Olympics: 'McCaw curse' blamed for many of New Zealand's losses and setbacks in Rio

Lydia Ko of New Zealand watches her tee shot on the 16th hole during first round women's Olympic golf competition.
Lydia Ko of New Zealand watches her tee shot on the 16th hole during first round women's Olympic golf competition.PHOTO: REUTERS

WELLINGTON (AFP) - As All Blacks captain, double Rugby World Cup winner Richie McCaw could do no wrong, but as a talisman for New Zealand Olympians it seems he can do little right.

New Zealand media are abuzz with the "McCaw curse" after a string of competitors at the Rio Olympics underperformed while he looked on.

The latest to be hit was golf's world No. 1 Lydia Ko, who had a disappointing start to her first round as he watched on Wednesday.

She recovered with a spectacular eagle after McCaw left to see his fiancee Gemma Flynn in the New Zealand women's hockey team, who lost their semi-final 0-3 to Britain, who are now aiming for their first-ever gold when they play two-time defending champions the Netherlands.

Fairfax Media is running two Olympic tables on its Stuff website - one showing New Zealand with a total of 10 medals with the Richie curse but the alternative table says it could have been 13 without it.

Television New Zealand asked McCaw if he was bad luck for the New Zealand team.

"Perhaps I am. I might have to leave," he joked in reply.

McCaw, who retired in November 2015, watched the New Zealand men's rugby sevens team crash out before reaching the medal stages, and was on hand to see the women's team lose their final to Australia.

He was also in the main stadium when shot putter Valerie Adams, considered a sure bet for gold, was beaten on the last throw by American Michelle Carter.

"Kiwi Olympians must be viewing Richie McCaw as a sports-watching Grim Reaper, muttering 'uh, oh, I'm doomed' if they spot him," the Stuff website suggested.

On the New Zealand Herald website, readers appealed to McCaw to stay away from Olympic events.

"Send Richie home!! He's jinxing everything," one person wrote. "Seriously Richie watch the next few events from a pub ... Let's get back on the Gold Track!" said Kiwi On Ships. "Please Richie, don't go to the sailing," added Matt.

But it hasn't all been negative around McCaw, as he was on hand to watch New Zealand's gold medal victories in kayaking and rowing.

Ko was unfazed by the "curse", saying "it's pretty cool he came out to watch" and added that she hoped he would return after she finished the first round at two-under 69, four shots behind leader Ariya Jutanugarn from Thailand.

Flynn was also supportive of having McCaw around, describing him on an Instagram post as her "lucky charm".