Sam Gaze, Ben Oliver give NZ gold and silver at Commonwealth Games
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Sam Gaze and Ben Oliver won gold and silver for New Zealand compete in the men’s mountain bike cross-country final on day six of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Sam Gaze has won his second Commonwealth Games gold medal – and had already decided what to dedicate it to.
Gaze led a New Zealand 1-2 in the men’s cross-country mountain bike race at Cannock Chase Forest on Wednesday night (NZ time), with NZ team-mate Ben Oliver taking silver against a weakened field.
The two black-clad bikers led from the outset and had established a break on the field by the end of the first of eight laps, and rode in tandem with a comfortable advantage until Gaze broke away after the midway stage.
North Shore 21-year-old beats her compatriot on countback for her first major medal.
Oliver was fourth in the memorable 2018 event on the Gold Coast, while it was Gaze’s third Commonwealth Games gong after taking silver in 2014.
Gaze declared pre-race he would be competing for mental health awareness and would be donating his skin suit to the Sir John Kirwan Foundation.
The 26-year-old has had depression in recent years, partly sparked by his victory in the same event at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, when his gold medal triumph over team-mate Anton Cooper was highlighted by Gaze giving Cooper the finger as he rode past him heading into the last lap.
Gaze had entered the pits to fix a puncture on his rear and Cooper attacked immediately, but Gaze chased him down before accusing Cooper of bad sportsmanship soon after hopping off his bike.
Gaze later apologised for his response, was fined NZ$282 by cycling’s governing body and later said if he had his time again he would “completely change my post-race interview”.
While he didn’t blame people of being “upset and mad” after fiery post-race comments, he said it had also been a difficult period of his career.
“I didn’t uphold that responsibility [of representing his country] the best I could have. But of course, it has been hard; it is never nice to have death threats sent to you.”
Cooper, the 2014 champ, withdrew from this year’s race the previous day after contracting Covid-19.
Gaze’s career hit a major bump following a crash in a race in South Africa in April 2019, which also played a part in developing mental health issues.
“I suffered a pretty bad head injury on the first stage of the Cape Epic and there were a lot of things over the year before that which added to it including my disappointment at the Commonwealth Games and a few other things.” Gaze said.