|Chrissie Wellington (GBR) wins Kona Ironman for the fourth time|
Most recently, my friend who is an amazing triathlete has gotten me into triathlon. This has led to me watching the recent ITU world series (both men's and women's), as well as the Ironman World Champs in Kona, Hawaii. For anyone who does not know what Ironman is, it is an extremely long distance triathlon. To be exact about it, a 3.86km (2.4mi) swim, a 180.25km (112mi) bike and a marathon i.e. a 42.195km (26.219mi) run. There were three New Zealand elite triathletes competing at the world champs in Kona: Sam Warriner and Joanna Lawn in the women's race and Cameron Brown in the men's race. Much to my dismay, it was impossible to watch the race on any channel broadcast here. Luckily, Ironmanlive had a running stream of it on their website, although this typically focused on one or two athletes for the entire race, probably due to a lack of funding to cover the event more fully. Most of the information I was able to glean about the race came from a tag on Twitter. There was marginal coverage of New Zealand athletes in the event in the news, both leading up to and during the event. In New Zealand time, the event ran from 5am to around 2 or 3pm depending on which race you were watching (there were also a number of New Zealanders competing in the age group races). During that time, there was very little on any of the three Sky Sport channels. A rugby talkshow was on one, golf on another and a non-NZ event on the third. This continued on for the vast majority of the time the Ironman World Champs were on. We had three athletes in there, which begs the question, why could they not have coverage of this event on a New Zealand channel?
This has become a pattern for a number of sports in New Zealand. Despite our poor record (which has finally changed tonight, go All Blacks!!) in bringing home the Rugby World Cup, we have recently been World Champions, Olympic Champions or Commonwealth Champions in women's shot put (Valerie Vili is an Olympic and World Champion), variously in rowing (Mahe Drysdale; Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell; Nathan Cohen & Joseph Sullivan; Eric Murray & Hamish Bond; Juliette Haigh & Rebecca Scown; and several more), women's rugby (World Champs), men and women's triathlon (through Sam Warriner in the 2005 world champs and Hamish Carter and Bevan Docherty with gold and silver in the 2008 Beijing olympics, more recently Andrea Hewitt gained a silver in the ITU world series and a gold in the World Cup race), cycling (Hayden Roulston, Sarah Ulmer and many more), motorsport, swimming, middle distance running (through Nick Willis and Nikki Hamblin), athletics, netball (Commonwealth champs and second in the world), sailing, softball, squash (through Joelle King and Jaclyn Hawkes at the recent World Champs), kayaking (Ben Fouhy, Lisa Carrington, Teneale Hatton), equestrian (Mark Todd, Andrew Nicholson), men's and women's cricket, rugby league, canoeing, orienteering, tae kwon do, men's and women's hockey and golf. Impressive results have also been gained in both men's and women's football, men's and women's basketball and men's and women's tennis in recent years. New Zealand has also consistently had a number of athletes win world championships and olympic medals in paralympic events (Adam Hall, Jess Hamill and many many more).
Some of these sports are covered rather well by one channel or another in New Zealand. However, there are still huge gaps for many sports. For example, the ITU men's race in Beijing this year was shown on Sky Sport 3, but the women's race which was won by Andrea Hewitt did not receive any coverage. To watch it, I had to pay to view a livestream on a website. Another kiwi, Kate McIlroy, also featured prominently in this race and one a week later, so it was really a bit of a shame that the race couldn't be squeezed into the sports coverage somewhere.
|Andrea Hewitt wins gold in Beijing (source)|
So what's the solution to this? I'm not sure. But we do need more awareness of the myriad of sports that kiwis are involved in. It's going to be impossible to always cover everything, of course, but there definitely could be a lot more done to raise awareness of different codes. One of the things I like so much about the Olympics is the non-typical sports that come out of the woodwork that kiwis excel in.
With that, the end of this entry is devoted to the Silver Ferns who won by one goal against Australia this afternoon, and the All Blacks who won by one point to France and gained the Rugby World Cup, which we haven't won since 1987. A good day!