2013: World Class Sport

Kiwis star in a wide range of sports

By Roger Childs

 New Zealanders are known to punch above their weight in world sport (except in boxing). Below are ten top performances over the year, in no particular order.

All Blacks take the Rugby Championship in style

All Blacks v South Africa In my opinion it was the best game of rugby that has been played in many years. Referee Nigel Owens

 Rugby historians and journalists will look back on this test as being possibly the greatest of all time. This was the climax of the four nations’ competition and the South Africans needed to win with four tries and deny the All Blacks a bonus point.

 Both sides contributed to the spectacle that unfolded at Ellis Park before 60,000 predominantly South African fans.  It proved to be a high quality, titanic struggle between the two best teams on the planet in 2013.

The Springboks scored the necessary fourth try to take the lead midway through the second half, but in the end the All Blacks were the fitter team and clinched the victory.

A break down the left touchline, late in the second half by Julian Savea, saw the winger set up by IRB Player of the Year Keiran Read, with a perfect pass so he could score under the posts.

The final score was 38-27 and the All Blacks, for the second year in a row, had won six out of six in the Rugby Championship.

Lydia Ko’s wins back to back Canadian Opens

Ko in CWPGA I was really happy with my 64 today. Lydia Ko

Last year Ko went into the Canadian Women’s Open under the radar and beat 19 of the world’s top 20 women’s golfers. In 2013 they knew she would be a threat and so it proved, with her first three rounds all under the 70 course par: 65, 69, 67. Would the teenage sensation falter under pressure? No way!

She got a great start in the final round and pulled away from the star-studded field. On the final green she was four up and then sank a difficult down hill putt to push the margin out to five.

Later in the year she turned pro and won the Swinging Skirts tournament in Taiwan to move up to 4th out of over 850 in the world rankings. She must be favoured to prize the Sportswoman of the Year trophy off multiple-winner, shot putter Valerie Adams.

Two metre Peter gets a century in each innings

Fulton In Auckland in March, as far as England were concerned, he was the tallest man on the planet. Journalist Stephen Brenkley

He’s actually 1.98 metres but what’s a couple of centimeters between overs? In and out of the Black Caps over the years, long, tall Peter Fulton hit top form in the final test against England in March. At that time the English were the holders of The Ashes and had an impressive batting lineup and a well balanced bowling attack.

In the Auckland test, the Black Caps very nearly had an upset victory. The home team just failed to dismiss the English on the final day and had them teetering at 302 for 9.

The main credit for getting the Black Caps in such a strong position on day five goes to Fulton.

  • 136 in the first innings
  • 110 in the second innings
  • Only the fourth New Zealand cricketer to get a century in each innings in a test
  • The second century came off only 165 balls.

This was a world class performance against one of the best bowling attacks on the planet.

New Zealand wins the America’s Cup?

 New Zealand was a key player in the Oracle victory.

  • The boat was built here except for the hull.
  • Wellington born Russell Coutts was the Oracle’s CEO.
  • Kiwi experts flew in to do modifications when Oracle was 8-1 down and worked some magic, especially in getting the famous foiling right
  • New Zealanders were the dominant nationality in the Oracle crew.

Auld MugUnfortunately Team New Zealand couldn’t turn an overwhelming lead into a decisive victory. Skipper Dean Barker would have been Sportsman of the Year if he hadn’t nearly tipped the catamaran over in one race and been cruelly denied a crucial final race victory when the normally windy San Francisco Bay went calm and time ran out with the Kiwis well ahead.

Nevertheless the 2103 America’s Cup challenger round saw world class performances by plenty of New Zealand yachtsmen and boat builders, and they provided a spectacle which had the nation glued to television sets for over three weeks.

 Great results for the Football Ferns

 While the All Whites were unceremoniously dispatched by Mexico from the World Cup, the national women’s team had a great season.

In June there were two impressive results against top ten teams in the world

  • 1-1 v Australia
  • 1-1 v Japan.

Football fernsHowever the big breakthrough came in Switzerland in the Valais Cup when they unexpectedly beat Brazil 1-0. The winner came from a 66 minute header by Amber Hearn and so the fourth-ranked team in the world was out of the tournament.

The final against China was even more emphatic. There were four unanswered goals in the second half including another two to Hearn. Winning the Valais Cup gave the national team their first trophy outside Oceania for 38 years.

Then late in the year after a first match loss to world’s number one, the USA, the Football Ferns drew the second encounter 1-1 in Columbus Ohio. The Americans are the World Cup and Olympic champions.

Scott Dixon the Indy Champion

Dixon … this year was very special in the fact that mid-year we thought we were out of it – we had to really fight back and dig deep. Scott Dixon

Scott Dixon is one of the best racing drivers in the world and New Zealand’s all time greatest.  Before this year he had already won the highly competitive IndyCar racing series in 2003 and 2009.

Mid season he seemed to have little chance of repeating the feat. After 10 races he was 92 points behind Brazil’s Helio Castroneves and in lowly seventh place.

However Dixon and his Ganassi/Honda team had a dream run in July with three wins in eight days, including a doubleheader at Pennsylvania. Dixon was fast moving up on the Brazilian and getting ready to overtake.

In the end it was an anti-climax. In the final race in October Dixon came fifth, but crucially ahead of Castroneves, to clinch his third IndyCar title. Could he be Sportsman of the Year?

Fast Ferns take the world title

Fast fernsWe’re so excited – any time we beat Australia feels so good. Fast Ferns captain Casey Kopua.

After being thrashed 4-1 by the Australian Diamonds in the seven aside Constellation Cup series, the Kiwi netballers got their revenge in Auckland in early November.

The Fast Five series is netball’s equivalent of the rugby sevens and it’s just as exciting. With only five players in a team there is plenty of open space and the ball moves from end to end very quickly.

In a power play quarter the points are doubled and the Ferns Maria Tutaia is the world’s best at the long shots. Throughout their unbeaten run in the tournament, the Fast Ferns always did well in the power plays and Tutaia potted a number of 6 pointers to sink the Aussie Flyers 56-27 in the final.

On the boil in swimming

Boyle I’m proud to have achieved what I did in tough circumstances. Lauren Boyle on her 2013 results

  There were no Kiwi Olympic medals in the open swimming events in London last year, so it was great to see Lauren Boyle showing her class in the September World Championships in Barcelona.

Three bronze medals in the 400m, 800m and 1500m provided an excellent outcome. In the 1500m Boyle knocked an incredible 32 seconds off her pre-carnival best time. Only the legendary Kiwi butterfly exponent, Danyon Loader, has brought home three medals from World Championships.

Boyle continued her world class form in the November FINA World Cup series

  • Singapore: gold in the 800 m
  • Tokyo: gold in the 800 m
  • Beijing: silver in the 800 m and bronze in the 200 m

She comes across as being a very humble sports star, saying I would like to be picked for the Commonwealth Games next year.  Barring serious unforeseen developments, she must be first choice for the swimming team.

Valerie Adams blitzes the opposition

AdamsJoining only a handful of athletes in track and field ever to achieve four individual world titles, today’s milestone installs Adams as the most dominant athlete her sport has seen. Journalist Simon Plumb

Valerie Adams became the most successful female shot putter in history, when she won her fourth world title in Moscow in August. She took gold with a throw of 20.88m, well clear of her nearest rival.

Her dominance in the shot putt has now earned her the Track and Field News’ women’s athlete of the year. In 2012 she became the first thrower in 32 years to win the title in the prestigious American magazine.

Obviously Adams will be a very strong favourite to claim her eight consecutive Sportswoman of the Year trophy in February.

Adams has won the last two Olympic and Commonwealth Games titles but her best throw of 21.24m is well short of the world record. That record of 22.63m, held by a Russian, was made in 1987, when it is well known that Communist athletes were heavily into performance enhancing drugs.

Murray and Bond row on into history

Bond and MurrayIn August the New Zealand men’s pair won gold at the world rowing championships in Chungju, South Korea, and wrote themselves into the history books.

The convincing victory gave the unbeaten pair their 16th consecutive title at Olympic, world championship and World Cup level. Journalist Ian Anderson.

The pair haven’t lost a race since teaming up in 2009. They have won 44 consecutive races and their opposition in recent years hasn’t ever come close.

In last year’s Olympics in London they broke the world’s best time, and now with this 16th successive international title they hold that record for the sport. The pair are New Zealand sporting legends.