Tokyo Olympics 2020: Phil Gifford – My five events to watch on day nine

Bless Eric Murray, who has proven to be not only the most informative and articulate of the expert commentators on TVNZ, but also allowed aged Kiwi males like me to feel less like softies when our vision started to blur and our cheeks felt wet as Emma Twigg rowed to gold.

If Murray can cry as one of the greatest New Zealand Olympic stories ever unfolded, then so can the rest of us. Probably dry eyes today, but the biggest stars are starting to shine on the water.

1) And the guns start blazing

Yachting, 49ers. from 3:05pm.

With just three races to go before the medal race on Monday – one that counts for double points – Peter Burling and Blair Tuke now lead the 49ers table, albeit by only one point.

How good are they in the two man boat? So good that in 2019 Burling could fall in the water twice, and a tiller could break on the last day of the world 49er championships in Auckland, and they still went on to win their fifth world title.

It’s not just that the America’s Cup heroes are stunning competitors, but you can also usually rely on Burling to come up with a wonderfully laconic comment.

In the harbour twice? “It was a bit annoying.”

Live updates:
Live commentary: Newstalk ZB.
Watch live: SKY Channel 604, TVNZ.

Full Kiwi schedule below. Click on a name to see athlete’s bio, upcoming events, past Games performance and medal chance.

2) Will the legend grow?

Triathlon, mixed teams relay. 10.30am.

Hayden Wilde, Tayler Reid, Nicole van der Kaay, and Ainslie Thorpe will carry the hopes of New Zealand in this brand new Olympic event.

It feels like weeks since Wilde won hearts and minds when, after exceeding every expectation in the men’s individual race, he gave the most emotionally raw sports interview I think I’ve ever seen.

The relay is where most of the hopes for New Zealand in the triathlon are centred. So buckle in for what should be an exciting ride.

Live updates:
Live crosses: Newstalk ZB.
Watch live: SKY Channel 56, TVNZ.

3) Dodging the heavy artillery

Women’s hockey, pool game, 12.30pm.

New Zealand v China.

Unless there’s the most extraordinary upset, the Black Sticks will beat China, which should give them second place in their pool, and a better draw in the quarter-finals.

There are only two pools, and we’re sitting in third place in Pool B. If the Black Sticks get to second place at the end of pool play they should avoid the power houses leading Pool A, The Netherlands and Germany.

Live crosses:
Live updates: Newstalk ZB.
Watch live: SKY Channel 58, TVNZ

4) A chance to make more history

Men’s football, quarter final, 9pm.

New Zealand v Japan.

The New Zealand team made history once at these Games just by winning a match, and now they make it again by reaching the knockout stage.

Victory over an undefeated Japan side would be a near miracle, but if the rowers have proven one thing, it’s that daring to dream big can see results beyond most expectations.

Watch out for a superstar in the making in Japan’s 20-year-old Takefuso Kubo, who was hailed in 2018, when he signed a contract with Real Madrid as “the Japanese Messi’.

It hasn’t quite worked out that way in Europe, but so far in Tokyo, smashing in goal after goal, you can see why Barcelona were chasing him too.

Live updates:
Live crosses: Newstalk ZB.
Watch live: SKY Channel 56, TVNZ.

5) Winning, not whining

Eventing, dressage, Tim Price, 1.38pm.

Price is the highest ranked of our eventing team, at No.2 in the world. He and his wife Jonelle, ranked No.7 in the world, have been competing out of Wiltshire in England since 2005.

Like many Kiwis before them, to compete in the high-stakes world of European eventing they had to work hard to pay their way.

Tim broke-in horses, while Jonelle ran a catering business. Their success is a remarkable tribute to talent and work ethic.

At a black tie rugby function in London in 2015 the talk turned to eventing with an Englishwoman who told me, in a cut glass Sloane Ranger accent, that “we love the Kiwis, they don’t whine and bleat, they just get on and do the job.”

Live updates:
Live crosses: Newstalk ZB.
Watch live: SKY Channel 602, TVNZ.

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