Lisa Carrington cemented her place as one of NZ’s greatest Olympians, reaping two gold medals with the help of another powerhouse Kiwi paddler. Our daily wrap, looking at the fortunes of our NZ sportswomen, continues. 

Performances of the day

Can we mere mortals, watching on in awe, fathom how gigantic and taxing Lisa Carrington’s triumph was on the Sea Forest Waterway on Tuesday?

The phenomenal Kiwi paddler won four Olympic canoe sprint races within four hours. And they weren’t just any races: two Olympic semifinals and two finals, and in two different boats.

And for the 32-year-old’s unrelenting efforts, she walked away with two gold medals, sharing one of them with a new Olympic champion, Caitlin Regal.  

Carrington’s medal haul from the K1 200m and K2 500m lifts her career tally to five medals from three Olympic Games. It puts her equal with two other legendary paddlers Ian Ferguson and Paul MacDonald, and equestrian Sir Mark Todd, as New Zealand’s most decorated Olympic athletes.

She’s also one of only two New Zealanders, along with rower Hamish Bond, to win golds in three consecutive Olympics – and the only one to win it in the same event. 

If things work to Carrington’s meticulous plan, she could win two more medals at these Olympics, staking her place in the history books, trailblazing in a field of her own.

Ferguson, it seems, would be quite happy to hand over the mantle he’s held for almost 30 years to her. He was thrilled watching Carrington cement her place as one of New Zealand’s greatest Olympians on Tuesday.

“I think it’s just awesome that a kayaker – someone from my sport – is doing it. It’s the best result I could wish for,” he said. 

He felt nervous, yet confident the entire time. “Because she made it easy for people watching by taking the lead straight away. I knew it would happen as soon as I saw her go.”

Lisa Carrington powers off the start line to claim her third straight Olympic gold in the K1 200m in Tokyo. Photo: Getty Images. 

Carrington’s incredible career has been built around planning, worked out with her coach, Gordon Walker.  And their planning had to be pinpoint accurate on day two of her six consecutive days of racing in Tokyo. 

In between her semifinals, Carrington could be seen refuelling with snacks underneath an umbrella and draped in cold wet towels.

“There is always a plan, but it’s a different thing to execute it. It was a huge challenge to be able to stick to that plan through the day,” she said. “But I guess I’m just so fortunate to have Caitlin as such an amazing team-mate. To be able to go out there with someone, and do what we just did, I’m just super proud of her. And of our team, because our team has worked so hard as well.”

Carrington’s first final, in the K1 200m – an event she hasn’t lost a race in for almost 10 years – was never in doubt. After setting an Olympic best time in her semifinal, she bolted out to nearly half-a-boat-length lead from the get-go in the final. And nothing had changed when she crossed for her third consecutive Olympic gold medal in her specialist event, in yet another Olympic record of 38.120s.

Her recovery time of just over an hour before the K2 500m final was shortened further as she had to attend her medal ceremony. In a lovely Kiwi kind-of moment, BMX Olympic silver medallist and IOC member Sarah Walker presented Carrington with her gold.

If the K2 500m semifinal victory with Regal earlier on Tuesday was anything to go by, the New Zealanders looked strong prospects for a medal.

And any doubts over whether Carrington could back up her solo final performance were quickly allayed. The pair had an outstanding start, again leading the field from the outset, and won in an Olympic best time of 1m 35.785s ahead of Poland and Hungary. It may have been Carrington’s fourth Olympic medal, but it was her first in a team event, and it was Regal’s first Olympic medal of any hue.

“It’s pretty incredible, but I think this is a testament to the day and the team and the planning,” said Regal (nee Ryan). “And I think we were clear we had to really bundle together, do what we do on a daily basis, and that was come together and work together.

“I’m so proud of Lis really keeping it cool amongst the massive day. But also the planning that went into getting to this point is part of our result.”

Carrington’s three Olympic medals have all been in the K1 boat (she won bronze in the K1 500 in Rio 2016), which made winning with Regal special. 

“Just to even get an Olympic medal is so special, and I know how hard that is from what I’ve done individually. But to be able to do that with a team-mate and racing against the best countries in the world – to think that we were able to get on top of the podium today is just so special,” she said. 

A jubilant Caitlin Regal and Lisa Carrington as they cross the K2 500m finish as the new Olympic champions. Photo: Getty Images. 

Like Ōhope-raised Carrington, Regal grew up at the beach. In Orewa, north of Auckland, she was a competitive swimmer, and learned to paddle through surf lifesaving, taking out numerous national titles. She was in her 20s when she first tried canoe sprint, and has gone on to claim gold and silver world championship medals. She was part of the young New Zealand team at the Rio Olympics who were fifth in the K4 500m.

Neither athlete has time to soak up the glory in the hot Tokyo sun, as they both return to the water on Wednesday for the K1 500m heats, where they will be competing against one another.

It should be a great contest as Carrington is the reigning champion over the longer sprint distance, but Regal set a world record in the K1 500m in 2018. 

But it also won’t be a walk in the park for the Kiwis, as they’ll have the current world record holder, Hungarian Danuta Kozak, paddling against them. The K1 500m is her specialty event and she already has five Olympic golds to her name.

Carrington and Regal will have one more event after that, joining forces with Alicia Hoskins and Teneale Hatton in the K4 boat over 500m on Friday. (Hoskins and Hatton finished sixth in the K2 500m B final on Tuesday).

Carrington now holds 17 world champion medals,10 are gold, and five Olympic medals. New Zealand will soon learn if she can add two more to her unbelievable tally.

Quote of the Day

“It’s very emotional. There’s so much that’s gone into this for Lisa. She’s had a hell of a lot of challenges these last 12 months and for her to come through and have a result like that, in front of the world, it’s a relief. And I’m just so happy for her because she deserves every bit of it,” Lisa Carrington’s partner, Michael Buck, after she won the K1 200m Olympic gold for a third time. 

Images of the day 

YouTube video

The good news

New Zealand won four medals in total in Tokyo on Tuesday – America’s Cup maestros Blair Tuke and Peter Burling winning silver in the 49erFX class in a nail-biting final medal race (to add to the gold and silver they already have). And although heavyweight boxer David Nyika lost to Russian world champion Muslim Gadzhimagomedov in his semifinal, it meant he automatically won bronze. 

Kiwi hammer thrower Julia Ratcliffe has finished ninth in her first Olympic competition. Ratcliffe’s first throw in the final, 72.61m, was the third best after the first round, when five of the 12 throwers notched up fouls.

Her second throw was her best, at 72.69m, but as the rest of the field warmed up, she just missed the top eight cut-off by 18cm. It was still an impressive debut for the 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist. 

United States gymnast Simone Biles has returned to Olympic competition and won the bronze medal in the beam final. Biles has been under the spotlight, even more so at these Games, after withdrawing early on in the team all-around final. She then opted out for health reasons of the other four events she qualified for, including the individual all-around, bars, floor and vault finals. This is her seventh Olympic medal over two Games, tying the record for the most decorated US gymnast. But the world will wait to see what Biles decides to do next.

The not-so-good-news

The New Zealand team pursuit squad have ended up eighth in Tokyo, after first missing out on the bronze medal ride-off on Tuesday night. 

In their first round against Australia, the Kiwis set a national record time of 4m 10.223s but still finished 0.23s behind the Aussies. Time was of the essence though, with the two quickest times from six nations going into the race-off for bronze. The Kiwis then came apart in their race for seventh with France. Great Britain and then Germany both set world record times during the evening, and it was the Germans who won the gold. 

Equestrian Uma O’Neill, who was called up to compete for the New Zealand team at the eleventh hour, finished 64th in the showjumping event and will not progress to the final. 

What the?!

After Canada shocked world champions USA, 1-0, in their Olympic semifinal, American soccer star Megan Rapinoe’s response was pretty brutal.

“We never want to lose to Canada. I don’t think I’ve ever lost to Canada,” the famous mauve-haired forward said. “It sucks.”

The US lost their star goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher to a knee injury 30 minutes into the game, but it would have been hard for any keeper to stop the penalty shot drilled in by Canadian midfielder Jessie Fleming in the 74th minute.

It means we’ll now see the first openly transgender athlete, Quinn, win an Olympic medal in Friday’s final with Sweden. Toronto midfielder Quinn, who’s non-binary and uses they/them pronouns, came out last year. 

US shot put silver medallist Raven Saunders’ demonstration on the medal podium on Sunday has got her in hot water.

Saunders, who wore a comic character mask during her competition (finishing one place ahead of Dame Valerie Adams), raised her arms and crossed them into an X after receiving her medal, later explaining it was to represent “the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet.” The 25-year-old gay athlete has spoken frankly about her mental health struggles in the past.

The IOC partially relaxed rules on demonstrations and protests for these Olympics, but insist acts on the podium are still banned, and warned athletes could be sanctioned. They are now discussing Saunders’ demonstration with World Athletics and the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

Rikki’s pick

Lydia Ko plays her first of four rounds in the women’s golf on Wednesday, and she’s caught the attention of Sky Sport’s Rikki Swannell. “It’s been a tumultuous five years for Lydia Ko since winning silver at the Rio Olympics, but she comes into this Olympic golf tournament after some confidence boosting performances. Ko won her first title since 2018 earlier this year and was sixth at the Evian Championship last week.

“The women’s field of 60 is stacked with the majority of the world’s best golfers, and with much of the focus on the South Korean and US players, Ko may be able to fly under the radar in the early stages.”

Who’s up on Wednesday

GOLF: Lydia Ko, stroke play round one, 11:40am

CANOE SPRINT: Lisa Carrington, Caitlin Regal, K1 500m sprint heat, 1:20pm.

CYCLING: Ellesse Andrews, Keirin heat, 7:10pm

EQUESTRIAN: Uma O’Neill, individual jumping final, 10pm

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