Let the masked Games begin, as New Zealand chases a record medal haul
Sipping an ice slushy from a cup, to counter Tokyo’s 30degc-plus heat, New Zealand’s athletes don their white face masks branded with silver fern and Olympic rings, and stride cautiously about the athletes’ village.
Their toughest, invisible rival is being kept at bay, for now, with assistance from 69,000 woolbased high performance PPE masks white for everyday use, black for formal, shipped over in crates, along with litres and litres of hand sanitiser.
It means nervous, expectant smiles have been hidden from cameras during interviews this week at the Tokyo Press Centre, where social distancing and plexiglass dividers are mandatory and this Olympic Games like no other finally becomes a reality. genuine gold medal hope in three of her four events. Peerless sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, and Hirini’s dominant Black Ferns sevens team, are warm favourites for gold as are the women’s rowing eight.
The usual suspects rowing, yachting and track cycling are good bets for multiple medals, while shot put colossus Valerie Adams farewelled her two young children to return for a fifth Olympics, chasing a third gold after collecting silver in Rio. Whitewater paddler Luuka Jones, shooter Natalie Rooney and golfer Lydia Ko are all back to try and add to their Rio silvers.
A record New Zealand medal tally of 18 from Rio provides a target, although predictions are fraught by the international formguide which is near nonexistent this past year.
Let the Games begin, and let’s hope Olympic fever is the mostdiscussed affliction this next fortnight. But don’t bet on it.