The Tokyo 2020 Olympics brought with it immense challenges, but the resilience of the athletes shone through.
As the whistle blew for the end of regular time in the gold medal men’s hockey match, it must have felt like déjà vu for the Australian Kookaburras.
Just four days earlier, their quarterfinal against the Netherlands had ended in very similar circumstances, with a late equaliser from the Dutch sending the game into a penalty shootout, which Australia dominated 3-0.
Emotions were high and unfortunately Australia were not able to close it out, despite a dramatic retake of their final penalty shot.
It was an extremely tough way to end an Olympic campaign, but UNSW Elite Athlete Program members Tim Brand and Dylan Martin did their community proud and finished with a silver medal for their incredible efforts.
Rising to the challenge
Fellow UNSW student Amy Ridge, who played for the Aussie Stingers women’s water polo team along with UNSW-Wests club members Lea Yanitsas and Bronte Halligan, regrouped after a heart-stopping quarter-final of their own.
An 8-9 loss to the Russian Olympic Committee team saw them bundled out of the medal rounds, but a fight back against Canada propelled them to the fifth place play off on Saturday.
The Stingers followed up with a dominant 14-7 win over the Netherlands to finish in fifth place, with Ridge and Halligan scoring two goals each in the match.
UNSW Commerce / Science student Gianni Stensness played every single minute of his team’s four matches across their Tokyo campaign.
Representing New Zealand’s OlyWhites in men’s football, Stensness and his teammates were delighted to reach the quarter finals, but unfortunately lost their final match in a penalty shootout with scores level at the end of regular and extra time.
Australian Rugby Sevens players Henry Hutchison and Dylan Pietsch were also devastated to lose their quarter final to eventual gold medal winners Fiji.
Both Hutchison and Pietsch were instrumental to their team and powered on after the disappointing loss to win their final game of the tournament and finish seventh.
Sailor Lisa Darmanin was hoping to go one better than her silver medal in Rio, competing in the Nacra 17 Mixed event with her cousin Jason Waterhouse.
Despite an excellent series of races, the pair were not able to close the gap at the end, but finished in an admirable fifth place.
UNSW students Nathan Power and Tim Putt, together with alumni Aaron Younger and Andrew Ford and UNSW-Wests club members Joel Dennerley, Richie Campbell and assistant coach Tim Hamill, had a frustrating Olympics with the Aussie Sharks men’s water polo team.
Despite a good win over Croatia and some other strong performances, the Sharks were not able to get another win on the board and progress past the preliminary rounds.
With only three years until the next Olympics, they will be inspired to work extremely hard and improve on the result in Paris.
An Olympics like no other
While UNSW’s Tokyo Olympians may have missed out on packed stadiums and a buzzing village life, theirs was a truly unique experience – one that brought the world together in ways its predecessors had not.
It is an Olympic Games that will linger in memories long after the final medal ceremony.
Among all the sacrifice, exhaustion and heartache involved in getting there, that is a true silver lining.
UNSW Students in Tokyo
- Timothy Brand – Bachelor of Actuarial Studies / Commerce – Silver Medallist, Men’s Hockey
- Dylan Martin – Bachelor of Construction Management & Property – Silver Medallist, Men’s Hockey
- Dylan Pietsch – Bachelor of Arts – 7th Place, Men’s Rugby Sevens
- Henry Hutchison – Bachelor of Commerce – 7th Place, Men’s Rugby Sevens
- Nathan Power – Master of Commerce – Preliminary rounds, Men’s Water Polo
- Timothy Putt – Bachelor of Arts – Preliminary rounds, Men’s Water Polo
- Amy Ridge – Bachelor of Arts/ Law – 5th Place, Women’s Water Polo
- Gianni Stensness –Bachelor of Commerce / Science – Quarter finalist, Men’s Football
UNSW Alumni in Tokyo
- Lisa Darmanin – Bachelor of Commerce/International Studies – 5th Place, Mixed Nacra 17 Sailing
- Aaron Younger – Master of Business Administration – Preliminary rounds, Men’s Water Polo
- Georgia Winkcup –Bachelor of Arts/Law – Heats, Women’s 3000m Steeplechase
- Andrew Ford – Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering – Preliminary rounds, Men’s Water Polo