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Comm Games cheat sheet: Day 8

To see how New Zealand sportswomen are performing at these Commonwealth Games, here's your daily guide to the action on the Gold Coast from Suzanne McFadden

Performances of the day

Aussie-turned-Kiwi goalkeeper Grace O’Hanlon was an unlikely hero in the Black Sticks’ intense penalty shootout victory, which has shot them into the gold medal match.

O’Hanlon didn’t play any of the 60 minutes of regular time in the scoreless semi-final against England last night, but when it came down to the deciding shootout, the 25-year-old was switched with long-time keeper Sally Rutherford - because she’s been prepared for exactly that moment.

The Black Sticks have been haunted by losing an unnatural streak of sudden death shoot-outs over the last decade. Four years ago, they lost their Games semi-final in a shootout – also to England.

So it was a smart strategy to bring on O’Hanlon, who moved from Queensland to New Zealand just over a year ago when she couldn’t break into the Australian national side (she has a Kiwi dad). With no nightmarish memories of that 2014 game, she spectacularly saved four of England’s five attempts.

Sam Harrison scored on the Black Sticks’ third attempt, but it was captain Stacey Michelsen who absorbed the intense pressure to convert the last – winning the shootout 2-1, and securing a place in Saturday’s final.

The Black Sticks have never won gold at a Games – just a silver and two bronze medals. They will play their old nemesis Australia aiming to break that golden drought. 

But there was heartbreak for discus thrower Sositina Hakeai, who had one hand on bronze in last night’s throwing final, only to have the medal snatched away from her in the final round.

Hakeai, who was fourth at the 2014 Games, stood in third position from her first throw, with her best distance 57.16m. But in the sixth round, Navjeet Dhillon of India, leapfrogged Hakeai, pushing her back to fourth. The Kiwi’s final throw wasn’t enough to put her on to the podium.

Australian Dani Stevens broke the 20-year record of ‘Queen Bea’ Beatrice Faumuina, setting a new mark of 68.26m, on her way to the gold medal.

Quote of the day

“Goalkeeping is a pretty stressful position. If you play well nobody notices you, and if you play badly everybody notices you. There’s a lot of pressure there, regardless. It’s practise, practise, practise. And I was prepared. I knew that was my role and it’s what I came to do.” – Black Sticks penalty shootout star Grace O’Hanlon.

The good news

All it took was just one throw, and a “PBPB” at that, for Dame Valerie Adams to saunter straight into tonight’s final of the shotput, defending her Commonwealth crown for a third time.  

Adams’ first throw in the qualifying round – 18.52m - was the well beyond what she needed to progress; and well beyond what any other thrower in the field could muster. Canadian Brittany Crew was the closest with 17.50m.

It was the best throw of the season for Adams, six months after the birth of her daughter Kimoana. She calls it her PBPB – post-baby personal best.

And here’s a fun fact from the NZ Olympic Committee: since women’s shotput was introduced to the Commonwealth Games for the first time at the 1954 Vancouver Games, New Zealand has won seven of the 14 gold medals. Is it tempting to fate to suggest it will be eight from 15?

Squash queen Joelle King is still on target to collect a second medal at these Games, making today’s semi-finals of the mixed doubles with her on-court partner Paul Coll.

Earlier in the day, it took just 12 minutes for King and Coll to win their round of 16 match, beating the Barbados duo in two straight sets. In last night’s quarter-finals they progressed with the same efficiency, beat the Indian who had earlier eliminated the other Kiwi mixed combo of Amanda Landers-Murphy and Zac Miller.

The not-so-good news

Runner Angie Petty apologised for “disappointing New Zealand” when she failed to qualify for the 800m final yesterday. Petty finished fifth in her heat, won by clear gold medal favourite South African Caster Semenya, having led the field through the first lap.

Petty’s time of 2m 00.62 was the fastest of the non-qualifiers. Had she been in another heat, that time would have seen her automatically qualify. “It's just so hard, I keep just missing out," she said.

Mountain-biker Samara Sheppard’s hopes of a medal in the cross country were deflated on the first lap, after she suffered a puncture on the first descent. Sheppard lost a minute changing her back wheel, but fought back from the back of the pack to finish ninth, more than five minutes behind gold medallist Annie Last of England.  

Shooter Sally Johnston fell short of repeating her 2014 gold medal in the 50m rifle prone final, finishing 11th, while fellow Kiwi Janet Hunt was 10th. Martina Lindsay Veloso of Singapore broke Johnston’s Games record in winning gold.

Susannah Leydon-Davis and her brother Oliver ended their Games campaign in the round of 16 in the mixed doubles badminton. They were knocked out of the competition by England in two sets.

What the?

You’ve got to feel for our cousins across the ditch, where the rise of women’s professional football leagues could start to seriously hurt Australia’s Olympic and Commonwealth medal counts.

Veteran Aussie sports journalist Robert “Crash” Craddock writes that there’s a drain on female Games athletes being lured to team sports like the AFL women’s league, soccer’s W-League and the new NRL women’s competition.

“In some ways, the Games resemble the Magic Millions yearling sales,” Craddock said in the Courier-Mail. “At last two women’s AFL talent scouts are attending this week, and they must drool at the potential of someone like 400m glamour girl Morgan Mitchell who has pace, strength and poster girl looks.”

Former Olympic basketballer Erin Phillips has become the pin-up girl for the AFLW since playing for the Adelaide Crows. Olympic javelin thrower Kim Mickle, beach volleyballer Becchara Palmer and Commonwealth hockey gold medallist Georgie Parker have also been poached for the league.

“The drain is inevitable. This is a serious threat which Australian athletics will struggle to combat,” Craddock predicts.

Coming up

Natalie Rooney in the women’s trap shooting; Eliza McCartney and Olivia McTaggart in the pole vault; Valerie Adams in the shot put; divers Lizzie Cui and Shaye Boddington in the 1m springboard; Ana Moceyawa in the 57kg wrestling; Alexis Pritchard in the 57kg boxing semi-final.

Medal count

5 gold, 6 silver, 4 bronze

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