Saturday August 16th 2008 will stand as the single greatest sporting day in New Zealand history, and I will be able to tell my kids that I was a part of every single moment! A few of us had decided that with all the rowing finals on in one day, plus the men's cycling individual pursuit, women's shot-put and men's 100m sprint finals, it would be worth taking a bit of a road trip around Beijing to support our team-mates. And, my, what a trip it was!
First up was a 40minute bus ride out to the rowing venue. I am not sure where it was but i think it was somewhere out in Eastern Beijing. It was a spectacularly beautiful day with so much sunshine, no smog and a very nice summer temperature which made you feel like you were getting a tan even if you weren't. We were going to see four rowing finals, Mahe Drysdale, pair Nicky Coles and Juliet Haigh, pair Nathan Twaddle and George Bridgewater, and then the Ever-Swindell twins wrapping it all up. Needless to say, if you have heard any news over the last 48 hours, you will know already what those results were! One Gold, two Bronze. New Zealand had been put well and truly on the medal board in less than two hours! It was an incredible experience to watch and see the NZ flag raised and hear the anthem, and the twins' closer-than-comfort finish had us biting our fingernails for about 3 minutes while they worked out who had one and by how much. It was just as exciting as Phelps' 100m Fly Final where he also just won by 0.01 of a second. The girls know how to entertain the crowd Below are some picture highlights for you.
Mahe Drysdale with his Bronze
Men's pair of Twaddle and Bridgewater with their BronzeThe Twins before getting their medal
The men who were there from NZ performed a Haka to congratulate the twins as they did the traditional "lap of honour" in their boat and I happened to get what I consider to be a top-class video. Enjoy!
Next, we were off to the Veledrome which was all the way on the far west-side of Beijing, although that fact was unbeknown to us as we hopped into a taxi and said "follow that one in front!" It took us about an hour with 4 people in the 3 available back seats and we had no idea where we were going and managed to lose the other taxi's on the way. Certainly an interesting ride. By the way, if you ever get the chance to ride a taxi in Beijing make sure you don't have an easily aggravated heart condition; the standard of driving is rather poor to say the least! We finally found our way to the veledrome so that we could watch Hayden Roulston in the men's race-off for Gold and Silver in the Individual Pursuit. We got to the venue with plenty of time to spare before his 7.26pm race, but discovered that this happened to be one of the few venues where the electronic accreditation check was working properly and so we weren't able to get in by pretending to be athletes for the corresponding sport. For most venues, if we catch a village bus we don't have to go through security and so can just walk into the athlete seating, even if we are not athlete's for that sport. But because we took taxi's we had to go through security, and while at some venues the electronic checking system's have been flawed and we can pass for accredited athletes for that sport, this one was not and we were faced with a bit of a dilemma as none of us had tickets either. We ended up having to pretty much push our way in behind our Chef de Mission who can get into anything and even though when we swiped our passes they flashed up Orange (which means athlete, but not for this sport - do not let in) the sight of 20 athletes barging their way in was a little overwhelming for the security volunteers and we gained entry. We then literally sprinted our way up the stairs and along the corridors to make the race as the delay in getting in had brought us to 7.23pm and we made it just in time to see the race before his.
We came, We saw, He didn't quite conquer, but he made us and NZ so ridiculously proud! It was surreal getting to see the flag lifted again for the fourth time in 4 hours. And I caught a bit for the moment for you.
We had a few hours after Hayden's medal presentation to make our way back to the village and then onto the National Stadium to watch Valerie Villi in the women's shot-put final. We figured that we had done the other's already that it would be unfair no to go and support her too! So, a bus back to the village, a quick trip to the food hall to grab dinner (lots of pizza) and plenty of water and it was back onto yet another bus to take us to the stadium. By this point we were a little bit tired and ready to lie down but we we didn't let up in our vocal support for Val and watched tentatively as each of the women went to take their attempts. We certainly made our presence to Valerie known as we were sat in the block almost directly behind the shot-put area and her coach was down the front so everytime she looked toward her we would cheer and she would wave! She led the whole way with her 1st or 2nd attempt being her best, and there was really only one other possible contender who could've upset things but at the end of 6 attempts she couldn't touch our girl and Val had won. There was a haka for her in the stands as she came to see her coach and we cheered as loud as we could considering we had been shouting all day! I didn't get any pictures because my camera had died on me after the cycling but i'm sure there was plenty of TV coverage for everyone to watch.
It was an incredible day to be a part of. It was an honour to be there for one NZ medal let alone 5, and certainly an experience I will never forget, for historic importance for our country and also the enjoyable adventure that I undertook to be a part of it! I also later found out that NZ had won the rugby against the Springboks and got to watch the men's 100m sprint at the Bird's nest that night as well which was a bonus! Fastest man in the world ever, and he slowed down at the end! Incredible, but not as good as seeing our country-men and women do us proud!
Let's Go Kiwi! Good Job Kiwi!