The longest shot almost hit the bullseye.
Little-known teenager Robert Eastham threatened to emerge
from Olympic Games obscurity before narrowly missing his
shooting final today, summing up New Zealand's frustrations
early on day seven in Beijing.
One of New Zealand's tallest athletes -- and a team member
with one of the lowest profiles -- the 1.95-metre tall,
19-year-old from Balclutha was millimetres from advancing to
the medal round of the 50-metre prone rifle after taking aim
at the Beijing Shooting Range.
Eastham surprisingly found himself in lofty company after the
first 30 shots. His 299 from a possible 300 had him trailing
the eventual top qualifier Artur (correct) Ayvazian of the
Ukraine and Finn Juha Hirvi by a solitary point.
Unfortunately the junior member of New Zealand's shooting
contingent could not sustain his accuracy though he went
agonisingly close to featuring in the nine-man final later
His final score of 594 from 600 saw him miss a shot at the
podium by a point. On countback he placed 14th in the 56-man
field -- the outstanding performance by a New Zealand
marksman at an otherwise disappointing Games.
Eastham was both elated and disappointed as he contemplated
his first Olympic Games experience.
"I shot my best, it's bloody good, but I'm disappointed to be
one shot off (the final). It's always frustrating when you
don't get a chance at a medal."
Elsewhere, Melissa Ingram and Corney Swanepoel missed their
respective finals by swimming's equivalent of the blink of an
Ingram has missed out on a place in the women's 200m
backstroke final after placing sixth in her semifinal. She
clocked two minutes 09.70 seconds to be the 11th fastest of
the 16 semifinalists, but needed to be 0.63sec quicker to
qualify for tomorrow's medal race.
Her semifinal was claimed by American Elizabeth Beisel while
Kirsty Coventry, who already has three minor medals, was top
qualifier in a time 2min 07.76sec.
Swanepoel also dipped out at The Water Cube, missing out on a
place in the 100m butterfly final after being the 12th
fastest in the semifinals.
He was also sixth in his heat in a time of 52.01 seconds,
0.23sec outside his national record set in heats last night.
He would have needed to swim 51.62sec to qualify. Swanepoel's
semifinal was won by Milorad Cavic in 50.92sec, pipping
American Michael Phelps as the fastest qualifier for the
The highly anticipated track and field programme got under
way at The Bird's Nest arena this morning with New Zealand's
initial involvement limited to heptathlete Rebecca Wardell.
She opened her two-day campaign with a season's best time of
14.07secs in the 100m hurdles -- a result that garnered her
968 points and 30th place, 190 points adrift of American
leader Hyleas Fountain.
Meanwhile, at the Olympic Basketball Gymnasium the Tall Ferns
were outgunned 90-59 by the Czech Republic, a third
successive defeat extinguishing their notional hopes of
matching the Athens team of 2004 achievement by making the
New Zealand were never in the hunt despite another
inspirational performance from pint-sized guard Angela
Marino. She produced 22 points -- thanks to four from five
three-pointers -- but had little support against the taller
Aneka Kerr (12) joined her as New Zealand other double-figure
contributor, albeit only inside the last 30sec of New
Zealand's heaviest defeat in pool play.
The 31-point margin eclipsed the 23-point loss to Spain
although a new low is almost guaranteed on Sunday when New
Zealand complete their campaign against unbeaten gold medal
favourites the United States.