Sporting achievement of the Year Finalist: Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan

By David Leggat

Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan
Double scullers Nathan Cohen (left) and Joseph Sullivan won the first of New Zealand's three rowing gold medals at the London Olympics. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Double scullers Nathan Cohen (left) and Joseph Sullivan won the first of New Zealand's three rowing gold medals at the London Olympics. Photo / Mark Mitchell

There are a variety of ways to win a race. You can lead from the front, if you're good enough, and take the opposition out of the equation; you can engage in a ding-dong contest and get to the line first by a small margin; or you can do it the Cohen and Sullivan way.

Double scullers Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan won the first of New Zealand's three gold medals at Eton Dorney during the London Olympics, and of the three, theirs was one to take the breath away.

Cohen and Sullivan had form as slow starters. Having found that challenging to overcome, they did the next best thing: ensure that at the business end of the 2000m course they were flying.

It was all about playing to their strengths, although it can be a dicey way of doing things. What if the opposition had a similar tactic, and were equally good at pulling it off?

Going into the last 500m, the New Zealanders, world champions in both 2010 and 2011, were fourth, having been 3.4 seconds behind early pacesetters, Slovenians Istok Cop and Luka Spik at halfway.

But they wound it up at the 1500m mark and roared through the field to win in 6min 31.67s, 1.3s ahead of the Italian crew, with Slovenia third.

Sullivan was out of his seat, arms aloft before sinking back into his crew mate's lap.

Southlander Cohen and Picton sculler Sullivan had the belief to back themselves in a risky strategy and they pulled it off.

Theirs had not been a faultless campaign.

They had begun badly at a World Cup regatta in Lucerne in May, finishing last in the B final, and put that down to a gear issue.

Once they got things working, they got better with each outing.

"We had toughness and belief in each other. We never give up, just wanted to do the best for each other and New Zealand that we possibly could," Cohen said.

They were New Zealand's seventh Olympic rowing gold medallists, dating back to the coxed four from Mexico City in 1968, and first men's crew in the double scull discipline following back-to-back success from Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell.

Two more golds followed a day later, but Cohen and Sullivan had stamped their mark on the Games in emphatic, and dazzling style.

Selections so far

Valerie Adams
Shot put Olympic gold medallist

Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie
Olympic gold medallists

The Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic
ANZ netball champions.

New Zealand Breakers
NBL champions

Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan
Olympic gold medallists

The Chiefs
Super 15 champions

More to be named throughout the week

- NZ Herald

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