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March 1, 2010 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

The reverse sweep

The Reverse Sweep

The 2010 Winter Olympics are all but over, with the last of the Kiwi action airing today. It has been a bumpy ride to say the least. While the largest New Zealand team ever has been unable to really challenge for the medals, there have been promising performances from some bright prospects. This should instil some optimism in the fans, on the road to 2014.

Kendall Brown and Blake Skjellerup have been two admirable performers, and both have remarkable stories to accompany their successes. Speed skater Skjellerup had plenty of luck on his side when finishing second in his 1000-metre short track heat. After trailing for the entire race, the Kiwi was able to sneak into second—and hence the quarter finals—following the collision of two competitors on the final lap. The race sparked memories of Australian Steven Bradbury’s gold medal winning run—probably the luckiest of all time—at the 2002 games.

There was nothing lucky about snowboarder Kendall Brown’s 15th placing in the half-pipe. Vancouver has been 20-year-old Brown’s second Olympics, having finished 25th at Turin in 2006, at the age of just 16. Brown was also joined by her brother Mitch this year, and showed grit and determination beyond her years when making her later runs with a twice dislocated shoulder. Another snowboarder to watch out for in the future is 18-year-old Rebecca Sinclair, New Zealand’s youngest athlete in Vancouver, who finished a creditable 21st in her first games.

One of the major disappointments of the games for New Zealand has been the number of withdrawals from events, due to injury and illness. Skeleton racer Iain Roberts was not the only athlete to have troubles on the the track he describes as “an unforgiving beast”, after receiving neck abrasions from crashing in practice. Roberts rebounded to race in the competition, only to eventually pull out due to concussion received from a second run crash.

The most publicised issue was the withdrawal of cross country skier Ben Koons, due to higher than permitted haemoglobin levels. Koons was barred from competition for five days—which meant he missed his first two events—before his haemoglobin levels returned to normal, proving the results were not sinister. Koons was then free to compete in the 30km and 50km pursuits, only to pull out of the 30km event part way through, due to a stomach bug. Another to succumb to illness was fellow cross-country skier Katie Calder, who was unable to start her final event because of gastroenteritis.  

While Vancouver has not been a huge success for New Zealand, it was never expected to be, with no Kiwi athletes ranked in the top ten. However, there have been five top 20 performances, and it was a refreshing change to watch something different to ordinary Kiwi sports… with the exception of curling.

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