NZ anthem plays in Tokyo for first time after rowing gold

Source: 1News

God Defend New Zealand has been heard for the first time at the Tokyo Olympics in honour of women's rowing pair gold medallists Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler.

The Kiwis received their medals barely 15 minutes after crossing the finish line at the Sea Forest Waterway, continuing the trend of awarding each other their medals like others have this Olympics in team events.

Traditionally, medallists have been presented their medals by IOC officials connected to their sport in the past but Covid-19 protocols introduced at this year's Games meant athletes are the only ones to touch their prizes. 

After embracing on the top of the podium, Prendergast and Gowler turned their attention to the flagpoles.

New Zealand's anthem then began to play as the flag was hoisted into the air alongside the Russian Olympic Committee's and Canada's.

The pair then finished the festivities by removing their masks for photo opportunities, showing off the gold medals proudly displayed around their necks.

Before the ceremony, Gowler told Sky Sport after the race she was unsure if they'd won gold at the finish line.

New Zealand's Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler, gold, with their medals for the Women's Pair at Sea Forest Waterway on the sixth day of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Japan. Picture date: Thursday July 29, 2021. (Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)

"We crossed and I was like, 'Was someone ahead of us?'" she said.

"Honestly, I can't believe it."

Prendergast admitted the moment was still hitting her after the pair had spent so long focussing on rowing their race and ignoring outside noise.

"We can't control anyone else so we got our heads down and got going."

The pair sent a message to loved ones back home, unable to be with them in Tokyo due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We can't wait to get home and celebrate with you."

They'll have some special mementos to share when they do.