New Zealand's Greatest Olympians - Number 20: Hamish Bond and Eric Murray

Hamish Bond (left) and Eric Murray. Photo / Getty Images
Hamish Bond (left) and Eric Murray. Photo / Getty Images

We're counting down New Zealand's 25 greatest Olympians. Today, rowers Hamish Bond and Eric Murray. Scroll to the bottom to find out how we came up with the list.

Gold: Coxless pairs, London, 2012

If the Herald's Greatest Olympians list was a share market, any reputable broker would advise the purchase of the blue chip stock known as Hamish Bond and Eric Murray.

They are unbeaten in eight seasons as a men's pair, a feat ranking among the finest examples of world, let alone New Zealand, athletic supremacy.

The only reason they are so low on this Olympic-based list is that they are yet to bank a second Games gold (see methodology below).

They have gone 66 races at 23 international regattas without defeat in the class. No one has completed more in rowing's history. In a discipline of such technical nous, they have overcome every conceivable doubt in every heat, semifinal and final on every visit to a course.

Nonetheless, they know what failure feels like. As part of the defending world champion men's four heading to the Beijing Games, they missed the final. The subsequent feats are borne of that horror.

Their London Games performance was so convincing it seemed a formality as they blitzed the Dorney Lake course to win by 4.46s. It was men versus buoys.

A defence of their Olympic title would confirm them as rowing's greatest coxless pair.

The only remaining challengers could be Britain's Sir Matthew Pinsent and Sir Steven Redgrave, who won consecutive Olympic golds at Barcelona and Atlanta and four-straight world championships from 1991-95; or East German twins Joerg and Bernd Landvoigt who won at the Montreal and Moscow Games in addition to four world titles.

Historians, psychologists and physiologists might ponder why the Bond-Murray phenomenon works with such aplomb.

They're not the biggest crew and don't spend much time together off the course, but a common determination to row myriad kilometres on Lake Karapiro in training has been relentless and rewarding.

They're workmates. Sure, their office is a lake rather than a grey partitioned cubicle and they loosen lycra rather than ties at day's end, but they are doing a job.

Murray embodies joie de vivre, exemplified by his keenness to don lederhosen at Munich's Hofbrauhaus when the coxless four won at the 2007 world champs, or discovering that the old Kiwi 50c pieces were exactly the same size as five Swiss francs (the currency conversion is Warren Buffett profitable) for use in Lucerne vending machines. He is the crew's creative director.

Bond is director of operations. He needs any ingenuity to have a practical application. It's no accident he has assumed the stroke seat in the catalogue of crews he has represented through the years.

When the going gets tough, Bond has the composure of an astronaut at T minus zero on Cape Canaveral. In March 2009, while eating a tin of cold baked beans at Lake Karapiro - presumably for the energy value rather than the flavour - he was asked whether he had any trepidation about joining with Murray. They faced what looked daunting opposition on paper, including British Olympic coxless four gold medallists Andrew Triggs Hodge and Peter Reed. Unblinking, Bond responded: "Hopefully we can give them a nudge ... I'd be disappointed if we weren't pushing them."

So it has proved.​


Biography: Hamish Bond and Eric Murray


* Have gone 66 races at 23 international regattas over eight seasons without defeat in the men's pair.

* Challenging Britain's Sir Matthew Pinsent and Sir Steven Redgrave, who won consecutive Olympic golds at Barcelona and Atlanta and four-straight world championships from 1991-95, to be their sport's greatest coxless pair.

* Murray lost his first race as a novice by 500m; Bond was so skinny, school rowing recruiters at Otago Boys' High School wondered if he wanted to be a coxswain.​

* Have also been world champions in the coxless four (2007) and coxed pair (2014).

* Were coached by Dick Tonks 2009-12, Noel Donaldson has mentored them since.


How we did it

This list was drawn up by expert Herald and Radio Sport journalists from our team covering the Rio Olympics.

It wasn't easy, partly because of the number of fantastic feats over the last century or so and partly because of the difficulty of comparing performances across sports and eras.

The first ground rule was that only gold medallists would be considered. That was tough considering the likes of Nick Willis (silver, 2008), Dick Quax (silver, 1976), Paul Kingsman (bronze, 1988) and Bevan Docherty (silver and bronze, 2004 & 2008) provided some of our most memorable Olympic moments.

We also agreed potential success in Rio wouldn't be taken into account. The list was also restricted to the Summer Olympics, otherwise Annelise Coberger, our own Winter Olympics medallist may have featured quite prominently.

Each member of the panel wrote their own list before we came together to thrash it out five at a time. It was a head-scratcher, but in a good way because it was a celebration of success.

- NZ Herald

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