NZ Women hunting redemption in Rio
NZ-Women-hunting-redemption-in-RioThe New Zealand Women are looking to erase some demons in Thursday morning’s semi final in Rio
The New Zealand Women are looking to erase some demons from the London 2012 Olympics when they battle Great Britain in tomorrow’s semi final in Rio.
Captain Kayla Whitelock doesn’t like to talk about the London Games, where they were beaten in the bronze medal match by Great Britain, while Gemma Flynn remembers a ‘deep, sharp pain’ that lasted for a few months.
With the Kiwis on the edge of glory in Rio, the drive for redemption among the senior players provides an extra motivator
Six member of the current team were present on that fateful day at the River Bank Arena four years ago, when New Zealand came close to a significant upset against the Dutch. They led the reigning Olympic champions twice, only to lose in a penalty shoot-out after extra time.
The Women now face Great Britain in the first semi final at 8:00am Thursday morning (NZ time) with a chance to make amends for 2012. The game will be broadcast live in New Zealand on SKY Sport 3.
“I think it is driving them, the hurt that they have had,” said coach Mark Hager.
“For Gemma and Kayla especially, they had the experience of being in Beijing (finished 12th) and then fourth in London with the agonising finish. There are a few players in this team that have experienced the hurt and hopefully that will help us going forward.”
For Flynn, it was a turning point. She was already an established member of the team – having made her debut in 2008, but London was a reminder of the cruel reality of top level sport.
“We were quite hurt for a while – you would wake up in the middle of the night and think ‘if only’ or ‘what more could I have done’, said Flynn.
“It lasted for a few months… you had that deep, sharp pain thinking it could have been so different for us and our sport.”
“It’s a hard concept to get your head around but that is what brings you back because you want to do better the next time. Hopefully this time we can turn it round because that memory is still deeply ingrained for some of us.”
Whitelock, who had also experienced the sixth placed finish in Athens in 2004, has a similar tale when she recalls 2012, admitting the experience created a strong push to return after the birth of her first child last year.
“It’s tough to think about sometimes,” said Whitelock.
“It was bittersweet and that is probably why I am here today. That semi final was probably the best we have ever played so to lose on a shoot-out was tough. We were probably mentally and physically drained after that but we had to back it up the next day [for the bronze medal match.]
“The memories are still there and we need to keep pushing for that level every time we step out onto the field.”
So far, the signs are good. There is a confident vibe throughout this New Zealand side, who have been clinical on attack and committed and compact defensively.
After a slow start, the 4-2 quarter final victory against Australia was ruthlessly efficient, perfect preparation ahead of the challenge against the unbeaten British side.
“We have been building and the best is yet to come,” said Flynn.
“Our team has come together and we are sticking to our structures a lot more. There is no one person winning it for us. We are really confident and knowing we should be here. Our approach is – bring it on!.”
“We can’t get too carried away,” added Hager.
“Last time we got into this position we went home with nothing, so we need to do better this time.”
- August 17th, 2016 in