Plenty of contenders for podium in contingent

The New Zealand women’s eight makes an early start on Lake Karapiro last month on the day they...
The New Zealand women’s eight makes an early start on Lake Karapiro last month on the day they were named as part of the New Zealand Olympic rowing team. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES
A record 211 athletes will represent New Zealand at the Tokyo Olympics. Most will not win a medal, but hopes are high there will be plenty of bits of shiny metal coming home. Sports editor Hayden Meikle assesses the best New Zealand medal prospects.

Women’s eight

Sport: Rowing.

Olympic experience: Debuted at the 2016 Rio Olympics, finishing a creditable fourth — just 1.3sec off bronze.

The oil: Much, much excitement surrounds these extraordinary oarswomen. The eight has such a hold on New Zealand’s romantic sporting past, thanks to the men’s heroics in Munich in 1972. Then, in line with global rowing trends, the eight dipped in stature as the single and double scullers took over. As recently as seven years ago, New Zealand did not have a rowing eight, and was told there was no government funding available. In 2019, the Kiwi women surged to victory at the world championships, and they are favoured to win in Tokyo.

Women’s pair

Sport: Rowing.

Olympic experience: Both were in the eight that finished fourth in 2016.

The oil: Kerri Gowler and Grace Prendergast could be in line for two trips to the top step of the podium in Tokyo — they are also members of the eight. They make a phenomenal two-woman team, having set a world record time in 2017 then won the world championships in 2019. Heavy favourites.

Black Ferns Sevens

Sport: Rugby.

Olympic experience: Beaten by Australia in the 2016 final in Rio.

The oil: What chance this super team becomes one of the great New Zealand Olympic stories? Talented, strong, quick, dedicated and dominant — it would be a brave punter that bet against the women in black. Devastated to ‘‘only’’ win silver in Rio, the mighty Black Ferns responded by winning the World Cup, claiming gold at the Commonwealth Games, and rattling off a 50-game winning streak. They just win.

Valerie Adams

Sport: Shot put.

Olympic experience: Just a bit. Dame Valerie Kasanita Adams already has two Olympic gold medals and a silver.

The oil: At 36, Adams is still in prime territory for a shot putter, and just hurled 19.75m to win the last major meeting before Tokyo. She is an inspiration, a New Zealand sporting great when she’s not busy being a mum, and she might just be primed to go out on top.

Olympic bronze medallist Tom Walsh competes in the shot put during the international track meet...
Olympic bronze medallist Tom Walsh competes in the shot put during the international track meet in Christchurch in February.
Tom Walsh

Sport: Shot put.

Olympic experience: Won bronze at Rio.

The oil: Like Adams, Walsh appears to be timing his run perfectly. The 2017 world champion has won six consecutive events, but knows he will need to produce something special to knock gun American Ryan Crouser off the top spot.

Two-time gold medallist Lisa Carrington trains on Lake Pupuke in Auckland last month on the day...
Two-time gold medallist Lisa Carrington trains on Lake Pupuke in Auckland last month on the day she was named in the New Zealand Olympic canoeing team.
Lisa Carrington

Sport: Canoe sprint.

Olympic experience: Won back-to-back gold medals in the K1 200m at London and Rio, and won bronze in the 500m in 2016.

The oil: The Halberg Awards sportswoman of the decade has been an unstoppable force for a long time. Has hinted this may be her last paddle at an Olympics. Won’t be beaten in the K1 200m, and is competing in three other events.

Lewis Clareburt

Sport: Swimming.

Olympic experience: None.

The oil: Danyon Loader, Atlanta, 1996. Everyone knows the story — and everyone knows New Zealand has not won an Olympic swimming medal since the Dunedin superfish did his thing. But there are high hopes for Clareburt, especially after clocking the second-fastest time in the 400m individual medley this year.

Rio Olympic gold medallists Peter Burling and Blair Tuke run their 49er through its paces on the...
Rio Olympic gold medallists Peter Burling and Blair Tuke run their 49er through its paces on the day of announcement of the Olympic sailing team at Royal Akarana Yacht Club in Auckland last month.
Peter Burling and Blair Tuke

Sport: Sailing.

Olympic experience: Gold at Rio in 2016, silver at London in 2012.

The oil: What more can you say? Or, as the young ones would propose: name me a more iconic duo. These two remain perfectly in sync, having led Team New Zealand to America’s Cup glory and dominated the 49er class for donkey’s years. Gold medal highly probable.

Sam Meech

Sport: Sailing.

Olympic experience: Bronze at Rio in 2016.

The oil: A master of the Laser class, Meech is normally the model of consistency but has a point to prove after dropping to eighth at the world championships.

Campbell Stewart

Sport: Cycling.

Olympic experience: None.

The oil: There is normally at least one New Zealand rider, or team, who shines on the track, and plenty think it will be Stewart in Tokyo. The four-time junior world champion won the omnium at his first senior world championships in 2019. Will also race in the madison and the men’s team pursuit.

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