1 Aug 2016

Experienced campaigners drive NZ medal hopes

10:25 am on 1 August 2016

Olympic experience will count for a lot in Rio when New Zealand's medal contenders tackle their respective events.

Of the six gold medals that New Zealand earned in London, five of those teams or athletes are returning to defend their titles and they have a good chance of succeeding.

New Zealand won a total of 13 medals in London four years ago to finish 15th on the table and their aim will be to at least repeat that.

Rowing led the way in London with two gold medals and two bronze and if the last world championships are anything to go by, where the team won five gold medals, they should be contenders for more.

New Zealand is competing in 11 boats in Rio with single sculler Mahe Drysdale and the men's pair of Hamish Bond and Eric Murray defending their titles.

Hamish Bond and Eric Murray celebrate their gold medal win at the London Olympics.

Hamish Bond and Eric Murray celebrate their gold medal win at the London Olympics. Photo: Photosport

Bond and Murray have been unbeaten since 2009, however as far as Murray is concerned whatever has happened in the past is irrelevant.

"We don't go out to defend anything and that is the way that we've always worked which has been successful for us, you've got to go out there and win every single race that you're competing in.

"For the other crews, they've never beaten us, so they've probably got doubt 'can we beat them? ...and that's what's been driving us for the last four years is to go out and try and win another gold medal at the Olympics."

Someone else that has been just as dominant is kayaker Lisa Carrington, who will be defending her K1 200m title in Rio and will attempt to complete the double with the K1 500.

She won both events at last year's world championships and repeated that at the Portugal leg of this year's World Cup.

New Zealand canoe sprint champion Lisa Carrington.

New Zealand canoe sprint champion Lisa Carrington. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Despite already having an Olympic gold medal and five world championships, the 27-year-old said her main motivation was trying to get better.

"It's kind of like a never ending journey, it's kind of point in that direction and we'll just see how we go.

"So I think there are many things I can work on whether it is mental, physical or technical, I think it is a never ending journey really."

Two-time defending shot put champion Valerie Adams will compete in her fourth Olympics.

Over the last 18 months Adams has not dominated the sport the way she used to, partly due to injury but is still well and truly in the mix after winning a couple of lead-up events.

Val Adams competing in France in 2016.

Val Adams competing in France in 2016. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Four years ago she was not confirmed the winner until seven days after the event when Belarusian Nadzeya Ostapchuk tested positive for doping.

The competition has been a lot closer over the last two years and Adams admits nothing is for certain.

"There are people that are going to do extraordinary things and go out of their way more that any other year to make sure they are in the best shape possible and it has been close that's why the rankings mean nothing.

"It doesn't matter what you do today or tomorrow, last year, beginning of the year, at world indoors, whatever, it's whoever brings their best game on the day will walk away with the gold medal."

New Zealand's most experienced athlete in Rio will be equestrian Sir Mark Todd who will attend his eighth Olympics.

Over his Olympic career to date he has won two gold medals and three bronze and the 60-year-old does not believe he is too old.

"Age doesn't really make too much of a difference in this sport and experience counts for a lot and I've got a lot of that."

2016 Rio Olympic Games New Zealand Equestrian Team, Julie Brougham, Jonathan Paget, Sir Mark Todd, Clarke Johnstone, Jonelle Price.

2016 Rio Olympic Games New Zealand Equestrian Team, Julie Brougham, Jonathan Paget, Sir Mark Todd, Clarke Johnstone, Jonelle Price. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

"Every Olympics you go to has its own little challenges and I'm sure with Rio there will be some that we have to adapt to but that's part of being at an Olympic games, you have to be able to adapt to the local conditions and I think that's where experience plays a big part as well."

New Zealand sailors should also contend for medals - Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie will defend their women's 470 title, while Blair Tuke and Peter Burling have been the dominant crew in the 49er class.

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