While Kiwi paddlers had a fruitful first day on the water in Tokyo, our weightlifters and equestrians had a day to forget. Our daily wrap, looking at the fortunes of our NZ sportswomen, continues.
Performances of the day
It’s been contentious, divisive and trailblazing, provoking a global debate around inclusion that’s transcended sport.
But with the world’s eyes on her, Laurel Hubbard’s long-awaited moment in Olympic, and wider sporting history, was over in just minutes. The excitement of the moment had overwhelmed her, the transgender athlete said.
Advocates and critics for the inclusion of transgender athletes in women’s sport were briefly dumbstruck on Monday night, when the New Zealand heavyweight lifter never made it onto the scoreboard. Other than the three letters: DNF.
History will show that Hubbard became the first openly transgender woman to compete at an Olympics, but bowed out of the +87kg women’s weightlifting competition without registering a single successful lift.
In a rare interview straight after the competition ended, Hubbard said she was overwhelmed by the excitement of competing on the Olympic platform. “It’s such a truly special place, not just for weightlifters, but for any Olympic athlete. Competing at this level unlocks a certain amount of adrenalin and I think I might have just slightly overcooked it tonight,” she said.
Asked if she had been able to block out the controversy around her inclusion in these Olympics, Hubbard said: “I’m not sure it’s possible for any person to really block out everything that’s happening in the world, but you just do what you can and get on with it.”
Hubbard, at 43 the oldest in the 14-lifter field by 10 years, failed with all three of her snatch attempts, which ruled her out of continuing in the competition.
After her third failed attempt, at 125kg, Hubbard shakily made a heart with her hands, thanked the small audience, and walked off the platform, obviously disappointed.
It was almost a repeat of her performance at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, when she was forced to withdraw from the competition without a medal after badly injuring her elbow.
That was expected to be a career-ending injury, but she made a comeback determined to qualify for her first Olympic Games. “That injury…was so traumatic that I never thought I would ever compete again, and consequently everything that’s happened since then has been a bonus. I think that’s why it’s hard for me to be too disappointed tonight, because it’s something I never expected to be possible,” Hubbard said.
Closing her eyes and smiling before she walked onto the Olympic stage in Tokyo for her first attempt, she tried to lift 120kg, but dropped the weights behind her head before she got out of the crouch.
In her second attempt at 125kg, Hubbard hesitated with the bar above her head, took a couple of small steps to her left, and appeared to be successful. But judges failed the lift, for a wobbly arm, and her third failure meant her Olympics were over.
Hubbard was the only one of 10 Group A lifters who didn’t carry on to the clean and jerk.
In the meantime, China’s world champion and multiple world record holder Li Wenwen took charge of the competition, as expected, with a new Olympic snatch record of 140kg. She went on to win gold with an Olympic record total of 320kg.
Day one of six straight days of Olympic paddling for Lisa Carrington done, and three boxes ticked.
The double Olympic champion finally got down to business on the Sea Forest Waterway on Monday in the first two heats of the four events she’s slated to race at these Games.
Not only did she win both races comfortably, to advance straight to Tuesday’s semifinals, Carrington also shook off the first-day jitters that still plague her (as she revealed in an Olympic Bonds story with her coach Gordy Walker).
It’s been two years since she raced internationally, but Carrington looked strong, efficient and measured in the K1 200m and then the K2 500m heat with Caitlin Regal. Underneath, though, the nerves were still there.
“It was exciting to get out there; so nerve-wracking,” Carrington said after her two races.
“It’s just getting rid of the first-day jitters and nerves. Remembering going through all the processes, what it’s like to get out there – going from our room to on the water, warm down, ice vests … So it’s really good to get those processes nice and tight.
“Also, I really wanted to know how the rest of the world was tracking, so it was cool to do what we did today.”
And she’s more than happy with the way she’s tracking – and feeling “super comfortable” for Tuesday’s semifinals and finals in both events.
In the K1 200m, the event which she’s dominated for a decade and has two Olympic gold medals, Carrington powered to the fastest time of the five heats, and the biggest winning margin – 0.8s over Svetlana Chernigovskaya of the Russian Olympic Committee – bypassing the quarterfinals.
Then she turned around and leapt into the K2 500m with Regal, who was her world champion partner in the boat in 2017. And again, the Kiwis weren’t daunted by a cross headwind, and led their heat from the outset. They line up in the semifinals as the third-fastest crew, but appeared to have plenty in reserve.
Regal (nee Ryan) said although it had been three years since they raced together in the boat internationally, she was excited to finally get on the start line and “get a bit of burn”.
“We’ve been training really well together, and we’ve been world champions before, so we wanted to go out and show everyone the work that we’ve done,” she said.
Carrington, 32, feels confident she will be able to perform in all four of her events at these Games (the other two, the K1 500m and K4 500m) every day for the next five days.
The last time she raced at a major event was the 2019 world champs in Szeged, Hungary, where she won two world titles – calling it the greatest performance of her career. But these six days in Tokyo could eclipse that.
“I trust my teammates; we’re backing each other 100 percent,” she said.
New Zealand’s other K2 500m combo, Alicia Hoskin and Teneale Hatton, had to go through the quarterfinals after finishing fourth in their heat, but were quick enough second time around to also make the semis. They’ll join Carrington and Regal in the K4 heats on Friday.
Images of the day
The good news
All three New Zealand three-day eventing riders made it into the individual jumping final on Monday night, but their hopes of winning a team medal for New Zealand were dashed.
Jonelle Price was the best of the New Zealand team in the team showjumping phase, completing a clear round on Grovine De Reve. The Kiwis were sitting in fourth overall, until Price’s husband, Tim, the world No.2 eventer and his horse, Vitali, dropped three rails – falling heavily from fourth overall in the individual standings.
The New Zealanders finished up fifth overall in the teams event, with the gold going to Great Britain. They were fourth at the 2016 Rio Games but Jonelle Price was part of the bronze medal team in London 2012.
Price, who’s a mum of two, finished these Olympics the best individual rider of the New Zealanders in 11th; Jesse Campbell was 22nd and Tim Price, 24th.
New Zealand’s cycling team pursuit of Holly Edmondston, Kirstie James, Jaime Neilsen and Bryony Botha are out of gold and silver medal contention after the qualifying round of the 4000m track event, but they still have a shot at bronze.
The Kiwis finished sixth, in a time of 4m 12.536s, so will now race Australia, seventh fastest, in the first round. It wasn’t a great performance by the New Zealanders, who won bronze at the 2019 world track champs.
All teams would’ve had to adjust their race plan after Germany smashed the world record by nearly three seconds early on, crossing in 4m 07.307s. They are joined by Great Britain, the United States and Italy in the ride-offs to determine the two nations who will race for gold. The other six teams (including New Zealand) are then ranked by their times in the first round, with the top two racing for bronze.
It has been 17 years since New Zealand won an Olympic gold medal on the cycling track, when Sarah Ulmer won the individual pursuit in Athens, 2004.
The Black Sticks have been unceremoniously knocked out in the quarterfinals by the world’s No.1 hockey side, the Netherlands, who gave the Kiwis a masterclass in stick skills and goal scoring in their 3-0 loss.
The New Zealanders were rarely in the scoring circle, holding less than a third of possession throughout the match. They spent most of their energy defending the clever Dutch, who scored a goal in each of the first three quarters.
Credit must go to Black Sticks goalkeeper Grace O’Hanlon, who made a string of world-class saves. And Megan Hull, who stopped a furious flick shot in the New Zealand goalmouth with her face mask (though the Dutch scored off the resulting penalty stroke) and continued to play great defence for the rest of the match.
Our transTasman cousins are also out; the world No.3 Australians upset 1-0 by India, ranked 10th in the world.
Making her Olympic debut in the 87kg category, young Kiwi weightlifter Kanah Andrews-Nahu looked confident and strong in her first attempt in the snatch, lifting 94kg.
Watching the 20-year-old from the wings were her Olympic and Commonwealth Games gold medallist coach Richie Patterson and fellow New Zealand coach Tina Ball.
Patterson offered his advice around technique as the 2018 Youth Olympic bronze medallist walked off the platform having failed at 98kg in her second attempt. After her third attempt, at 100kg, was also unsuccessful, Andrews-Nahu took her 94kg snatch into the clean and jerk.
Potentially the pressure of her first Olympic Games and her snatch results spilled over as Andrews-Nahu walked out for her first clean and jerk wiping away tears. Her first attempt of 105kg was good and her second was better at 112kg. But her third go at 120kg was too much on the day, leaving her with a combined total score of 206kg to finish fifth in Group B.
How’s this for an incredible comeback? With a lap to go in her 1500m heat, world champion Sifan Hassan stumbled and fell over Kenyan runner Edinah Jebitok.
It could have been all over for the Dutch runner, the 2019 world champ in the 1500m and 10,000m. But she managed to get back on her feet and overtake all competitors in the back straight, to win the heat in a time of 4m 05.17s.
Hassan is gunning for gold in a rare treble – the 1500m, 5000m and 10,000m.
Belarus sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya should have been running in the women’s 200m heats on Monday. But instead she was in Japanese police care, fearing jail in her home nation, with diplomats now negotiating her asylum.
Timanovskaya claims she was kidnapped – whisked away from the Olympic Village to Haneda Airport against her will by the Belarus Olympic Committee – after criticising her coaches in an Instagram post around selections for the 4x400m relay.
She approached Japanese airport police pleading for help, before the IOC stepped in, demanding a ‘please explain’ from Belarus officials. Timanovskaya is now reportedly in “a safe place”.
“I am afraid that in Belarus they might put me in jail,” Timanovskaya told the independent Belarusian news portal Zerkalo.io. “I am not afraid that I will be fired or kicked out of the national team, I am worried about my safety. And I think that at the moment it is not safe for me in Belarus.”
“While there’s rightfully a lot of attention on Lisa Carrington today and indeed this week, I’m also looking forward to seeing Julia Ratcliffe in action in the final of the hammer throw,” writes Rikki Swannell, in Tokyo with Sky Sport.
“Ratcliffe looked at ease on the Olympic stage for the first time, with her first throw of 72.30 metres, her best in the qualifying round. It was enough to get through to the final comfortably in sixth spot, although Ratcliffe said she didn’t feel like she really ‘hooked’ one in the preliminary round. The final will be a big step up again but Ratcliffe seems unfazed by the big stage.”
Who’s up on Tuesday
CANOE SPRINT: Lisa Carrington, K1 200m semifinal, 12.30pm, final 2.30pm; Carrington and Caitlin Regal, Alicia Hoskin and Teneale Hatton, K2 500m semifinal 1.20pm; final 3.40pm.
CYCLING: NZ team track pursuit, bronze medal 6.30pm; gold medal 8.26pm
EQUESTRIAN: Uma O’Neill, individual showjumping qualifier, 10pm
ATHLETICS: Julia Ratcliffe, hammer throw final, 11.35pm