Rowing: Eric Murray ends great winning partnership

By David Leggat

Eric Murray has retired from rowing. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Eric Murray has retired from rowing. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Rowing's golden pair are no more; Eric Murray has retired from rowing, ending the fabulous eight-year unbeaten run in the coxless pair with Hamish Bond.

Murray, who turns 35 next Saturday, revealed his decision to the Women's Day magazine, out on newsstands today.

"The last few years have been difficult," he told the magazine.

"[Hamish and I] made a legacy in the sport and we got to the point where we were always winning, but it was playing on our minds and wearing us down.

"When we won a race, it was like, job done. We didn't get that elation any more. Everyone expected us to win, so when we won, we just met the expectation."

The pair teamed up in 2009, having been part of the world championship-winning four in 2007, then failing to make the Olympic final the following year in Beijing.

Talk about a pivotal, life-changing decision.

Thus began a union which survived undefeated through 69 races, 24 regattas and produced six world titles to go with double gold. They set a standard others can only hope to emulate.

In London in 2012, they were simply uncatchable, the bulk of their races won by the halfway mark of the 2000m course; in Rio last year, it was a similar story.

Where Bond, pursuing a cycling career this year and taking a break from rowing, was the serious half of the team, Murray had a larrakin spirit to him, a man who happily donned lederhosen in Munich after winning the world title in the four and who cunningly discovered that a 50 cent coin was the same dimensions as a 5 Swiss franc coin, thus making machine transactions a profitable business.

Bond is not expected to comment until this afternoon, while Murray is contracted to silence by the magazine for seven days.

When the news broke last night, it all seemed a slightly underwhelming way to depart a sport Murray, with Bond, has graced for so long.

Among Kiwi Olympians, they are in elite company as athletes to win gold at consecutive Olympics - fellow rowers Dick Joyce, Caroline Meyer and Georgina Earl (nee Evers-Swindell), Mahe Drysdale, coxswain Simon Dickie, shot putter Valerie Adams, runner Peter Snell, kayakers Ian Ferguson, Paul MacDonald and Lisa Carrington, and equestrian rider Mark Todd.

Their toughest challengers, Britons Andrew Triggs-Hodge and Peter Reed, spent three years trying to catch the New Zealanders before giving it up as a lost cause and moving into a four before the 2012 London Olympics.

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

Bond and Murray are in rare company. They have set a standard which will be desperately hard to top.

Last September, Murray was suggesting they had more legs in them.

"I don't think so," he said of finishing up as a pair.

"We'll see how the break goes. We've done everything in the pair. The only thing left to do in New Zealand rowing is the eight.

"It's about asking whether we feel we could make it go well, or would it be better without us?"

It seems question asked and, last night, answered.

- NZ Herald

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