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Rio Olympics 2016: Hamish Bond and Eric Murray's place in NZ Olympic history

Eric Murray and Hamish Bond with their gold medals. Photo / AP
Eric Murray and Hamish Bond with their gold medals. Photo / AP

Hamish Bond and Eric Murray underlined their names in New Zealand's Olympic pantheon this morning by winning the country's first gold medal at the Rio Games.

Comparing the relative merits of sportspeople in New Zealand can be a futile exercise. The debate only tends to reach a truce when combatants mutually agree to lambast the pedigree of the Halberg Awards' judging panel.

Let's keep this simple: Are Bond and Murray this country's greatest rowers? When it comes to being 'O for oarsome', where do consecutive Olympic golds and a 2611-day undefeated portfolio sit?

The pair triumphed on the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon by 2.8s to stay unbeaten for an eighth season, a feat ranking among the finest examples of athletic supremacy.

They have gone 69 races at 24 international regattas without defeat. 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 race course.

Sporting streaks to match Hamish Bond and Eric Murray

Among Kiwi Olympians they join fellow rowers Dick Joyce, Caroline Meyer and Georgina Earl (nee Evers-Swindell), coxswain Simon Dickie, shot putter Valerie Adams, runner Peter Snell, kayakers Ian Ferguson and Paul MacDonald, and equestrian rider Mark Todd as athletes to have won golds at consecutive Games.

Joyce triumphed with the coxed four in 1968 and eight in 1972. Coach Rusty Robertson noted he was an oarsman with the physical and mental strength to succeed.

Scullers Meyer and Earl dominated from 2002-05 in the double but faded from 2006-08 until their 0.01s victory over Germany in the Beijing Olympic final.

If Mahe Drysdale wins the single sculls over the weekend he would be a contender with successive Olympic golds and a bronze, but even someone of his calibre has struggled every so often in 12 seasons of sculling.

Dickie must be ranked differently as a coxswain but, as a medallist at three Olympics from Mexico City to Munich to Montreal, he's a candidate for New Zealand rowing's greatest leader through his tactics and motivation.

Bond and Murray's record is beginning to rival American Edwin Moses 122-race stretch of nine years, nine months and nine days in the 400m hurdles. They're challenging Moses' biblical namesake for parting water, too.

The Rio win was the most defining of their careers.

With the clinical analysis of Lovelock at Berlin, the raw talent of Loader at Atlanta and the relentless determination of Ulmer in Athens, Bond and Murray dismantled their field.

Their London Games performance under coach Dick Tonks was so convincing it seemed like men versus buoys as they blitzed the Dorney Lake course to win by 4.46s.

The defence of their title under mentor Noel Donaldson was no different, clearing out to win from the 1000m mark.

Hamish Bond and Eric Murray celebrate their gold. Photo / AP
Hamish Bond and Eric Murray celebrate their gold. Photo / AP



You'd need the services of a Madison Avenue advertising agency to convince people they are not the greatest pair to race the class. If anyone invents a 'Bond and Murray' cocktail, publicans will be reaching for the top shelf.

Their only remaining challengers were British immortals Sir Matthew Pinsent and Sir Steven Redgrave, who won consecutive Olympic golds at Barcelona and Atlanta and four world championships from 1991-95, and East German twins Joerg and Bernd Landvoigt who won at the Montreal and Moscow Games in addition to four world titles.

The likes of Redgrave, with golds at five consecutive Olympics in various classes, and Pinsent with four, had more successful careers.

Nonetheless, Bond and Murray 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.

Historians, psychologists and physiologists might ponder why the Bond-Murray phenomenon worked 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.

Call it guts and grace from Mssrs Chalk and Cheese.

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 championships, or discovering that the old Kiwi 50c pieces were exactly the same size as five Swiss francs (the currency conversion would pique Warren Buffett's attention) for use in Lucerne vending machines. He is the crew's creative director.

Bond is director of operations. He needs ingenuity to have a practical application. It's no accident he has tended to assume the stroke seat in crews he has represented. Bond has the composure of an astronaut at T minus zero on Cape Canaveral when the going gets tough.

In March 2009, he was asked whether he had any trepidation about joining Murray. They faced 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.

- NZ Herald

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