Fourth so of­ten hon­ourable

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT -

On the open­ing day of the Glas­gow Com­mon­wealth Games, four New Zealan­ders fin­ished fourth.

There was the gen­eral wail­ing about it be­ing the worst place to fin­ish – you know, all that ef­fort and no medal to show for it.

But that’s too sim­plis­tic. Some­times fourth is not too bad at all, and it can even be a place of hon­our.

The quar­tet of fourth placeget­ters on that first day in Glas­gow were swim­mer Lau­ren Boyle in the 200m freestyle, the women’s 4 x 100m freestyle re­lay team, triath­lete Andrea He­witt and 500m in­di­vid­ual time trial cy­clist Stephanie McKen­zie.

Boyle said af­ter­wards: ‘‘ I’m happy with that. I wasn’t ranked any­where near a medal com­ing in, so fourth is good.’’

She was look­ing ahead to her favoured longer dis­tance events and felt buoyed by her fourth plac­ing.

The re­lay swim­mers also didn’t seem too de­jected – they were never ex­pected to beat pow­er­houses Aus­tralia, Eng­land and Canada.

I thought He­witt’s fourth was in­cred­i­bly hon­ourable. She was out on her feet in the heat and re­ally strug­gled with the hilly course. She’d lose con­tact with the lead­ers and fight her way back.

It was in­deed a pity she had no medal to show for all her grit.

Fourth place has some­times been very hon­ourable for New Zealand in sport.

Pero Cameron and his Tall Blacks bas­ket­ballers were fourth at the 2002 world cham­pi­onships in In­di­anapo­lis, two places ahead of the United States, and re­turned home as con­quer­ing he­roes.

On the other hand, John Hart’s All Blacks were fourth at the 1999 Rugby World Cup – beaten by France and South Africa – and were sav­aged on their re­turn.

In 1968, the New Zealand row­ing eight were pre-Olympic favourites. They led for much of the fi­nal, but crum­bled to­wards the end, re­ally strug­gling to cope with the thin at­mos­phere at Mex­ico City’s alti­tude.

They faded to fourth and were dev­as­tated. Some re­quired med­i­cal at­ten­tion. Fourth was no tri­umph for them.

Eques­trian An­drew Ni­chol­son has been com­pet­ing in Olympic Games since 1984.

He seemed sure to win his first in­di­vid­ual Olympic medal at the 2012 Lon­don Olympics, but felt he was poorly served by the dres­sage officials in the three-day event.

Even­tu­ally he fin­ished fourth and pro­fessed him­self ‘‘ gut­ted’’ with the re­sult.

I never spoke to Rob Wad­dell af­ter he and Nathan Cohen fin­ished fourth in the dou­ble sculls at the 2008 Bei­jing Olympics, but I’m sure he would have shared Ni­chol­son’s feel­ings.

Wad­dell won a sin­gle sculls gold medal in 2000 and made a big ef­fort to come back for 2008. It’s a fair bet he wasn’t putting his body through all that train­ing tor­ture again with a goal of fourth.

But don’t write off fourth as a dis­ap­point­ment.

For proof, look no fur­ther than New Zealand freeskier Jossi Wells at this year’s win­ter Olympics in Sochi.

He fin­ished fourth in the half­pipe event and af­ter­wards amused on­look­ers by shout­ing: ‘‘I’m the guy who fin­ished fourth!’’ and then let­ting out a huge King Kong-style yell.

To any­one still un­sure how he felt, Wells ex­plained: ‘‘ Fourth place is pretty cool.’’

Wells’ vo­cif­er­ous re­ac­tion briefly be­came a YouTube hit and stands as proof that some­times fourth place can be a very joy­ful ex­pe­ri­ence.

Nearly there: Swim­mer Lau­ren Boyle fin­ished fourth in the 200m freestyle at Glas­gow.

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