolutely over the moon,” Hannah Osborne moments after winning silver in the double scull.

The good news

Erica Dawson has made her Olympic sailing debut on Enoshima Harbour, a little over a month after fracturing her leg in a training accident, falling off the Nacra 17.

Dawson’s intense rehab got her on the startline in the mixed foiling catamaran with crewmate Micah Wilkinson on Wednesday. They had a relatively consistent day – an 11th and two 12ths – in testing sea conditions, to sit in 13th overall. “It was more the fact we needed to sharpen up our sailing skills rather than worrying about the leg, which is a good way to be,” Dawson said. “It was just about hanging in there today, and we did that.”

And after their shocker start, the 49erFX crew of Alex Maloney and Molly Meech had a much better second day – two fourths and an 11th – to move up to ninth overall. 

Luuka Jones was back on the canoe slalom course today, this time in the C-1 heats, after falling short in the K-1 final yesterday. She finished in 11th place with her second run time of 115.19s to advance to the semifinals, and hopefully the top 10 final tomorrow evening. 

The not-so-good-news

The Black Sticks have come down from two consecutive wins against Argentina and Japan, to lose 2-1 to Spain, ranked seventh in the world to New Zealand’s sixth. 

It was a slow start for the New Zealanders, down 2-0 at halftime – the first goal from Spain came six minutes into the match, followed by the second shortly after from a penalty corner. Kelsey Smith got the Kiwis on the board in the third quarter, her strike across the face of the goal deflected in off a Spanish defender, and in the dying seconds there was a chance to draw but Olivia Merry’s corner shot was blocked. 

The Black Sticks will have to regroup quickly as they take on archrivals Australia early Friday morning NZ time. The top four nations from each pool qualify for the quarterfinals, and the loss set New Zealand back to second in Pool B behind the Aussies. 

Natalie Rooney, New Zealand’s silver medallist in trap shooting in Rio, had a rough first day, sitting in 18th out of 26, with a total of 69 out of 100.

She’ll be back tomorrow, surely all guns blazing, in tomorrow’s last two qualification rounds before the medal shoot-off. 

The women’s 4x 200m freestyle team of Erika Fairweather, Carina Doyle, Ali Galyer, and Eve Thomas finished sixth in their heat. As they sit outside the top eight, they will not progress to the final on Thursday. 

The language used in reporting Simone Biles decision is wrong. She didn’t quit. She was forced to withdraw. Injuries aren’t just physical. Let’s do better with this. #Olympics #ArtisticGymnastics

— Andrew Mulligan (@Andrew_Mulligan) July 27, 2021

Some coverage of Simone Biles’ decision to withdraw from the team finals has drawn criticism. And rightly so.

It seems more athletes are opening up around their mental health and wellbeing, and how it impacts on their performance and everyday life. Tennis sensation Naomi Osaka announced she wouldn’t attend post-media press conferences at the French Open, for the sake of her own wellbeing.

Biles felt the need to protect herself and her teammates so opted to do the same.

Gymnastics superstar Simone Biles has also withdrawn from the all-round women’s Olympic competition. Photo: Getty Images.

The 24-year-old completed one vault rotation in the team final on Tuesday night before speaking with her team doctor, and didn’t return to the floor.

The US still managed to bag silver, behind the Russia Olympic Committee. But some spectators thought Biles should’ve pushed through the self-doubt and unclear ‘headspace’. 

“I didn’t want to go into any of the other events second-guessing myself,” says Biles. “So, I thought it would be better if I took a step back and let these girls go out there and do their job. So it just sucks that it happens here at the Olympic Games than have it happen at any other time.”

Biles has also withdrawn from the all-around final and will decide if she competes in the four remaining events she qualified for in Tokyo.

What the?! 

Even though the show is well and truly rolling on at the Games, you’ve got to spare a thought for those athletes who didn’t even get to the start-line because of coronavirus.

There were more than 15 new cases of coronavirus recorded at the beginning of this week among those involved at the Olympics including several athletes. That brings the total to more than 150 connected to the major event, including 19 athletes, who wouldn’t have been able to fulfil their dreams – instead tucked away in a quarantine hotel for a mandatory 10-days.

On Tuesday it was confirmed Tokyo had the highest number of daily coronavirus cases, sitting at 2,848. The previous highest was 2,520 in early January.

Something to think about as the world keeps their eyes peeled on the Tokyo Olympic bubble.

The All Black Sevens won silver in the men’s final tonight, going down 27-12 to Fiji. But some of the Black Ferns Sevens have been keeping themselves entertained waiting to take the field for the first time on Thursday when they tackle Kenya in their opening match.


Rikki’s pick(s)

It’s getting too hot to handle over in Tokyo, so Sky Sport presenter Rikki Swannell is breaking the rules and going with more than one pick today.

“It’s hard to go past Grace Prendegast and Kerri Gowler in the women’s pair final after that magnificent row in the semis where they set a world best time,” says Swannell. “They were already favourites for gold, but now it’s hard to see anyone stopping them.

“But honestly, just do yourself a favour and watch it all. The women’s sevens team are underway, Natalie Rooney in action, Luuka Jones back at it, the Black Sticks against Australia and the remarkable Erica Dawson in the Nacra sailing. So many great Kiwi women across the board.”

Who’s up on Thursday 

TRAP SHOOTING: Natalie Rooney, qualification and medal round, 12pm

ROWING: Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler, pairs final, 12.30pm; Emma Twigg, single sculls semifinal, 1.50pm. 

BMX: Rebecca Petch, racing quarterfinals, 1.20pm

SEVENS: Black Ferns 7s v Kenya, 2.30pm; Black Ferns v Great Britain, 9.30pm.

SAILING: Erica Dawson and Micah Wilkinson, Nacra17, 3pm

CANOE SLALOM: Luuka Jones, C1 semifinals, 5pm; final 7pm.

SWIMMING: Eve Thomas, 800m freestyle heat, 10pm; Ali Galyer, 200m backstroke heat, 11pm.

HOCKEY: Black Sticks v Australia, 12.15am (Friday)

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