When Nigel Avery says he hasn’t counted New Zealand’s medal tally at the Commonwealth Games, it’s possibly because he hasn’t the time to.
With just under a week still remaining at the 2022 Games in Birmingham, the New Zealand team were already more than halfway to surpassing their medal tally from the Gold Coast four years ago – which was the country’s second-most successful performance.
Two more gold medals at the track in London on Tuesday (NZ time) by the dominant duo of Ellesse Andrews and Aaron Gate, and a backstroke win in the pool from Andrew Jeffcoat gave the Kiwis 13 gold already – they won 15 in 2018 and 14 at the 2014 event in Glasgow – and New Zealand tallied 26 in total by the end of day five.
“I haven’t really counted them,” Avery, the NZ team’s chef de mission, said in Birmingham on Wednesday morning (NZ time).
“My dad has, he’s telling me ‘I think it’s going to be this’.
“With the cycling crew on the track down in London, that first day must have been one of their best ever – but they’ve had more of them. And likewise with swimming, their success has been outstanding.
“You’d probably have to say, even without ringing up the statistics, that we’re in pretty good shape. the [NZ athletes’] villages are really buzzing.”
So where to from here? New Zealand’s record Commonwealth Games gold medal haul of 17 from Auckland in 1990 is under serious threat and the team still have some huge gold medal chances in Birmingham.
Here are the pick of them, and when they will come for gold, in chronological order, as a big day six beckons for the team in black:
Sam Gaze: Defends the men’s mountainbike crown he won in sensational circumstances four years ago but without competition from fellow Kiwi Anton Cooper this time, after Cooper withdrew the day before the race (which starts at 10:30pm Wednesday) with Covid-19.
David Litti: The team’s strongman will defend his +109kg weightlifting crown at 5:30am Thursday (NZT), and he might be required at the end of the Games to handle the extra medal baggage coming home.
Paul Cole: The world No 2 will be up against Joel Makin of Wales for men’s singles squash gold around 6am Thursday and then Joelle King will be seeking to rebound from her semifinal loss to chase gold in the women’s and mixed doubles, the latter in a formidable lineup with Coll. That gold medal match is early on Monday (NZT).
Hamish Kerr: The men’s high jumper sprung to national attention with his bold showing at the Tokyo Olympics last year and showed that he wasn’t a flash in the pan when gaining bronze at the world indoor champs earlier this year. His final starts at 6am Thursday.
Lewis Clareburt: Already a star of the games, one of Wellington’s favorite sons looks primed to add a third medal in the men’s 200 individual medley at the pool (6.07am Thursday NZT). Out to stop him will be Australians Mitchell Larkin and Brendon Smith (second behind Clareburt in the 400IM), England’s Tom Dean (the Olympic 200 free champ) and Scotland’s Duncan Scott, who took bronze in the 400IM after beating Dean in the 200 free this week.
New Zealand’s Erika Fairweather starts in her best event, the 400m freestyle at 6.37am but is up against superstars Ariarne Titmus (Australia) and teenage Summer McIntosh of Canada.
Maddi Wesch: The 23-year-old is also chasing shot put gold, and she eased through qualifying, with her final scheduled for 7:05am Thursday. Wesche was seventh at the recent world champs and will fight out gold with Canada’s Sarah Mitton and Jamaica’s Daniell Thomas-Dodd. Mitton threw 27cm further than Wesche at the worlds in Oregon to finish fourth.
Aaron Gate and his fellow cyclists: Just because the track events have ridden off into the distance, doesn’t mean NZ aren’t eyeing up a handful more medals on the road.
Gate and fellow team pursuit gold medalist Tom Sexton will set off in the men’s time trial just after 11pm Thursday (NZT), as Gate bids to become the first New Zealand athlete to win four golds at one Commonwealth Games. On current form you wouldn’t bet against him.
The women’s time trial lineup is also stacked with potential winners/medallists: Henrietta Christie, Mikayla Harvey and Georgia Williams. The women race off in staggered starts from 9pm Thursday.
The women’s trio will be joined by Niamh Fisher-Black and Ella Harris in the women’s road race at 7pm Sunday (NZ time), while Patrick Bevin will be one to watch in the men’s event starting at 11:30pm the same day.
Tom Walsh: The two-time Olympic bronze medalist is heavily favored to win his second Commonwealth Games men’s shot put gold on Saturday (6:06am NZT) and has fired a pre-competition warning to his rivals, including fellow Kiwi Jacko Gill.
Julia Ratcliffe: One of three NZ women’s hammer throwers in Birmingham, Ratcliffe won the title on the Gold Coast and she and team-mates Lauren Bruce and Nicole Bradley are contenders in Birmingham when the medals get handed out on Sunday (6am NZ time).