Redgrave has golds; Murray and Bond have pace, writes Kris Shannon.

It's easy to forget, given everything achieved throughout their prosperous partnership, that Eric Murray and Hamish Bond are not only rowing in another man's wake, but the boat of Sir Steven Redgrave remains well out of sight.

For all their successes and for a level of ascendancy to which that word barely does justice, Murray and Bond still suffer in comparison to the undisputed champ of the sport.

Yes, the Kiwi pair will head to Rio in four months seeking a second straight Olympic gold medal. And yes, the result of that search is just about the safest bet in sport; short of springing a serious leak, Murray and Bond will again take the top step of the dais. But until a theoretical tilt at Tokyo - when Murray would be 38 and Bond 34 - their unquestionably impressive collection of honours still looks sparse next to the imposing figure of Redgrave.

To recap: when he finally retired from rowing as the most successful man to have ever picked up an oar, Redgrave had claimed gold medals at five consecutive Olympic Games, the first endurance athlete to accomplish the feat. Three wins in the pair were bookended by triumphs in the coxed four and the four. While the nature of sport means most marks persist for only so long, Redgrave's will take some erasing.


But that hardly means he holds an air of superiority over his modern-day successors. Quite the opposite, in fact. The 54-year-old looks on Murray and Bond with a mix of admiration and wonder: the speed with which they traverse the water is beyond what appeared possible when he and Matthew Pinsent - Redgrave's lieutenant for two triumphs in the pair - were at the front of the field.

So while his lead in the record books is almost insurmountable, Britain's third-most decorated Olympian marvels at Murray and Bond as much as the rest of the world.

"Just looking at their gold medal times, when I was competing, they said, 'No, you can't do that, you can't go that fast'," Redgrave says. "And they're doing it with ease."

Indeed, even though they are often competing against only their own will, such is their supremacy over their peers in the pair, Murray and Bond have shaved several seconds off Redgrave's and Pinsent's top times.

Eric Murray and Hamish Bond still haven't the spoils of Sir Steven Redgrave. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Eric Murray and Hamish Bond still haven't the spoils of Sir Steven Redgrave. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The British pair's Olympic peak arrived at Atlanta, when they stopped the clock at 6:20.09 in the final, clinching Redgrave's third straight victory in the discipline. Sixteen years later, at London, Murray and Bond recorded an unbeatable time of 6:08.50, before cruising across the line in the final.

And lest any rivals hold hope of a significant reduction ahead of Rio, the Kiwis' 2015 world-championship winning mark of 6:15.83 should have assured the rowing world of their invincibility.

It certainly has for Redgrave.

"I can't see them getting beaten," he says. "Their only problem would be their own complacency - and I can't see them becoming complacent. Being this close to the Games, they'll be there in top form.

"And they've scared people out of their event - all other top-level athletes are looking to compete in other boats, because they know that gold medal has been taken."

One recent projection forecast the pair would be one of three Kiwi crews to take gold, while there are sure to be many more medals of a different hue.

"It's just an amazing programme and I don't really know how they keep doing it, since it's a relatively small country," Redgrave says. "They headed the world championship medal table last year and it's between Great Britain and New Zealand who will do that in Rio."

I can't see them getting beaten. Their only problem would be their own complacency.


Redgrave will be watching that particular race with keen interest, heading to the Games as part of the BBC commentary team. He remains confident rowing at Rio will be a success. He was buoyed by test events at the venue last year and, while some concerns continue to muddy the waters, so to speak, there was one particular aspect that elicited excitement. "There are some issues out there over water quality and things like that, but they're all being dealt with and I think it will be a great regatta for rowers," he says.

"Especially because the rowing venue is right in the middle of the centre city. Normally we're hundreds of miles away, but this year we're 10 minutes' walk from Copacabana Beach."

Enjoying such a locale, Murray and Bond will have time to work on their tans before burning the rest of the competition. It's unlikely to be an opportunity pursued but for how long will they eschew the beaches in favour of the lakes? Even relentless winning, after all, must become mundane; potential opponents fleeing to other disciplines can grow tiresome. The repetition of their results might be too much to bear, fresh challenges could be sought, retirement perhaps contemplated.

All that remains in the sphere of the unknown. One certainty, though, is even if Murray and Bond can manage the physical and mental requirements of another successful four-year cycle, they'll still sit a couple of gold short of Redgrave. Yet they will always boast superior speed. Head-to-head, a historic showdown between the Kiwis and the Brits would surely have only one outcome.

"It's always very difficult to compare across eras," Redgrave says. "We were the best in the world in our time and they're the best in the world in their time. Their times are a lot faster than we ever did, so they should be the faster boat."

Case closed, then?

"But side to side," he says with a smile, "you never know."