Lydia Ko became the second-youngest New Zealand woman to win a medal at an Olympics when she finished second in the women’s golf event at Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
She was aged 19 years, three months and 27 days. That was just 20 days older than the youngest who was Terina Te Tamaki. She gained a silver medal as part of the women’s rugby sevens team at the same Olympics.
Ko went into the final round two shots behind Inbee Park of South Korea but missed several opportunities for birdies and finished the tournament at 11 under par. Park, on the other hand, scored a five-under par 66 on the final day and went on to win by five strokes at 16 under par.
Ko got off to a slow start in the tournament with scores of 69 and 70 on the first two days. But she righted the ship with a brilliant six-under 65 on the third day and was delighted to receive an Olympic silver.
“At the end of the second day I wasn’t in the greatest position but playing well in the last two days has led me to this point,’’ Ko said.
“I am so proud of myself and the team for getting this silver medal. It is a huge honour.”
Ko holed a birdie putt on the last hole to avoid a play-off to determine the silver medalist. She was greatly relieved.
“But for a crucial putt like that on the 18th [hole] to fall, I think I celebrated like the gold medallist,’’ she said, adding that the Olympic experience was a dream come true.
“This means so much more to me. Since 2009 I’ve just dreamt and imagined myself to be here in Rio alongside the world’s best athletes.
“Having this silver medal is just a dream come true. The Olympics isn’t about [whether] somebody lost to another player. It celebrates each and every athlete and we’ve all won. This week has just been surreal.”
For 28-year-old Park, who is the LPGA’s youngest hall of fame qualifier, capped off an exceptional performance after recovering from injuries that kept her off the course for two months this year.
“I feel extremely honoured and proud that I get to win a gold medal in the Olympic Games,’’ Park said.
“It feels truly unreal. I have won many tournaments but I have never felt this before. I really enjoyed being out here. Even if I hadn’t won a gold medal this week, it would have been a fantastic week.
“There was nothing guaranteed because I hadn’t played well this season. I had to overcome a lot of obstacles,” the winner said, referring to her comeback from injury.
Third was Shanshan Feng of China. She was not disappointed with bronze.
“It’s unbelievable because I came in the last round in fourth and I knew I would have a chance but I didn’t want to give myself any pressure so I didn’t look at the leaderboard the whole time.”
Golf returned to the Olympics this year after a more than a 100-year absence. Park follows in the footsteps of American Margaret Abbott, who won the first and only women’s golf tournament at the Olympic Games, at the Paris 1900 Olympic Games, where USA also took silver and bronze.