Robert van Royen and Ian Anderson covered the Birmingham games for Stuff
OPINION: The New Zealand Class of 2022 can throw their mortar boards in the air at the end of the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
This country’s team clinched more gold (20) than ever before and were just a gong away from 50 with a string of memorable performances over 11 days in Birmingham.
Here is our testimony of New Zealand’s performance in each sport:
CYCLING: A Highlighted by Ellesse Andrews and Aaron Gate, who each won three gold medals, the track team helped New Zealand’s Commonwealth Games campaigns get off to a flying start at the London Velodrome. In the end, the track cyclists had 13 medals – eight of them gold – making them the best-performing country ahead of Australia. Probably only the men’s sprinters will feel like they didn’t hit the mark.
Ally Wollaston’s injury hampered the women’s road team in the time trial and road race, but Georgia Williams took bronze in the former. When Gate missed a fourth medal by one place in the time trial, he felt this could be cycling’s lot for the Games. But Gate produced one of the sport’s and New Zealand’s most memorable and meritorious rides to go down in the record books.
If Anton Cooper hadn’t signed Covid, it appears NZ would have won the trifecta in the men’s mountain bike event.
SSWIMMING/DIVING: A-. Nine medals, including five golds, was an outstanding achievement for a sport that has had little impact on the Games for most of this century, save for para-swimming superstar Dame Sophie Pascoe.
New Zealand now have a world-class medley swimmer in Lewis Clareburt – and his performances in the pool here suggested he would have been pushing much closer to a World Championships medal in Hungary in June had he not dealt with Covid and food poisoning.
Andrew Jeffcoat’s sprint backstroke gold was a joy for a swimmer who missed out on selection for the Tokyo Olympics, while 17-year-old Joshua Willmer’s triumph was a joy for both athlete and fan.
SQUASH: A-. When Joelle King was shocked by Canada’s Hollie Naughton in the women’s singles semi-final, the NZ campaign was in danger of derailing.
But Paul Coll lifted spirits by beating stubborn Welshman Joel Makin to win gold before King recovered from not getting a medal to combine first with Coll and then Amanda Landers-Murphy when the Kiwis won gold in mixed doubles and women’s doubles.
Faced with four gold was a lofty but possible goal for a team that possessed the world’s greatest man and woman.
ATHLETICS: A-. Six medals, including two gold, and impressive performances on the track from Sam Tanner and Zoe Hobbs. It’s fair to say that not much more was expected from the 17-man track and field team.
Oceanian record holder Lauren Bruce, who shot from the women’s hammer after failing to make a legitimate throw in qualifying, and Olivia McTaggart’s fourth in the women’s pole vault were instances where expectations were not lived up to.
But they were overshadowed by Hamish Kerr, who became the first male Kiwi to win gold in the high jump at the Games, and shot putter Jacko Gill, who eventually secured his first major senior medal (silver) behind Tom Walsh.
Then there was 21-year-old Tanner’s searing personal best (3m31.34s), which propelled him past Sir John Walker and Rod Dixon to second in New Zealand’s all-time 1500m list. Expect great things from him in the future.
NETBALL: B. Given the Silver Ferns’ lack of firepower, salvaging Bronze seemed like a decent result, particularly as they did against hosts England.
Finally, no Jane Watson, Karin Burger, Amelieranne Ekenasio and Katrina Rore easily let the world champion in experience over the course.
While her semi-final win over Jamaica was unacceptable, few expected this group – one coach who predicts Dame Noeline Taurua will culminate at next year’s World Cup – to do better than bronze.
TRIATHLON: B Even World Triathlon will have trouble determining if Hayden Wilde’s 10-second penalty denied him gold – or even justified it – as New Zealand’s campaign got off to a sensational start. Wilde and Yee are world class but Ainsley Thorpe’s Covid case may have knocked the team out of mixed relay medals.
Cricket: B A win against South Africa set the White Ferns up for a medal before a poor performance against the hosts brought back unpleasant World Cup memories.
But they pushed Australia harder than almost everyone expected in the semi-finals before blitzing England for a second time for a deserved bronze. Skipper Sophie Devine led from the front while there were some promising signals from the youngsters.
SEVEN: C+. Double bronze medals for the All Blacks and Black Ferns Sevens mean they will go down in Birmingham as two of New Zealand’s most disappointing players.
Sure, sevens are a fickle game, but both the men’s and women’s world champions trundled through to the semifinals only to squander golden chances in the clutch to keep their Commonwealth Games title defenses alive.
The good news is they have a chance to bury the disappointment at next month’s World Cup in South Africa.
Ice hockey 😀. It would be a different story if the reigning Black Sticks women’s champions had any idea when it came to penalties, which doomed them in both the semifinals and the bronze medal game.
To be fair, they at least reached the semi-finals during an overall disappointing performance by the New Zealand teams in Birmingham.
The Black Sticks men didn’t – not after notching just one win – against Pakistan – and narrowly salvaging a 5-5 draw with Scotland in pool play.
LAWN BOWL: B-. Three bronze medals – all by women’s teams – were an increase in the Gold Coast result, but without the ultimate result.
Judo: C+. A silver and two bronze was a definitive pass mark for the New Zealand contenders.
WEIGHTLIFTING: C. David Liti was close to his best performance and his silver was the Tin Chuckers’ only medal.
Boxing: C. A bronze for Uila Mau’u in the super heavyweight division from the ring
3×3 BASKETBALL: C. The women’s team came closest to the podium, beaten in their bronze medal game.
GYMNASTICS: C. New Zealand came close to the podium twice but found the competition fierce.
BEACH VOLLEYBALL: C+. The women’s team of Shaunna Polley and Alice Zeimann came desperately close to upsetting Canada in the semifinals, only to then miss out on a medal.
WRESTLING: C-. The Kiwi Grapplers will return from Birmingham with a lone bronze medal.
Badminton: D. The New Zealanders had no luck with their badminton game, the medals were not threatened.