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The Tokyo Lowdown: Day 7 glory

In one of NZ's great Olympic days - three medals on the rowing course - the fairytale of Emma Twigg stands out. LockerRoom's daily wrap of our Kiwi sportswomen continues.

First Kiwi Olympic gymnast still does the splits at 75

As Maddie Davidson becomes our first female Olympic trampolinist, Dido Götz recalls competing in NZ's first gymnastics team at an Olympics - also in Tokyo, but 57 years earlier. 

The Tokyo Lowdown: Day 6

Can the new Olympic champion rowing pair bring home a pair of golds from Tokyo? Are we about to see one of NZ's most memorable Olympic days? LockerRoom's daily wrap of our Kiwi sportswomen continues.

Simone Biles is taking back her power

Kiwi Olympic gymnast Angela Walker on the seismic shift in global gymnastics with Simone Biles taking back control of her career and her life.

Elley's West Coast grit flows through to Tactix

As the Tactix go into their do-or-die netball league clash, loyal midcourter Charlotte Elley takes her West Coaster nana's moxie with her. 

When the churning waters of the one-in-100-year flood raged through her hometown of Westport, Charlotte Elley was reminded of what stoic, stubborn stock she comes from.

Elley may live in Christchurch now, but she's a West Coaster through and through - proud of the fact she was brought up there, and that it’s still home to most of her family.

That includes her grandmother Rea - now in her mid-80s and Elley’s greatest fan and harshest critic.

When the red-alert storm hit Westport almost a fortnight ago and half the town’s population were evacuated as the banks of the Buller River burst, 'Nana Rea' dug her toes in.

“Nana didn’t want to leave, she couldn’t understand why she had to. She’s so stubborn, eh? A tough old nut,” Elley laughs.

“She ended up being evacuated three times, from every house she was moved to. It was quite a rigmarole.”

Elley’s parents were also evacuated from their home at Carter’s Beach and returned two days later to find it unscathed. Elley knows how lucky they and Nana Rae were – at least 400 houses have serious damage, at least 100 families can’t live in their homes. Her dad has been helping rip sodden carpet out of many of them.

There’s a touch of that stoicism in Elley’s netball game – her grit, patience and dependability have made the loyal Tactix player one of the best wing defences in the country.   

In her sixth season with the Tactix, Elley rarely gets back to the West Coast during the netball season: “Especially in winter, you can’t trust the roads with snow and slips.”

Tactix WD Charlotte Elley with her nana, Rea. Photo: supplied. 

But she’s in contact with Nana Rea at least twice a week. Every year, the Elley family give her a Sky Sport subscription so she can watch her grand-daughter play in the ANZ Premiership.

“I get a few phone calls before the game and she tells me what to do. And afterwards she’ll give me a rundown of the game,” Elley says.

“I doubt she ever played the game; she had seven kids. But she’s learned so much since I’ve been playing; she’s become quite analytical. She has a classic one-liner: ‘Go win’. I try to do that every time.” Elley laughs.

She’ll take that pearl of Nana’s wisdom into Sunday’s elimination final against the Steel in Invercargill; the winner goes into the grand final against the Mystics in Auckland the following weekend.

Elley, who’s been a rock in the side this season, acknowledges the Tactix have had a turbulent 2021 - the preseason favourites finished the 15 rounds in third.

“We came through the preseason firing and then had a lull, and now we’ve finally hit our straps. We’ve gelled and learned, and our combinations have grown,” says the 25-year-old. She and wing attack Erikana Pedersen are the longest-serving Tactix players. 

Her own game has been lifted, Elley says, with the arrival of goal defence Karin Burger, the Silver Fern transferring from the Pulse this season. She’s running hot to collect the MVP of this year’s league, and her energy and commitment to stealing the ball has been infectious.  

“She’s incredible. She thinks about everything and questions why,” Elley says. “She’s so bubbly and caring too.”

Karin Burger (left) and Charlotte Elley meet mid-air when they were on opposing ANZ Premiership sides in 2020. Photo: Getty Images. 

Netball may not know how close they were to losing Elley to another code.

At Buller High School, basketball was her top priority. She played in the school's B netball team because she couldn’t go away in tournament week for both sports.

She was encouraged to go to the United States on a college basketball scholarship, but Elley didn’t want to leave home. “So I couldn’t see a future in basketball for me, but with netball I could,” she says.

“So I thought I might as well go and try my luck in the game.” She became a boarder at St Andrew’s College in Christchurch for her last two years of high school and was drafted into the Tactix wider squad while she was still in Year 12 – catching the eye of former Silver Fern coach, Leigh Gibbs.

She made the New Zealand Secondary Schools side in 2014, and was vice captain of the New Zealand U21 side who won the 2017 World Youth Cup in Botswana.

Not the tallest of players, Elley moved out of the defensive circle and found her place in the midcourt. She’s come to make the wing defence role her own in the Tactix defence.

“It’s a funny position, but I love it,” she says. “To be fair, I’d play any position just to be on the court. But if you’re at wing defence, you’ve got to own it.

“Last year we were light on numbers at training so Mits [Tactix coach Marianne Delaney-Hoshek] played wing D. She turned to me and said: ‘Charlotte, I hate this position. I get no ball, it’s no fun’,” Elley remembers.

“I was like ‘Marianne, I know. It’s a thankless role... and you’ve only been there for 10 minutes’.”

There's no doubt Elley would like the chance to play for her country again, this time in the Silver Ferns.

“When I sit down with my athlete life advisor, I say ‘Yep I’d love to be there’. I know New Zealand A is a stepping-stone, and obviously I’d love to crack that,” she says.

“You’re always gutted when you don’t make it, but you come back and assess why not and you work on those things; try and be better each season.

“But you can only do what you can do. I put out my best performance each week, but I’m doing it for Tactix first and foremost and if anything comes of it, it’s a great by-product.”

Charlotte Elley, who's only ever played national league netball for the Tactix, signs autographs for her Christchurch fans. Photo: Getty Images. 

Netball has taken a higher priority in Elley’s life this year. With a bachelor of commerce majoring in supply chain from Lincoln University, she works for meat company ANZCO Foods, one of New Zealand’s largest exporters.

“I love my job, but I seem to overcommit to work, have a burnout, then bounce back. So I made a conscious decision this year to only work 20 hours a week, because I really wanted to give my netball a crack, have the downtime and do the recovery,” she says.

She’s grateful her boyfriend, Canterbury Crusaders halfback Mitchell Drummond, understands her workload. “We can support each other. Our lives can get a bit hectic,” she laughs. “Though I have him on that I have to work two jobs and he only works one.”

Yet Elley wouldn’t have it any other way. “I go to work in my office wearing my heels and 10 minutes before, I was wearing sneakers and dripping with sweat,” she says.  “It makes me switch off netball, which is good.”

She’s proud, too, that she’s got many of her workmates watching netball. “There are a lot of men in the meat industry, and they're watching the game now. They hit me up with their advice as well,” she says. “It’s what we want - more people interested in the game.”

No matter the results over the next two weekends, Elley says she happy with where she's at: “I love my life. Everything is falling in place for me.”

* The ANZ Premiership elimination final between the Tactix and the Steel is in Invercargill on Sunday at 4pm, live on Sky Sport 1.

The Detail: Skimping on comfort for the TV screens

The Olympic-sized row over the state of uniforms in some women's sports.

Women's football on the rise in Oceania

The Oceania Football Confederation has launched a women's football strategy - a first in the region. Ashley Stanley learns how OFC want to get two competitive teams into the 2027 World Cup

Torijan Lyne-Lewis’s main sports goal is to play in a women’s football World Cup. 

The 26-year-old Samoan football representative has played the sport in New Zealand for as long as she can remember.  “I think that is a dream everyone has secretly inside of them, even if they don’t play sports,” says Lyne-Lewis. 

But, there’s a major uphill battle when it comes to fulfilling World Cup goals for some footballers and their countries. 

History isn’t on Lyne-Lewis’s side as Samoa has never qualified for the pinnacle tournament. In fact, other than New Zealand, no other country in the Oceania region has accomplished the feat of World Cup qualifying. (Technically Australia has, but they’re no longer under the Oceania Football Confederation banner - and that’s another story).

New Zealand have automatically qualified for the 2023 Football World Cup as co-hosts with Australia. And they've just finished as the only OFC country at the Tokyo Olympics, losing all three games in the ‘Pool of Death’ (with Australia, the United States and Sweden).

But with a surge in interest and investment on this side of the Pacific, football fortunes may soon be changing. And Lyne-Lewis may be able to achieve her long-term goal.

The OFC has recently launched its first strategy dedicated to the women’s game - with the ultimate goal of getting two competitive teams into the 2027 FIFA Women’s World Cup. 

Crystal Dunn #2 of Team United States makes a pass whilst under pressure from Betsy Hassett #12 of New Zealand at the Tokyo Olympics. Photo: Getty Images.

There are many initiatives and much work to be done across the 11 countries in the region, but with a set plan it seems more achievable. 

The strategy focuses on five key areas, such as raising awareness of possibilities, breaking down barriers to participation, and creating a culture where OFC is leading by example in governance to improve gender equality.

Emma Evans, OFC’s women’s football manager, was key in bringing the strategy together with member associations, after work began a year ago.

“Every staff member at OFC also played a role in developing this strategy and while I will lead the delivery and implementation, the strategy will be the responsibility of the entire organisation to bring it to life,” says Evans, who also played, and eventually coached, football at an elite level. 

Ambassadors have been named from each country. 

Lyne-Lewis is Samoa’s representative and 19-year-old Teretia Teinaki is the Cook Islands ambassador. 

They have different experiences of football - and hope to use what they’ve learned to promote the sport and the benefits it’s provided. 

Teinaki moved from the Cook Islands to New Zealand two years ago for study. She is completing a bachelor of sport and recreation degree with a double major in sport management and sport exercise science. 

Teretia Teinaki with Lawna Kani, Maori Football Aotearoa secretary, at the OFC women's football strategy launch. Photo: OFC.

After studying, she would like to join a sports organisation, ideally in football, and eventually play in a professional league. She'd be the first Cook Island women’s player, to her knowledge, to do that.

Teinaki was shocked to receive the ambassador role. But is happy to promote football for women in the Oceania region.  “I think it’s a good strategy and it's achievable if everyone works on it,” says Teinaki, who also plays for Manukau United in south Auckland.

Back home in the Cook Islands the sport is growing, Teinaki says. “I think there’s an U16 girls team coming over soon for a New Zealand tour, so that’s good.”

She started playing football seven years ago through a school competition, then moved into playing for club and the football academy in the Cook Islands, eventually debuting for the national side four years ago. 

Lyne-Lewis on the other hand is Samoan, Indonesian and lives in Palmerston North. 

But she recently moved clubs to play for Wairarapa United in Masterton. Even though it means extra travel time throughout the week for training sessions and games, the change was influenced by coach Paul Ifill. 

“I basically wanted to play for him and just recently found out that he’s the new coach for the Samoa football team,” says Lyne-Lewis.

“So I’m in an amazing and unique situation where I can actually play locally and internationally for the same coach.”

Torijan Lyne-Lewis playing for Wairarapa United. Photo: RefereeWorx.

Born and raised in New Zealand, Lyne-Lewis made the Samoan team at the start of 2019 after attending a camp in Auckland. She went along when her good friend and now fellow teammate Riva Fuimaono suggested she trial. 

“It was very cool. It was a bit of a surprise because I went along to the trial exploring an option,” says Lyne-Lewis. From there she was selected and went to the Pacific Games in Samoa. 

Long term, making a World Cup is the goal. But short term, getting more training camps with the Samoan side is important. 

“Also some series or games together so we can get that competitiveness and build up that team cohesion,” Lyne-Lewis says. “So, when it comes to the Nations Cups, which are the World Cup qualifiers, we are ready for that.”

It was a big decision to play for Samoa but one she knew would be a “real honour for my family.”

Covid-19 has unfortunately stopped the side’s momentum. “We did really well at the Pacific Games, we actually came second,” Lyn-Lewis says. “We just missed out on winning that final so it would’ve been really great to have continued that momentum.”

 Evans says women’s football in the Pacific has grown immensely despite Covid-19 challenges. 

Leading from the front in the Solrais Women's Premier League in the Solomon Islands. Photo: OFC.

“This is an extremely exciting time for women’s football on this side of the world...I have no doubt that we will see an increase in the development, growth and sustainability of women’s football across Oceania.”

 In some places, it’s already happening. And Evans has seen the changes. 

 There is now a full-time women’s football development officer in each member association, with some organisations employing more than one. 

And community programmes attracting women to participate like the Heilala Manongi Project in Tonga, a pilot mini-tournament, that had up to 400 people attend the first hit out, and the creation of women leagues in other smaller nations. 

“Having a key person to drive the women’s game in each country has made a huge difference to the number of programmes available for girls and women to participate in, both on and off the pitch and this will only continue to grow,” Evans says.

“Working in the Pacific means working with people who are proud of their culture, their community, their people and of course, football. 

“This has ensured a holistic approach to women’s football – it is not only about increasing the development and sustainability of football or creating better performances on the world stage, but also about using football as a tool to build stronger, more inclusive communities.” 

The Tokyo Lowdown: Day 5

With an Olympic silver medal and a world record row, Kiwi sportswomen were back winning on the water on Day 5.  LockerRoom's daily wrap on the fortunes of our female athletes continues.

Performances of the day

It was Brooke Donoghue and Hannah Osborne’s time to shine. The women's double scull duo brought home silver - New Zealand’s second medal of three so far at these Olympics - and opened the floodgates for possibly another four rowing medals in the next 48 hours on the Sea Forest Waterway.  

Soon after the medal ceremony, Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler set themselves up for a real shot at gold on Thursday, claiming back their world record in a blistering pair semifinal. They'll be back on the water in the women's eight final on Friday.

But today belonged to Donoghue and Osborne, who's fledgling combination is little more than two months old. 

Osborne somewhat controversially replaced Olivia Loe in the double scull just before the New Zealand rowing team for Tokyo was named, as selectors looked for more speed. Loe, who'd twice won the world title with Donoghue, instead moved into the New Zealand quad - who ended their Olympic campaign today eighth overall.

So it's the names of Donoghue and Osborne that go down in Olympic history.

The Kiwis were fourth after the first 500m, but worked their way to second at the halfway mark, and held off The Netherlands and Lithuania for the silver. But the gold was never in doubt - the Romanians, Ancuta Bodnar and Simon Radis, led from the start and finished with an Olympic record, three seconds ahead of the Kiwis.

Donoghue had been imagining this moment "every day for the last two years, and even longer... every session for the past 11 years," she said afterwards. "It’s just huge; this is what it’s about, it’s crazy.”

The Kiwi double - Brooke Donoghue and Hannah Osborne - powering through the OIympic field to claim silver in Tokyo. Photo: Getty Images. 

For Osborne, it was a little more surreal. She was overwhelmed, she said, arriving back at the NZ Team's village quarters. "You see everyone who does well getting these big welcomes coming in, and I never thought that it would be me."

Osborne, though, would have to have been inspired by fellow Piopio College student, Rob Waddell - Olympic single sculls gold medallist in 2000, and now chef de mission of the NZ team.

She's been part of the New Zealand quad and was our top single sculler before Emma Twigg came out of retirement. Off the water, she's studying for a bachelor of environmental planning.

Both Donoghue and Osborne’s parents sat side-by-side watching the race onfold on the big screen at the NZHQ on Auckland's waterfront. 

Donoghue’s parents travelled up from their small settlement of Waiterimu near Te Kauwhata. “They’ll be feeling relieved. And they’ve got a medal. The work has all paid off,” said proud mum Leanne.

Was she confident they would win a medal? “I think you always are, but they hadn’t raced for two years. Olympics are so different from world champs and World Cup regattas. Everyone comes out fighting.” Her daughter is a country girl at heart - "a bit of a greenie" - working towards a Masters of management specialising in sustainability.

Prendergast and Gowler could well be the next Kiwis on rowing's podium. They won their pair semifinal with their world best time of 6m 47.41s - after the Greek pair had stolen the Kiwi world champions' record from them in the earlier semifinal.

That competitiveness sets up a great final tomorrow, before Prendergast and Gowler back it up on Friday with the eight final. They managed to secure gold in both the eight and the pair at the 2019 world championships so it's possible they'll do the same in Tokyo.  (The men's eight will also row for a medal on Friday).

Emma Twigg heads into the single scull semifinal Thursday aiming to make Friday's final and a place on the dais in her fourth attempt. 

Images of the day

Quote of the day

“I just want to cry, I’m so happy. I’m absolutely over the moon,” Hannah Osborne moments after winning silver in the double scull.

The good news

Erica Dawson has made her Olympic sailing debut on Enoshima Harbour, a little over a month after fracturing her leg in a training accident, falling off the Nacra 17.

Dawson’s intense rehab got her on the startline in the mixed foiling catamaran with crewmate Micah Wilkinson on Wednesday. They had a relatively consistent day – an 11th and two 12ths – in testing sea conditions, to sit in 13th overall. “It was more the fact we needed to sharpen up our sailing skills rather than worrying about the leg, which is a good way to be,” Dawson said. "It was just about hanging in there today, and we did that.”

Olympic sailing debutant Erica Dawson hopes to have fewer nerves on Day 2 of Nacra 17 sailing tomorrow. Photo: Michael Brown.

And after their shocker start, the 49erFX crew of Alex Maloney and Molly Meech had a much better second day - two fourths and an 11th - to move up to ninth overall. 

Luuka Jones was back on the canoe slalom course today, this time in the C-1 heats, after falling short in the K-1 final yesterday. She finished in 11th place with her second run time of 115.19s to advance to the semifinals, and hopefully the top 10 final tomorrow evening. 

The not-so-good-news

The Black Sticks have come down from two consecutive wins against Argentina and Japan, to lose 2-1 to Spain, ranked seventh in the world to New Zealand's sixth. 

It was a slow start for the New Zealanders, down 2-0 at halftime - the first goal from Spain came six minutes into the match, followed by the second shortly after from a penalty corner. Kelsey Smith got the Kiwis on the board in the third quarter, her strike across the face of the goal deflected in off a Spanish defender, and in the dying seconds there was a chance to draw but Olivia Merry's corner shot was blocked. 

The Black Sticks will have to regroup quickly as they take on archrivals Australia early Friday morning NZ time. The top four nations from each pool qualify for the quarterfinals, and the loss set New Zealand back to second in Pool B behind the Aussies. 

Natalie Rooney, New Zealand's silver medallist in trap shooting in Rio, had a rough first day, sitting in 18th out of 26, with a total of 69 out of 100.

She'll be back tomorrow, surely all guns blazing, in tomorrow's last two qualification rounds before the medal shoot-off. 

The women's 4x 200m freestyle team of Erika Fairweather, Carina Doyle, Ali Galyer, and Eve Thomas finished sixth in their heat. As they sit outside the top eight, they will not progress to the final on Thursday. 

Some coverage of Simone Biles' decision to withdraw from the team finals has drawn criticism. And rightly so.

It seems more athletes are opening up around their mental health and wellbeing, and how it impacts on their performance and everyday life. Tennis sensation Naomi Osaka announced she wouldn't attend post-media press conferences at the French Open, for the sake of her own wellbeing.

Biles felt the need to protect herself and her teammates so opted to do the same.

Gymnastics superstar Simone Biles has also withdrawn from the all-round women's Olympic competition. Photo: Getty Images.

The 24-year-old completed one vault rotation in the team final on Tuesday night before speaking with her team doctor, and didn't return to the floor.

The US still managed to bag silver, behind the Russia Olympic Committee. But some spectators thought Biles should’ve pushed through the self-doubt and unclear 'headspace'. 

“I didn’t want to go into any of the other events second-guessing myself,” says Biles. “So, I thought it would be better if I took a step back and let these girls go out there and do their job. So it just sucks that it happens here at the Olympic Games than have it happen at any other time."

Biles has also withdrawn from the all-around final and will decide if she competes in the four remaining events she qualified for in Tokyo.

What the?! 

Even though the show is well and truly rolling on at the Games, you’ve got to spare a thought for those athletes who didn’t even get to the start-line because of coronavirus.

There were more than 15 new cases of coronavirus recorded at the beginning of this week among those involved at the Olympics including several athletes. That brings the total to more than 150 connected to the major event, including 19 athletes, who wouldn’t have been able to fulfil their dreams - instead tucked away in a quarantine hotel for a mandatory 10-days.

On Tuesday it was confirmed Tokyo had the highest number of daily coronavirus cases, sitting at 2,848. The previous highest was 2,520 in early January.

Something to think about as the world keeps their eyes peeled on the Tokyo Olympic bubble.

The All Black Sevens won silver in the men's final tonight, going down 27-12 to Fiji. But some of the Black Ferns Sevens have been keeping themselves entertained waiting to take the field for the first time on Thursday when they tackle Kenya in their opening match.


Rikki's pick(s)

It's getting too hot to handle over in Tokyo, so Sky Sport presenter Rikki Swannell is breaking the rules and going with more than one pick today.

"It’s hard to go past Grace Prendegast and Kerri Gowler in the women’s pair final after that magnificent row in the semis where they set a world best time," says Swannell. "They were already favourites for gold, but now it’s hard to see anyone stopping them.

"But honestly, just do yourself a favour and watch it all. The women’s sevens team are underway, Natalie Rooney in action, Luuka Jones back at it, the Black Sticks against Australia and the remarkable Erica Dawson in the Nacra sailing. So many great Kiwi women across the board."

Who's up on Thursday 

TRAP SHOOTING: Natalie Rooney, qualification and medal round, 12pm

ROWING: Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler, pairs final, 12.30pm; Emma Twigg, single sculls semifinal, 1.50pm. 

BMX: Rebecca Petch, racing quarterfinals, 1.20pm

SEVENS: Black Ferns 7s v Kenya, 2.30pm; Black Ferns v Great Britain, 9.30pm.

SAILING: Erica Dawson and Micah Wilkinson, Nacra17, 3pm

CANOE SLALOM: Luuka Jones, C1 semifinals, 5pm; final 7pm.

SWIMMING: Eve Thomas, 800m freestyle heat, 10pm; Ali Galyer, 200m backstroke heat, 11pm.

HOCKEY: Black Sticks v Australia, 12.15am (Friday)

The Tokyo Lowdown: Day 4

Was there something in Tokyo's water for Kiwi sportswomen as they struggled on the big stage on Day 4? LockerRoom's daily look at the fortunes of our female athletes continues.

Performances of the day

Luuka Jones lay her head on her paddle after her run in the canoe slalom final, devastated.

After five years of training - a lot of it isolated from her sport's powerhouse in Europe - the Kiwi paddler's fourth Olympic campaign came undone in just under 111 seconds. 

Just four seconds quicker on the tricky Kasai whitewater course, and Jones would have returned to the Olympic medal dais. But as it was, the 2016 Rio silver medallist had to settle for sixth. 

Her disappointment was obvious, after the three medallists in the women's K1 hung their medals around their own necks.

She was in really good shape, physically, the 32-year-old said, her voice faltering. "I think I just started losing a bit of time and let that get to me. Started being too aggressive and wasn't patient enough."

Jones had come through the qualifying rounds as the third-fastest paddler on Sunday, and was fifth fastest after Tuesday afternoon's semifinal run, when she hit a gate mid-race and incurred a two-second penalty. She looked strong and fast, and still a medal contender - sitting ahead of Rio gold medallist Maialen Chourraut of Spain, and not far behind one of her great rivals, Australian Jessica Fox, the favourite to win her first gold.

But in her final run two hours later, halfway through the 10 finallists, Jones was hesitant at the difficult sixth gate, and then at gate 22 of 25 she looked to almost lose control of her kayak, but just pulled it back. But in a sport determined by split second decisions, those stutters counted against her. 

"Yeah, I'm really gutted. Yeah, I put a lot of work into this. Not just me but a lot of people." Like her coach, and partner, Scotsman Campbell Walsh - an Olympic silver medallist in 2004. 

"You have to be happy with who you are, you can't judge yourself on the outcomes of sport. You just have to learn from things like this, move on and be better." She has less than 24 hours to do it, in the C1 heats on Wednesday, as the discipline makes its Olympic debut.

As it turned out, world No.1 Fox didn't win gold either. While her run was incredibly quick, she hit two gates and fell back to bronze, behind Chourratt in silver and German Ricarda Funk, gold (for the record in 105.50s).

Images of the day

The good news

On the first gloomy, wet morning of these Olympics, New Zealand's triathlete women didn't fare well: Ainsley Thorpe crashing out on Tokyo roads slick with rain, and a "buggered" Nicole van der Kaay battling home in 29th. But, if you're looking for a glimmer of good news amidst the gloom of Day 4: Thorpe wasn't hurt and is fine to race in the first Olympic mixed teams relay event this weekend. 

Thorpe, the Auckland athlete profiled with her brother Trent in our Olympic Bonds series, was devastated as her race ended prematurely, crashing off her bike rounding a corner in the first lap of the 40km bike section. She'd been in 15th place coming out of the swim, 51s behind the leaders.

Other riders began to fall like flies in the treacherous conditions on the back of Typhoon Nepartak; 20 women pulling out of the 54-strong field.

Van der Kaay explained how she had to play it safe riding on corners, especially after seeing Thorpe take a tumble. But she still gave it her all: “I’m pretty buggered. It was a hard day out there. I hoped for more but, that was all I could do today.’’  She finished almost eight minutes adrift of Bermuda's first gold medallist (and only second-ever medallist) Flora Duffy.

Thorpe and van der Kaay, who won bronze in the 2018 Commonwealth Games mixed teams relay, join Tayler Reid and newly-minted men's bronze medallist, Hayden Wilde, in Saturday morning's teams event.

The not-so-good-news

It was a nightmarish first day on Enoshima Harbour for Rio silver medal 49erFX sailors, Alex Maloney and Molly Meech - who capsized, were then disqualified from the next race, before salvaging a 5th placing from their third start.

In shifty winds, the Kiwi duo were up to third in the opening race, when a gust caught approaching the bottom mark. Meech missed her trapeze wire, falling overboard before the skiff capsized. They recovered to be 16th across the finishline, only to cross the startline early in the next race and cop a disqualification.

Able to discard their worst result, they're now 13th overall after three races. 

Molly Meech takes a dunking and the NZ skiff capsizes in the opening 49erFX race of these Olympics. Photo: Getty Images.

The Football Ferns have ended their Olympic campaign with a third loss from three games - this time going down to unbeaten Sweden, 2-0.  The New Zealanders found themselves two goals in arrears after 30 minutes - and can at least claim they conceded one less goal than what the Swedes beat world champions, the United States, by. 

Erika Fairweather fell short of her personal best in the 200m freestyle semifinal; the Kavanagh College head girl with the big programme in Tokyo finishing eighth in her race, and ultimately 16th of the 16 semifinalists. 

Her time of 1m 59.14s was almost 2s slower than the PB she set in Monday night's heat of 1m 57.26s. But there's still more to come from the Dunedin teen with the 4x200m freestyle relay heats on Wednesday night, alongside Ali Galyer, Eve Thomas and Carina Doyle, who also went to Kavanagh College. 

And the woman who ignited the Olympic cauldron in Friday's opening ceremony, Naomi Osaka, has been extinguished from the tennis singles, losing to the 42nd-ranked Marketa Vondrousova, of the Czech Republic, in the third round. 

How cool is this?

Football Fern Hannah Wilkinson’s third Olympics may have come to an end on the field tonight, after her 100th international for her country, but her abundant artistic talents live on at these Games.

Whāngarei-born Wilkinson is one of six Olympic and Paralympic athletes whose art works feature in the first Olympic Agora – a cultural hub of visual art installations on display around Tokyo.

Hannah Wilkinson's art work, Fortis in Arduis (Strength in Difficulty), on display in Tokyo during the Olympics. Photo: Hannah Wilkinson.

Her six curtains on display around the city were inspired by the new Olympic sports in Tokyo and "the misfortune of athletes dealing with Covid."

“What makes me successful in my art and in my sport is the fire and passion I have for both," she says. "Each passion makes me feel alive, and I know intrinsically it was what I was meant to do. Often, being an athlete can take its toll and the pressure can seep in. When this happens, art is my retreat where I can re-balance myself.”


We all know the Olympic motto: 'Citius, Altius, Fortius' (Faster, Higher, Stronger). But how would the founding fathers of the Modern Olympics feel about the latest mantra for Tokyo: 'Sport appeal, not sex appeal'?

In a bid to cub the sexploitation of female athletes, the head of Olympic broadcasting, Yiannis Exarchos, has asked for no close-ups of sportswomen's intimate body parts or skimpy outfits at these Games. "What we can do is make sure that our coverage doesn't highlight or feature in any particular way what people are wearing," he says.

German gymnast Pauline Schaefer-Betz leaps high above the beam in the women's teams competition in Tokyo. Photo: Getty Images.

The German gymnasts have made their own stand against sexploitation at these Olympics, competing in full-leg unitards instead of the traditional bikini-cut leotard. 

What the?! 

Seconds after Canada’s Maggie MacNeil won the 100m butterfly final, she stared - eyes squinted -  at the scoreboard for longer than usual. Not in shock – even after the 21-year-old turned in seventh, but put in an incredible return lap to steal gold.

No, MacNeil couldn’t see her name. She wears glasses out of the pool and was squinting to decipher where she’d finished. “I heard my name getting called so I knew I must have done something good,” she said after collecting her second medal of these Games.

Canadian swimmer Maggie MacNeil trying to find her name on the scoreboard after winning gold in the 100m butterfly. Photo: Getty Images. 

MacNeil has a fascinating backstory – she was adopted by her Canadian parents in China after being abandoned at a few months old. She overcame childhood asthma to become a world champion.


Rikki's pick

Sky Sport commentator Rikki Swannell reckons Brooke Donoghue and Hannah Osborne could bring home the first rowing medal for NZ on Wednesday when they contest the rowing double sculls final.

"Donoghue is the two-time world champion, and while Osborne’s selection in the boat ahead of Olivia Loe came as a surprise, the new combination has come together nicely in their first major regatta together. The double scull was made famous by the Evers-Swindell sisters, and now Donoghue and Osborne can add to that legacy."

Who's up on Wednesday

ROWING: Quadruple scull B Final, noon; Brooke Donoghue and Hannah Osborne, double sculls final, 12.18pm. Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler, pairs semifinal, 3.30pm.

SHOOTING: Natalie Rooney, trap qualification rounds, noon.

HOCKEY: Black Sticks v Spain, 2.45pm

CANOE SLALOM: Luuka Jones, C1 heat, 4pm.

SAILING: Erica Dawson (and Micah Wilkinson), Nacra 17, 5.30pm; Alex Maloney and Molly Meech, 49erFX, 5.45pm

SWIMMING: Erika Fairweather, Carina Doyle, Ali Galyer, Eve Thomas, 4 x 200m freestyle relay heat, 11.20pm

The Tokyo Lowdown: Day 3

On a day when NZ celebrated its first medal in Tokyo, our Kiwi sportswomen had a mixed bag of results - but it was an unforgettable day for the baby of the team. LockerRoom's daily update on our women athletes continues.

Performances of the day

It's been one heck of a 24 hours for Erika Fairweather.

The Kiwi teenager held her own in three races against the world's top freestyle swimmers - and there's still more to come. 

Normally, Fairweather would have spent Monday back at Kavanagh College in Dunedin studying and doing her head girl duties. But instead, the 17-year-old was across the Pacific Ocean at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre, breaking a New Zealand record, and then lining up against two absolute powerhouses in the Olympic 400m freestyle final.  

Fairweather wasn't rattled by the change in scenery, or finishing eighth in a final where world No.1, Australian Ariarne Titmus, became the first swimmer to beat defending Olympic champion, American Katie Ledecky, in an Olympic race across three Games. 

As if it were just another day, Fairweather went back to the athlete village after her final for a nap and some food, ready to go "all guns blazing" into the 200m freestyle heat later that night. "There’s no other way to really attack it, eh?”

And she did just that. Fairweather qualified for Tuesday's 200m semifinals after finishing fifth in her heat - her time of 1m 57.26s was another personal best (by 0.12s) and the 14th fastest overall to make the top 16 cut-off. 

For Fairweather, it was "super amazing" to race in her first Olympic final - one she didn't expect to make. "That wasn’t the best performance from me, but I’m not going to let it define my experience here," she said afterwards. 

“[My nerves] were pretty high. I didn’t approach it the way I wanted to. But I think that’s just down to experience. It’s my first one, so I’ve definitely got nothing to lose." 

Erika Fairweather after realising she's second in the 400m freestyle heat, breaking Lauren Boyle's NZ record. Photo: Getty Images.

Going into the final with Titmus and Ledecky was already an achievement in itself for the high school student. 

The favourite to win, Ledecky led until the 300m turn. Titmus kicked off for the final stretch and made her move, managing to get in front and stay there to win the gold medal with a personal best of 3m 56.69s - and the second fastest in history. Titmus is the first person to beat Ledecky in an Olympic race. Incredible.  

Another young'un in the final, 14-year-old Canadian Summer McIntosh, finished fourth, missing out on the podium by a little over one second. 

After the 200m freestyle, Fairweather will link up with Eve Thomas, Carina Doyle and Ali Gayler in the 4x200m freestyle heats on Wednesday night.

Quote of the day

"Honoured to be a part of surfing history... 9th place finish here at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Thanks so much to everyone who has supported me through out this fabulous journey. I am so extremely grateful to have an awesome team here in Japan." New Zealander Ella Williams after her exit from surfing's Olympic debut.   

Images of the day

Thirteen-year-old Momiji Nishiya of Japan will go down in history as the first woman to win Olympic gold in skateboarding. Nishiya became her country's youngest ever medallist, and ensured Japan took a clean sweep of gold in street skateboarding - one of the new sports introduced in Tokyo - after Yuto Horigome won the men's division. 

The International Olympic Committee's goal to appeal to younger audiences is working as the women's silver medallist was 13-year-old Rayssa Leal, from Brazil. And taking home bronze was Japan's Funa Nakayama, at the ripe old age of 16. 

The good news

The Black Sticks had two reasons to celebrate early Tuesday morning - they remain unbeaten in the women's hockey competition, and their two most experienced players, Stacey Michelsen and Sam Charlton, returned from injury to take the field against Japan.

New Zealand notched up their second win from two, but they had to really fight the host nation for the 2-1 victory.

Japan scored first, from a penalty corner early in the second quarter, but it was their tight defence that really flummoxed the Kiwis. Eventually, New Zealand scored from two penalty corner goals late in the second spell - a direct shot from Olivia Merry, and then a deflection from Hope Ralph off a Merry strike. 

Captain Michelsen suffered a hamstring injury in a Pro League test against Australia earlier this month, while vice captain Charlton had been nursing a hip injury. New Zealand's next game is against Spain on Wednesday. 

Black Sticks captain Stacey Michelsen weaves her way through two Japanese defenders in NZ's 2-1 Olympic victory. Photo: Getty Images.

As Hayden Wilde bagged New Zealand’s first medal - a bronze in the men's triathlon on Monday - it no doubt gave a confidence boost to two of his mixed relay team-mates, Nicole van der Kaay and Ainsley Thorpe, lining up in the women's triathlon 24 hours later.  

The 23-year-old Wilde, from Whakatane, and Tayler Reid, who was 18th in the men's race, will then join van der Kaay and Thorpe in the mixed team relay event this Saturday –  the first time the 300m swim, 8km bike ride and 2km run relay has been contested at an Olympics.  Thorpe, Wilde and Reid have already tasted success together claiming bronze at the 2019 ITU world triathlon qualification event in Tokyo. 

The women could find it windier and the water choppier on the course than the men encountered, as a typhoon bears down on Tokyo. 

The not-so-good-news

Ella Williams just couldn't catch a break on Monday, her Olympic surfing debut coming to an end in the third round, knocked out by Brisa Hennessey of Costa Rica.

The 26-year-old from Whangamata got through to the top 16 and didn’t waste any time getting started, picking up a smaller wave within 30 seconds of the clock starting. But Williams trailed Hennessey throughout the heat; the Costa Rican putting together a final combined score of 12 (6.5 and 5.5) out of 20 to Williams' 7.73.

The surfing at Tsurigasaki Beach wasn't ideal for larger scoring wave opportunities, but Hennessey made the most of what was on offer, getting up for 10 wave attempts to Williams' five. 

And after her first three disappointing rounds, New Zealand's first skeet shooter Chloe Tipple shot her best in the last two – hitting 46 out of 50 targets – to end with a total of 108. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, who was 13th in Rio, it was too little, too late, this time around - finishing 27th in a field of 28. 

Tipple's lead up to the Games was life-altering, when her mother unexpectedly died from a brain aneurysm early last year. A lengthy break from shooting, and rocky training arrangements through Covid-19, weren't easy to deal with. 

New Zealand's long distance swimmers Eve Thomas and Hayley McIntosh finished fourth and sixth respectively in their 1500m freestyle heat on Monday night, but their times weren't fast enough to progress them through to the final, where Ledecky is again favourite to win the inaugural Olympic gold (the first time 1500m has been on the Olympic programme).

And if the organising committee doesn't have enough on their plates, the weather continues to wreak havoc, with the rowing scheduled for Tuesday delayed another day or two as the grade three tropical storm looms.  

What the?! 

You know you’ve hit new heights when Twitter creates a personalised icon for you. Simone Biles has become the first Olympic athlete to have an emoji dedicated to her, in the form of a goat (for Greatest of All Time, in case you didn't know) named Goldie. When you use the hashtag #SimonBiles or #Simone, Goldie - wearing a leotard with a gold medal - performs a split leap.

Simone Biles during the women's qualification for the artistic gymnastics final at the Tokyo Olympics. Photo: Getty Images.

Biles is in good icon company with NFL Super Bowl winning quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady.

The iconic American gymnast won four gold medals and one bronze at Rio, but she uncharacteristically struggled - along with her US team-mates, in the opening day of qualifying. Despite the slow start, Biles still leads in the all-around standings - and still has the potential to win six medals in Tokyo.

Another legend of the sport, Oksana Chusovitina, bowed out of her eighth Olympics after failing to qualify for the top eight in the vault. Competitors and officials gave the 46-year-old a standing ovation as she left the floor.

Chusovitina has not missed a Games since 1992, where she won gold in the teams for the Unified team (before most of her competitors in Tokyo were even born). She's also represented the Soviet Union, Germany and finally, Uzbekistan.

Rikki's pick

Rikki Swannell has given her daily pick for Tuesday to Luuka Jones – who's heading into the semifinals, and hopefully final, of the canoe slalom (the top 10 go through to the final).

“Jones became our first canoe slalom Olympian when she competed as a teenager in Beijing and is now at her fourth Games. She produced a stunning run in the final in Rio to win silver,” says Swannell.

“The paddler from Tauranga [shout-out to Otumoetai College!] came into these Games a little under the radar, but her second preliminary run changed all that, qualifying third-fastest for the semis.”

Who's up on Tuesday

TRIATHLON: Nicole van der Kay, Ainsley Thorpe, individual race, 9:30am

SWIMMING: Erika Fairweather, 200m freestyle semifinal, 1:30pm

SAILING: Alex Maloney and Molly Meech, 49erFX, 3pm

CANOE SLALOM: Luuka Jones, K1 semifinals and final, 5pm and 7pm.

FOOTBALL: Football Ferns v Sweden, 8pm

Surfer's legacy lives on in Kiwi Olympic show jumper

Show jumper Uma O’Neill has been called on at the 11th hour to compete for NZ at the Tokyo Olympics. The girl from Hawaii, whose grandfather was a surfing legend, explains to Suzanne McFadden how she ended up riding for the Kiwis.  

Uma O’Neill’s grandfather must have known something no one else did seven years ago when he bought her a brash young grey stallion named Clockwise.

Jack O’Neill wasn’t a horseman. In fact, the American was a surfer, credited with inventing the surfing wetsuit (who hasn’t heard of the O’Neill brand?).

But he loved his 17-year-old granddaughter, Uma, and was an ardent supporter of her show jumping career. 

Uma never got to ride Clockwise of Greenhill Z before Jack bought him. The horse was in Germany, trained by two-time Olympic show jumping medallist, Paul Schockemöhle.  They’d only seen him on a video.

“When we got him, it was never said: ‘Clockwise is going to be an Olympic horse for you’,” Uma O’Neill says. In fact, the two of them didn’t exactly hit it off on when they first met.

“Although my grandfather didn’t quite understand the sport so much, he thought he was the best horse in the world and he would take me everywhere. And he truly has. So maybe he saw more than any of us.”

Clockwise – who goes by the barn name ‘CW’ – has now taken 26-year-old O’Neill to the pinnacle competition of the sport.

Next week, the pair will ride for New Zealand at the Tokyo Olympics – called into the team when Sharn Wordley was forced to withdraw a fortnight ago when his horse, Verdini D’Houtveld Z, suffered an injury.

O’Neill and Clockwise, the team’s travelling reserve pairing, had just arrived in Germany from their farm in Santa Cruz, California, when O'Neill heard the news.

But sadly she couldn’t share it with her grandfather. He passed away in 2017, at the age of 94. “We very much miss him,” the talented equestrian says.

Uma O'Neill and show jumping horse, Clockwise, had a rocky beginning to their relationship. Photo: Sara Shier Photography.

So how did a girl born in Hawaii into a renowned surfing family, who's lived in California ever since she was 13, end up in the New Zealand show jumping team?

O’Neill’s father, John Impey, was born in New Zealand, just outside Auckland. Most of his family still live here (his brother, Brent Impey, is the former chair of New Zealand Rugby).

Her dad, and mum Shawne, settled in Maui, where Shawne was a professional windsurfer. Growing up, O’Neill - who had dual citizenship - would often visit her family in New Zealand.

It was her dad her took her to her first pony camp in Maui when she was nine.

“I’d been going every once in a while for lessons, but it was all very casual,” O'Neill says. “Then one summer, my father got me a pony camp package. I just had so much fun. Then we started taking lessons, and I leased a pony at the pony club.”

A few years later, O’Neill and her mother moved to the US mainland to be closer to grandfather Jack in Santa Cruz, and she took one pony with her. As her equestrian talent blossomed, she began representing the United States as a young rider, but brewing in the back of her mind was the idea of one day switching to compete for New Zealand.

“The United States is such a competitive nation, and I knew New Zealand would give me lots of opportunities,” she says. “And I hoped I could help New Zealand build up its show jumping too.”

Let's get back to that initial relationship between the girl and her star horse. O’Neill was about to turn 18 and was looking for a horse to ride in the North American Young Rider championships when she was first introduced to Clockwise.

“It was a little bit of a tricky beginning,” she says. “He was young, a seven-year-old stallion, and he’d always been ridden by a professional, much larger rider than myself. It took a bit of time, but we eventually built a great relationship. It’s been quite the journey we’ve been on.”

Clockwise is quite the character, it seems.

“Life revolves around him quite a lot, we’ll just say,” laughs O’Neill. “He loves attention, but he doesn’t like to show it so much. He wants everything to revolve around him in the stable, which it does. But he also wants his alone time.

“He knows he’s the main guy around.”

For the past three years, O’Neill has worked closely with trainer Mariano Maggi, an Argentinian who rides for Sweden.

“Mariano has come in and done a lot of the flat work with Clockwise and really helped me with him. It’s taken everything to a new level. He’s an incredible horse,” she says.

Initially, O’Neill had not expected to jump Clockwise in “the big classes” - fences up to 1.6m high, like at the Olympics. But she would represent the US on board the stallion, including her biggest victory yet, at the 2018 FEI World Cup North American qualifier in Vancouver (where they had the only clear round of the competition).

It wasn’t long after that she switched her riding nationality to Kiwi.

O’Neill readily admits the Olympics weren't on her radar growing up.

“I didn’t have it as a big goal in my childhood as some do. I wanted to make it to the top level in show jumping, but the Olympics is a big goal and I never thought I’d be in the right situation – with the right horse, at the right time with the right ability,” she says.

“It's a very tough sport in that way. Timing is so much of it.”

But when the New Zealand equestrian selectors asked her if she would be the “fourth rider” - the team’s travelling reserve - for the Tokyo Games, O’Neill was over the moon.

“I was very excited,” she says. "To have the opportunity to go is an incredible thing, and it was a long way to go as the fourth rider, but we knew it was an important position. If something happened, I felt I was a strong enough reserve to come in. And it was worth it for the team.”

It's a massive undertaking to fly a horse halfway around the world knowing it would only get called up to compete if disaster struck a team-mate or their horse.

And Clockwise has done it the hard way – flying anti-clockwise to get to Japan.

“From California it’s just under nine hours flying to Tokyo,” O’Neill says. “But Clockwise has made a 12-hour cargo flight to Germany, and he’s been doing his 10 days’ quarantine in Aachen [Denmark].” Today he starts the final leg, an 18-hour flight to Japan.

“It’s quite an adventure around the globe, but he’s a very seasoned traveller and very relaxed about it all.” And fortunately, he didn’t know there was a shorter route.

“In the end, we’re doing it for the team – it’s about having the strongest team representing New Zealand.”

Clockwise of Greenhill Z is a Zangersheide stallion - a line of Belgian warmblood horses bred for showjumping. Photo: Sara Shier Photography. 

O’Neill has met her Kiwi team-mates Daniel Meech and Bruce Goodin (at 57, the most senior member of the New Zealand Olympic team) at events around the world. “I think we will make a great team,” she says.

She’s hoping Clockwise will handle the heat and humidity at Equestrian Park – the same venue that hosted the equestrian events at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. But she’s unsure how they will react to an empty stadium.

“I haven’t yet experienced jumping at an event that large without a crowd. At the five-star grand prix I’ve jumped, there’s always been a crowd, and I feel that brings you up a little more. But we got used to jumping with no people last year with Covid, so it’s just something we’re going to have to experience there,” she says.

“Yes, it’s going to be strange to be in a big stadium without a single person in a seat, but we’re so grateful to even be going.”

O’Neill had always imagined if she got to go to an Olympics, her close-knit family would occupy some of those seats.

Her mother lives with her at their O’Neill Show Jumping base. “She’s so supportive, she’s there all the time for me, so she’s definitely disappointed not to be there,” O’Neill says.

Shawne O’Neill could have been an Olympian herself. But at the time that she was the world champion in windsurfing, she was classed as a sponsored professional - and the Olympics were open only to amateur athletes.

It’s Uma O’Neill’s hope to come out of her own Olympics with a “positive experience – for myself and the team – and that we all make it out healthy.

“We’re walking into such an unknown situation, that’s the most important thing at this time,” she says. “Like with everything now, we have to be prepared to be flexible.”

  • The New Zealand show jumping team will compete in the individual qualifying on Tuesday, August 3, with the final the next day. They will then jump in the team qualifying on Friday, August 6, with the final on the 7th.

The Tokyo Lowdown: Day 2

Day two was generally a cracker for our Kiwi sportswomen at the Olympics, especially in and on the water and the artificial turf in Tokyo. LockerRoom's daily update on our women athletes continues.

Performances of the day

New Zealand's youngest Olympian, schoolgirl Erika Fairweather, made a colossal splash in the Tokyo Aquatic pool on Sunday night - smashing a national record and comfortably making the final of the 400m freestyle.

Fairweather, just 17, finished second in her heat behind world No.1 Australian Ariarne Titmus. But the teenager's time of 4m 02.28s shaved more than four seconds off her personal best time, and broke Lauren Boyle's national record of 4m 03.63s, set at the 2012 London Olympics. 

The Y13 student at Dunedin's Kavanagh College looked stunned as she cast her eyes up to the electronic board and saw her time. It makes her the fourth fastest qualifier for Monday afternoon's final. 

No wonder she's already being touted as a future athlete to watch.

Living on the outside of the Olympic Village, Holly Pearson was pulled into the Black Sticks women's side on Sunday and made a huge impression - scoring her first goal in international hockey and sealing New Zealand's 3-0 upset over world No. 3 Argentina.

The 22-year-old from Taranaki wasn't initially included in the Black Sticks squad of 16 for Tokyo, but a late rule change allowed teams to extend to 18. And with captain Stacey Michelsen recovering from tearing her hamstring in a test against Australia on the way to Tokyo, and vice captain Sam Charlton suffering a hip injury, Pearson and Tessa Jopp - the other late call-up - were brought into the team for the first game of their Olympic campaign.

Together, the two ring-ins created the third goal of the match in the final quarter - Jopp perfectly placing the ball into the circle and Pearson drilling it on the turn into the back of the goal. 

While scoring was "pretty cool," Pearson said afterwards, she was happier with the win. "I think we did really well. They have a lot of aggression, Argentina, and I think we dealt with it pretty well. Especially round the back - our defenders were pretty calm under the pressure which helped today.

"It gives us a little bit of momentum, hopefully, going into the rest of the week, and over a tough side is pretty good for us."

The sixth-ranked Black Sticks, who've twice come oh-so-close to an Olympic medal, did well to hold the marauding Las Leonas (The Lionesses) scoreless through the first half, but really came alive with a goal off their first penalty corner of the match early in the third quarter. Kelsey Smith deftly juggled the ball over the prone Argentinian keeper (see images of the day, below). Moments later, they took it to 2-0 when Hope Ralph deflected Megan Hull's drag flick off a second corner.

Black Sticks goalie Grace O'Hanlon made some outstanding saves, one with her hand behind her body right on the goal line, to deny the favourites. New Zealand are straight on to their next match against Japan on Monday night. 

Holly Pearson hugs Black Sticks team-mate Tessa Jopp after scoring her first international goal in NZ's shock 3-0 slaying of Argentina. Photo: Getty Images

Rio silver medallist Luuka Jones made a great recovery in her second run to go into the semifinals of the canoe slalom ranked third. Jones wasn't thrilled with her first run, where she touched two gates and with a 4s penalty found herself 10th fastest.

But with a quick, clear run in the second round, Jones had the fastest time of the day, only bettered by Australian Jessica Fox and German Ricarda Funk. The top 24 paddlers go through to Tuesday's semis, including Tauranga doctor Jane Nicholas, who's representing the Cook Islands. 

Quote of the day

"It's been a bit mixed for me. I'm actually staying outside the village because I'm the 18th player and I'm staying with Georgia our [reserve] goal keeper. We're staying at The Conrad, and it's very nice." - Black Sticks goal scorer Hope Pearson on her unexpected Olympic experience so far.

Images of the day

The good news

Most of our rowing women are well on their way in their march to the medal podium. Double sculls duo Brook Donoghue and Hannah Osborne and the New Zealand eight are through to their finals, while four-time Olympian Emma Twigg is in the single sculls semis after another compelling performance on the Sea Forest Waterway. 

"I'm really proud of us and what we've achieved so far," Donoghue, the two-time world champion in the double scull, said. "I think we have more to give so I'm excited to put it out there."

Twigg won her quarterfinal convincingly, by over 7s from Switzerland's Jeannine Gmelin, to be one of the clear favourites in Wednesday's semifinals. 

Both the eight and the pair of Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler had fantastic rows on Saturday, winning their heats. Prendergast and Gowler, who gave massive performances in both boats, will race again in their semi on Tuesday afternoon. The world champion eight had to battle from behind to take the only automatic ticket to Friday's final.

Kiwi surfer Ella Williams made her Olympic debut in style - progressing straight to round 3. Photo: Getty Images. 

An ecstatic Ella Williams stamped her mark on history, surfing straight through to the top 16 in the sport's Olympic debut at Tsurigasaki Beach. 

The former world junior champion from Whangamata wasn't afraid to say how proud she was finishing second behind young American phenom, Caroline Marks. Williams had a ding-dong battle, switching places on the leaderboard with Costa Rica's Leilani McGonagle, but finally snatched the points she needed for direct qualifying to the third round. 

"It was definitely the moment of do-or-die. You know, you really just have to think on your feet, thinking smart and really be in tune with your surfing and make sure you are on those best waves," she said. "The conditions are changing so much you really have to be adaptable and take whatever comes with you."

The not-so-good-news

The women's rowing quad - Olivia Loe, Eve Macfarlane, Georgia Nugent-O'Leary and Ruby Tew - will race in the B final after failing to qualify through their repechage. The Kiwis were fourth with 500m to go, and managed to climb to third at the finish line, but only the top two boats went through to the A final.

The Football Ferns will be playing for pride in their final game against Sweden on Tuesday night, after losing their second game in the Pool of Death – a 6-1 drubbing from world champions the United States. The New Zealanders were hanging in there at 3-1 with 10 minutes to go, but their energy petered out. The Ferns scored three in the goal fest - but sadly two of them were own goals. 

Skeet shooter Chloe Tipple had a disappointing day on the range, sitting in 28th of 28 after three qualifying rounds. Her score of 62 is well below the two leaders from Italy and China with a perfect total of 75. Tipple faces another 50 targets tomorrow before the shoot-off for medals later in the day.

Another of our female swimmers to make her Olympic debut, Ali Galyer didn't progress past her heat in the 100m backstroke. But Galyer still has her favoured event, the 200m backstroke, later in the week. 

What the?! 

Twelve-year-old Hend Zaza became one of the youngest athletes to ever compete at an Olympics, when the table tennis player from war-torn Syria played in the opening round of the women's competition. 

Zaza, who carried the Syrian flag in Friday's opening ceremony, was just 11 when she qualified for the Games at the West Asian qualifier, beating a Lebanon player nearly four times her age. But in Tokyo, where she's easily the youngest athlete at these Games, she has to pack her bags already after losing her preliminary round match to Austrian 39-year-old Liu Jia – who has a 10-year-old daughter.

Tokyo's youngest Olympian, Hend Zaza, in her first round table tennis loss to Austrian Liu Jia. Photo: Getty Images. 

The youngest female competitor at a summer Olympics was Italian gymnast Luigina Giavotti, who competed in 1928 aged 11 years 301 days.

And even the mighty have fallen in the first round - a wobbly tennis top seed Ash Barty was upset by 48th-ranked Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo, 6-4 6-3, just a fortnight after winning at Wimbledon. The Australian, however, lives on in the doubles.

Rikki's pick

Ella Williams is Sky Sport presenter Rikki Swannell's one to watch on Monday. 

"After a great first-up performance surfer Ella Williams is back in action again. She's now in the round of 16, with quarterfinals and semifinals also today. Ella looks like she's having the time of her life - and surfing like it too!"

Who's up on Monday

SURFING: Ella Williams, 3rd round, 10am.

SHOOTING: Chloe Tipple, skeet qualifier and medal round, noon.

SWIMMING: Erika Fairweather, 400m freestyle final, 2.20pm; 200m freestyle heat, 10pm; Hayley McIntosh and Eve Thomas, 1500m freestyle heat, 11pm.

HOCKEY: Black Sticks v Japan, 11.45pm

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